It has been more than four months now since schools closed across 190 countries, affecting more than 90% of the world’s student population. 32,000 Teach For India children have been out of school since then. While these prolonged school closures are threatening to exacerbate the existing inequalities, they have also presented us with a new idea – that children could learn beyond school.
Our organization and Fellows are embarking on this journey of discovery to develop innovative teachers and robust infrastructure to enable our children to learn beyond school. Our teams have spent months researching, using new pedagogies, creating inclusive learning models, running virtual teaching pilots and gathering important lessons on the use of technology to move to a new normal. All of this has only strengthened our belief in the power and opportunity that blended learning brings for our children. We now have the potential to bridge the digital divide that has long contrasted income groups. With technology, we’re presented with limitless chances to differentiate, provide personalized instruction, and envision an educational system that transcends the boundaries of school. Perhaps for the first time ever, this new type of learning could be a true equalizer for all children.
To put this into effect, our Fellows are following a comprehensive teaching method - Blended Learning (a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning). One of our Fellows, Porvika Bala, narrates how she went about the entire process since the last 3 months -
"My students’ community reported their first COVID case very early on, by mid march. Since then I’ve distributed grocery and hygiene supplies for my students twice, through Teach for India. Mental wellbeing of the students also took a hit, and many of them reported feeling very lonely and missing their friends. To help with this, I allotted time for Socio-emotional learning during our Zoom classes, and I create space for them to play, chat and share with their friends every single day.
One of the earliest classes I took for my students was about the COVID 19 situation - statistics, precautions and how we can do our part. We brainstormed ways in which we could spread awareness to our family and community. They produced several ideas without my assistance and implemented them with the help of their parents and siblings. Some of these include drawing creative rangolis at their doorsteps, creating funny videos to share with people they know and sticking posters around their house.
Due to the delayed reopening of schools and the potential of online learning, my biggest priorities are parent investment and personalized learning. To that end, I have been in regular touch with my students’ parents, Headmistress, conducting Parent-Teacher Meetings and receiving feedback.
Some of the biggest challenges are - getting children to engage, gauging how much they understand, and attendance. Several children keep videos off/leave the call in between and it's not always possible to figure out why. Also, completion of homework is a challenge, coupled with parents and siblings helping out - ultimately data isn't very reliable on how much they understood. Attendance is also difficult, due to network, only one device, interest levels, etc.
One of the things going really well in the virtual classroom is differentiating learning for kids and individual attention, since I'm able to split them into groups. I'm able to talk to each of them without much interruptions. Another thing that has been working out is literacy (since kids have to type and read a bit), for a fraction of the kids English has improved. "