Education in times of COVID-19- Reshaping Classrooms without Walls

The world is a canvas and sky is the limit for every child. Everything that happens around them is a source of knowledge. The beauty of a child’s brain is the simplicity through which they learn and accept.

However, this task becomes very difficult for children growing up during the pandemic. Coronavirus may be pretty novel but it has proven that 2020 is the toughest year for every generation witnessing it. As much as everyone dreads the pandemic, this time can teach a lot to children. Every response of ours can mold their thinking.

Ever since we have stepped into the new reality, the world as we knew it has disappeared. Whether we accept it or not, we might not be returning to our old lives. The pandemic has mandated a pause to many of our habits and has brought in new ones. Changes that we were hoping to be eventually picked up in the next few decades have arrived few decades early.

We are now even more involved with the usage of the internet and technology. One of the biggest modification has been in the field of education. Be it premier institutes and universities or government schools in India, everyone is leveraging technology to ensure continuity in education. Technology has been supporting education since the arrival of the pandemic, being hailed as the savior for every student. Even though several innovators have brought technology and education together to create the industry of EdTech, we still yet to see many more discoveries in this field.

Digital learning is an innovation that allows us to view education from a new trope, one that is fun and innovative. This innovation has redesigned an enabling space for students from across the globe. Many EdTech companies claim to have changed the pattern of education. However the ground reality of online education is still the mere replacement of classrooms with virtual rooms.

During COVID-19, at least 463 million children had no access to remote learning (digital or TV/Radio). This crisis not only affects overall learning levels, but increases gaps, with the learning of children from disadvantaged households more deeply affected.

Children from marginalized sections miss learning opportunities because they lack access to remotely delivered instructional content. Children in poorer households are less likely to access computers and the internet, as well as TV, radio, or smartphones. In some contexts, disadvantaged parents are less engaged in their children’s learning. While schools are shut, children are more dependent on the academic support they receive from their parents, which some may not be able to provide.

During the crisis, Parivartan focused on reaching children through online as well as offline mode of teaching. Keeping everything in mind; connectivity, the internet, and the availability of digital devices, Parivartan chose a pragmatic way to introduce digital learning such that it does not widen the access and equity gap. We decided to conduct even conduct small community classes with a group of six children. By redesigning our curriculum for these sessions, Parivartan used both modes of learning.

Giving every child the opportunity to learn, our facilitators used the new technology as well as the traditional teaching methods. For online classes, video conference apps like Zoom, Google Meet and WhatsApp for students who cannot afford high-end internet connectivity was used by our facilitators. Online classes are generally structured in the same manner as traditional education. Even for community classes, we refer to the same curriculum design. Assignments were given and submitted through WhatsApp. But they are still in the same format and method as traditional assignments.

Our facilitators had created videos for students, based on hands on scientific experiments, poems, action songs and storytelling activities. These videos were also disseminated on social media platforms that reached people from different corners of the world. During this time, our facilitators also got a very different opportunity to teach students using a technological platform. This opportunity made our facilitators adept with the new technology, making them resilient towards adapting to any new innovation and situation.

Even as schools are reopening and shutting down again due to the spike in cases, we continue to reach children through community visits. Using proper precautions and social distancing protocols, facilitators from all the education initiatives are reaching out to children from every tola of all the 8 Panchayats. Parents are also happy seeing their children engage in interesting activities and workshops. Some parents have even bought new phones to make education accessible for their children. Today, as many students are coping with the challenges of the pandemic, the edtech industry is innovating new avenues of reaching children through offline platforms as well. Parivartan is also striving towards mitigating this digital divide by moving towards technological integration.