Amid the doom and gloom of Covid19, a brighter day is about to dawn for frontline education.
“School ditches tablets”. Catchy titles like this one, banishing technology from the classroom, seem to be out of date after school closure and the need of thousands of teachers and educators to keep education alive in the midst of a pandemic. Whether you are a tech-enthusiast or you were forced to use technology, this crisis has brought to surface the potential of learning technology, which has been tried and tested under extreme conditions.
By Dimitris Primalis
The good news is that you have overcome your greatest fears and biases against using technology so now you can make the most of it to facilitate learning! Let’s take a minute to reflect on what you have done so far with your (online) classes that you can keep doing in the post Covid19 era. You:
Flipped the classroom
You assigned time consuming activities such as watching video or reading at home (doing these activities during an online session, almost certainly equals to most students texting on the social media or watching TikTok videos). Based on these lead-ins, you spent more time in your virtual classroom encouraging students to produce language and express themselves during the lesson. There is no reason why this practice cannot continue selectively, after the lockout is over.
You were given the opportunity to send easier tasks to weaker students and more challenging ones to stronger learners, who are usually utterly bored in class, when you assigned revision tasks asynchronously (offline). You also had the chance to give personalized feedback in a discreet way through emails and this time you are sure that learners are looking forward to your comments and supportive messages. You have built a precious bond with them. Keep it up in the post-lockdown days.
You introduced web 2.0 tools that promote gamification like Kahoot in class . Even though you felt that you had to do it to stimulate interest and motivate learners to attend the lesson, your students appreciated the effort and discovered that learning English can be fun! Try it in your face to face lessons and your learners will be begging you to revise vocabulary or grammar.
Used material outside the coursebook
In the first two weeks of lockdown, when everybody hoped that this would not last for a long time, you assigned revision exercises and then you became more resourceful. You discovered or designed material that can help learners to move a step further from the security of their coursebook and to make the most of the abundance of learning resources on the internet.
Promoted learner autonomy
Having guided them to the resources mentioned above, you have guided them to become more autonomous as learners. This time parents were more open to using the internet and less worried about the potential dangers. If you continue this practice, your students will benefit from exposure to language and they will set new standards for their performance.
Applied formative assessment
You have discovered numerous new tools that allow your students to share reflective or exam-based writing; to express their opinion in writing or orally on a wide range of issues. This was done outside the classroom (asynchronously) which allowed you to take a step back and assess carefully their strengths and weaknesses and design or redesign your lessons based on the new data. Most students will happily continue to do reflective writing and share their thoughts and views.
Because of the pandemic, more and more students realize that education should not be taken for granted. The majority missed their teachers and classmates, their routine which offers security and above all, they were sick and tired of scrolling down the social media walls and clicking on silly videos. Some of them realized that their teachers go the extra mile and felt grateful!
Beware of oversimplifications
I know that some teachers mistake the emergency online lessons during Covid19 for online education. Building a raft to survive a shipwreck cannot be compared to an ocean liner. Those of us who have attended or taught online courses know very well that this is a new world in education with tools and methodology to follow. Courses are well-structured, the material and tasks are carefully chosen and there is constant feedback and support to learners. It is worth investing time to do some research and adopt some elements in your teaching.
A lesson taught for educators
Rejecting technology without critical assessment has backfired. Learning technology is a medium that can boost learning and student engagement, provided it is used to serve the learning aims and objectives that teachers set for their students.