November 19, 2020
Due to COVID 19 Lockdown, all the schools had to be closed, the school education of the children also stopped immediately and a question came into my mind, ‘What happens now?’ A step was taken and the phone was used; it was just a link to reach the child. We took permission from parents and formed a group on WhatsApp. On the first day, a video call was made with children to connect with them and the children were very happy to join the call. Sometimes children also made a video call and explained how they studied at home. During one of the video calls, the children mentioned that they wanted to meet their classmates. So, we compiled a video clip of all the children dancing at home and shared it in the group with children and parents. Students were very happy to find this surprise.
On the WhatsApp group, we started sending videos of poems, yoga, and basic science. The children were excited and sent the completed homework regularly to teachers using WhatsApp and whenever they had any doubt, they sought clarity by sending audio-recordings on WhatsApp or calling the class teacher directly.
We also did several parent engagement activities and one of them was a fancy dress event from home. In April last week, a parent left the group and informed us that a lot of messages are received in the common group. So, a Broadcast WhatsApp group was formed and homework started going on the broadcast group. The parents who left the group were happy and also learned to make the broadcast group on their mobiles by themselves. In the span of 3 months, children revised all concepts followed by taking a small assessment. The children were doing very well, it seemed that the children's parents had helped in the assessments but we gave the whole instructions well in advance.
Most of the schools stopped their online classes in June due to summer vacation and some of the children told us that they also want to do something different. So, we decide to hold an online Summer Camp for a week. The children did a lot of interesting activities such as creating their own Ludo game, snake and ladder game, making toys/utensils from mud, a paper ball from unused paper/newspaper, creating a directory to ensure that children remember the phone numbers of their parents, create a fan from cardboard/newspaper, growing coriander at home.
Additionally, some activities also involved parent’s engagement such as seeking support from parents to sew a handkerchief by making different designs, making their own mask at home, helping parents in cleaning the house, etc. After the week, the children sent a video presentation to teachers describing the process of doing an activity, their learning and mentioned the help or support they sought.
In July, I wanted to give live online classes to students and made a lot of efforts but did not succeed. By the time I learned to take live classes, the work of the parents had started and the parents took the smartphones along with them so the time of the live class could not be set. Now, I asked myself, “What next?” In my daughter’s school, the assessments are being taken online so I got an idea to use Google forms for quizzes, assessments, and other activities. Hence, I taught my team to make Google Form, and thereafter, they further taught the children in Level C and remedial classes at our Agrasar Bachpan. The children learned a lot and were really excited to use it. The assessments for Level C and Remedial classes were successfully being taken and now the children use the google form to take G.K. Quiz.
I think that the computer is just magic! Although, it was challenging for me initially to learn technology and computers, and due to these circumstances, I came to know the whole process, and now children ask me, “Ma’am, ye computer ko kaise chalate hain?”. Now, I continue to explore and learn different technological tools to improve the quality of education for children learning at home. In our journey of online teaching, the teachers realized that although there are many videos available on youtube on varied concepts, it was important to send customized videos that are easy to understand and are according to the learning levels of the children. Therefore, I made my own Youtube channel, to instill the joy of learning math and other topics in different subjects by understanding the concepts easily and reaching out to more children and teachers through my channel.
Now, we have also started giving weekly worksheets by calling parents at the centre every week to ensure that the child continues to study and learn at home irrespective of having a smartphone or not. In September, I also achieved two milestones in my teaching profession. Firstly, I was selected as a President of the School Management Committee in The Happy School, D.L.F. Phase - 1 Gurugram. Secondly, after watching my video on my YouTube channel, one of the government school teachers from Primary Government School, Islampur requested me to give remedial classes to her daughter. However, instead of teaching her daughter, I decided to support the teacher so that she herself teaches her daughter as the requisite support will build and enhance her teaching competencies.
For the past 2 to 3 months, I had been searching some websites or applications that help children to learn basic concepts in English, Maths, and Hindi while playing some interesting games, quizzes, puzzles, etc. In September end, fortunately, I finally discovered a website known as ‘Word Wall’, which has a variety of templates to create and customize the games, worksheets, and lesson plans. As a part of the internet readiness class, children were called in a group 3-4 children at a time at the centre and were engaged in the activities on laptops and mobile phones, they enjoyed it and one of them said, “Ma’am ye khelne mein bada mzaa arha hai.”
Therefore, to enhance the internet and computer skills, now we are creating some simple and easy-to-understand videos on basic internet skills like surfing information on the internet, taking a screenshot, sharing, forward messages, etc., and we also plan to get tabs for children so that they continue to learn while having fun, amidst the pandemic.
In these last 8 months, I have learned a lot about technology, particularly how a computer works, and still learning. Moreover, each challenge during the lockdown brought an opportunity to learn and try something new. Though there are many challenges with this form of education that are faced at both ends of the spectrum — students as well as faculty but we can all overcome it and find solutions together by asking ourselves, 'What next?' and taking the first step!