Experts shed light on how to make online education work

Published June 7, 2020
While older students could easily adjust to online classes, it was early childhood education that may pose a problem for which they required teachers’ training too. — AFP/File
While older students could easily adjust to online classes, it was early childhood education that may pose a problem for which they required teachers’ training too. — AFP/File

KARACHI: Education experts got together for a seminar on Zoom on Saturday to discuss the ‘Digital classroom: the way forward’ from the perspective of early childhood education.

The event was organised by Winchester Publications Group.

“The parents, schools and students all need to cooperate with one another to make the digital classroom and online education work,” said M. Jehanzeb Saeed, director, Creek View Academy and Winchester Publications Group, who was also moderating the discussion.

“It is not a permanent but temporary crisis, which we are facing right now in the shape of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said while also pointing out that in some places such as Balochistan schools had been closed since December due to extra long winter vacations and the students there had not been to school for some seven months.

He also said that while the older students could easily adjust to online classes, it was early childhood education that may pose a problem for which they required teachers’ training too. “We need to rise to the occasion instead of complaining or doing nothing,” he said.

‘Teaching the pre-primary level students in a digital class can be a challenge’

“Teaching the pre-primary level students in a digital class can be a challenge but they can be taught through a blended way of teaching with recorded sessions included,” said Syed Tariq Shah, managing director, Brilliant Career Group of Schools.

“The lessons or lectures can be delivered on any medium to make them easier or simpler,” he said, adding that to deal with the current situation, parents too needed to invest in not just equipment but also giving time to the children to help them follow their lessons.

Kermin Parakh, principal, BVS Paris High School, explained how they used various mediums such as Zoom, Google Classroom, etc to assign and check assignments. They also carried out extracurricular activities such as competitions, art, engaging their science society and environment society, gardening, holding virtual scrabble and chess meets.

“The teachers, subject coordinators, IT department were one team to help us achieve all. Maybe we didn’t do everything perfectly but we did our best, and we involved the parents too, who gave us positive feedback. As we progressed, we started getting the hang of it and our teachers stepped up,” she said, adding that online education was not going anywhere now so they might as well embrace it.

Arwa Khuzaima, an early childhood education expert and associate trainer with OUP, said that their only focus for now was teaching the child who must gain from his or her online classes. “The learning environment has shifted from the school building to the home and so we also need to adapt to different teaching material and methods,” she said while sharing some of her methods through a presentation.

Ali Syedein of Civilisation School also showed through his presentation the various mediums such as Google G Suite, WhatsApp and even hard copy (paper) used to help them carry on with the education of their students in these times. He also suggested that the schools get edu.pk domain for which they should ask Google for access. “Everyone has a smartphone and internet access so it is all possible,” he said about the holding of regular online classes.

Naila Jamall, principal, The Learning Tree, said that she at first did not realise how long the schools’ closure would be, still they switched to online education in March only. “Then when the government announced early summer vacations, we utilised April to adopt and we have a proper plan now with study time and activity sessions, distribution of materials, etc, to insure connectivity and continuation of the course,” she said.

“Of course, it will not be possible without the support of parents as the learning shifted from the brick and mortar class to the virtual class at home. They need to get their children the material and equipment. They also have a big hand in their social and emotional well-being,” she said.

Akhtar Noorani, head and coordinator, early childhood education at Nasra Schools, said that they were trying their level best to call parents in small groups to train them as well. “Because they shouldn’t allow their children to just sit at home without learning. They are also encouraged to sit with their child when an online class is going on. We also have the parents on a WhatsApp group,” she said.

Rubina Naqvi, senior manager, membership network at Teachers’ Resource Centre, said that their focus was on how to provide a classroom environment at home. “There is a lack of personal interaction with no eye-to-eye contact on the computer or phone screen, which is a challenge. We also need to teach in a way that converts information into knowledge, and ... we also have to make this knowledge help shape their personality,” she said.

She also said that “little children have very short attention spans and they cannot be made to sit and study for more than 15 to 20 minutes.”

Ahmed Tariq Khan, managing director, L’ecole, also said that since e-learning was here to stay, the schools needed also to focus on up and coming digital technologies. “The schools that quickly switched to online classes during the closure and lockdown were able to do so because technology these days is also user-friendly,” he said before sharing how they could also help students learn by using video games. “The right gamification approach can help students match high learning outcomes using various levels of cognition. Yes, there is a certain level of addiction involved in gaming but it is exciting and adaptive learning,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2020

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