Rohan Parikh has attained a BSc in Economics from Wharton Business School, an MBA from INSEAD, and has more than 10 years of experience in the Real Estate and Hospitality industries. In 2013 Mr. Parikh entered the field of education by founding The Green Acres Academy in Chembur and simultaneously pursuing a Master’s degree in Education through Johns Hopkins University. His aim is to provide affordable yet holistic, and well-rounded education by adapting the latest research in teaching and learning techniques within the Indian context. What started as one campus of The Green Acres Academy in Chembur, Mumbai, has grown to a total of 3 campuses across Mumbai and Pune, as well as the latest Seven Rivers International School (an IGCSE affiliate school).
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis and the nationwide lockdown, K-12 schools are facing unique challenges, just like every other sector. Most schools had responsibly shut down very early on as a preventive measure to control the spread of COVID-19 among the vulnerable population of children. Students returning from holidays might have been carriers and a classroom would provide an ideal environment for the spread of the virus. Given the uncertainty around classroom learning opportunity at the beginning of the new academic year, there is an urgent need to seek alternatives to ensure that there is continuity in learning for the students. Many teachers and academicians even deem it to be one of the essential services to be continued in the face of a lockdown. One of the ways in which schools have met this challenge is through the adoption of ‘Digital Classrooms’.
In recent years, many universities and skilling programs have moved to distance learning or online lessons. This gives an incredible advantage to upskill oneself while being employed or learn from a distant location. As university students are adults there is a reasonable expectation for them to be able to access and navigate technology. The big reason this has not been adopted by K-12 schools at the same scale is that at this age children are still learning to be responsible adults and will need the guidance of a teacher and the support of a classroom community. The COVID crisis has led to major innovation and behavior changes in this regard with schools having little to no choice but to move and move quickly to digital classrooms.
Teachers are thus looking to innovate and create content that can be tailored to a digital platform. Here are key factors that are considered when moving to digital classrooms for K-12 students:
- Well Planned Content: Just like any traditional classroom it is important that lessons are well planned with clear learning objectives in mind. The platform used must also be able to give feedback to the teacher on how students are performing and allow them to resolve queries and difficulties. Schools must also ensure that content is presented in a manner that is easy to access and can also be displayed on various devices. There have been recent stories from families in lockdown where there is only one laptop available and there is a tussle between the working parents and the student for device time. It is best that content is built so that it can be accessed on smartphones so that there are enough devices at home for the student to participate.
- Self-Discipline and Engagement: Students must learn self-discipline and scheduling a lot earlier as the onus of responsibility for the same will be with them. It is also important to ensure there is the right mix of subjects and activities throughout the day so that the student remains engaged in the lessons. A number of physical activity breaks throughout the day will ensure the learner is fresh and some schools have been community building by singing songs together on a video call.
- Effective Parental Involvement: Unfortunately a lot of the brunt of responsibility falls on parents in the digital classroom. From monitoring to printing and preparing resources that have been sent by the school, Parents need to get adequately involved in the digital learning process if they would want it to benefit their children. Further, with the lockdown, managing children and engaging with them through activities becomes a 24×7 job, unlike the school hours when parents get a break. Schools thus must keep this in mind when preparing lesson plans and ensure that content is given in the easiest possible format to print or open so that parents are not wasting time and struggling.
All in all, there is a silver lining to the COVID crisis. There has been a general lethargy for traditional classrooms to move into the 21st century but with the pandemic and the resulting crisis, it has made the digital classroom concept a lucrative solution and also the need of the hour. School communities seem to have adapted well to this and going by the current efficacy, digital classrooms might be a format that is here to stay, long after the re-opening of the classrooms and return to normalcy. For now though, as the governments and the economy continue to struggle to contain the pandemic, teachers and academicians continue the silent work of building the next generation of citizens, with next-generation tools!