No learning v/s online learning: What is beneficial for Students

Technology is an important tool for educators. It can help affirm and advance relationships between educators and students, reinvent our approaches to learning and collaboration

During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers, parents, and students made the largest pivot worldwide from face to face learning in brick and mortar schools to online classrooms. While this was a herculean feat by all involved, there are concerns that online learning is not as effective as face to face learning. It may be easy to argue that learning in school is superior, as we all have experienced face-to-face learning, and we all have limited experience with online learning: but this assumption would ignore some very clear benefits of online learning and the fact that live online learning with teachers and peers is far superior to pre-recorded learning or no learning at all.

Pros of online learning

While the transition to online learning in early 2020 was one done in emergency, schools around the world are sharing incredible work on how to redesign learning with a combination of on-campus and online learning, to keep students engaged. We have no end in sight of a Covid-free world. Even if we could go back to “normal” with students and teachers on campus exclusively, would we want to and is that best for students? What we are finding is that with purposefully designed online learning modules are adding whole new dimensions to students learning. Resources for online learning possibilities are exploding world-wide and being readily shared amongst cadres of educators.

Additionally, there is an assumption that online learning is not good for students v/s in-class learning. This one-size-fits-all approach is simply not what is being seen across the world in virtual classrooms. Hence we must look at an overall perspective and arrive at a win-win situation for all the stakeholders involved.

The argument of digital divide

Another argument is that if all students cannot access learning online, then none should. While this is heroic in its sense of equity, the argument clearly misplaces the area of attention needed- that of inequity in our society in terms of poverty and access to excellent schools. Restricting teaching or the use of technology for learning can be detrimental to the most vulnerable populations of students.

Technology is an incredibly important tool for educators. It can help affirm and advance relationships between educators and students, reinvent our approaches to learning and collaboration, shrink long-standing equity and accessibility gaps, and adapt learning experiences to meet the needs of all learners. Rather than ban or restrict technology, educators need to be turning toward technology as one of many tools to support student learning during emergency remote teaching or risk exacerbating the digital divide.

When comparing online learning to students passively ingesting pre-recorded material with no opportunity to interact with teachers and peers, there is no comparison. Live online learning is truly the better option and one that is needed to keep students on track.

Ill-informed screen time concerns

The concerns of screen time are also not well-founded as much of what occurs online is not always related to screen time. Although computers are a big part of online education, much of the actual work is completed in the same way as it is in a traditional school. The students still read books, fill out worksheets, complete science experiments, and take quizzes and tests. Students submit work to teachers in a number of ways, depending on the assignment. Some of the assignments and assessments are printed, scanned, and uploaded via an online “drop box.” Other work is done completely online. Parents are required to work closely with their child, making sure the child is completing the work. As students become older, more responsibility rests on them.

Rather than learning in isolation on one’s own, online learning with clusters of peers facilitated by knowledgeable faculty is actually quite effective. Students are expected to participate in online discussions and be an active member of work groups. Therefore, independent learners in distance education are not necessarily lonely learners. Without online learning, young students will miss critical foundational learning related to conceptual understanding, key competencies, and the development of their character through social situations. What would be the bigger question?

Writer: Ted Mockrish (The author is head of school, Canadian International School)

Cosmic LEARNING takes off

India is witnessing a steady rise in elementary and adolescent Montessori education. The system allows students to find their own space

Preeti Jain’s daughter studies in a Montessori in Bengaluru. When she turned six, Preeti decided to continue her education in the same Montessori instead of choosing a mainstream school. “My daughter’s Montessori has an elementary section too,” she says. “I saw how different she was from other children her age, in terms of her social interactions and her independence as a learner. This helped me make my choice.”

Montessori preschools are hugely popular in India but surprisingly, many parents do not know that the Montessori pedagogy and practice extend beyond the preschool years and move to the higher grades too. Montessori education is designed for elementary students in the 6 to 12 age group and for adolescents in the 12 to 18 age group.

India has seen many new elementary Montessoris come up in the last few years. There are currently more than 20 in Bengaluru alone, and this number keeps increasing every year. Chennai has more than three elementary Montessoris, Hyderabad gas around 15 and there are new elementary Montessoris coming up in Mumbai, Coimbatore, Erode and Salem. These Montessoris are among the most popular schools in their respective cities.

The adolescent Montessoris community is fairly new but is gaining popularity. The country’s first adolescent Montessoris community began at Pragnya Montessori in Hyderabad, in 2017. A second adolescent community came up at Medha Montessori in Hyderabad in 2019. These are the first two Montessori adolescent communities in India with teachers or adults trained by the Association Montessori Internationale, a training body that Maria Montessori founded in 1950.

Chaithanya Yalamanchili, Programme Director, Erdkinder, at the adolescent Montessori or the Erdkinder because it truly unlocks the adolescent’s potential. “They can run an all-economic system completely on their own,” he says. “In our community, they work on entrepreneurial projects, raise funds, make money and reinvest in future projects. They grow vegetables, explore rainwater harvesting and even build boats. They maintain the whole adolescent programme on their own.”

Revolution

Kavya Chandrasekar, the Executive Director of the Montessori Institute of Bangalore (MIB) and Founder of The Montessori School in Bengaluru, says that the elementary Montessori is built on the idea of cosmic education. “We give children tools to be better observers of nature,” she says. “They delve into cause and effect, and investigate their own moral values and beliefs. They work predominantly in groups, but may choose to work independently too.”

This system constantly encourages its students to find their place in the world. They are not confined to subjects. They regularly conference with their guides, document their learning journeys and steer their own course. The Montessori material gives them impressions of real-life scenarios and hands-on practice. In the higher grades, the students in a Montessori move into more abstract work. They work in an interdisciplinary manner and there is a lot or peer-based work.

Curricula

As every student knows, all roads lead to high school exams and all Montessoris that progress into the higher grades inevitably help the students to write these exams. Chandrasekar, for instance, insists that accountability to the national curriculum is emphasised continuously. “Our children understand that they are working with the national curriculum,” she says. “We have a curriculum list that tells them what ground they need to cover by a certain age. Once the children enter elementary Montessori, they meet their teachers or guides once a week or fortnight and discuss their progress. They maintain a journal and talk about how much math, physics or language work that they have done that week. So with freedom, students are also made accountable for the work they need to do.”

Says Yalamanchili, “Montessori students do write board exams. At Pragnya, we work with the Cambridge curriculum. Some montessoris work with the NCERT curriculum. Students don’t find it hard to adapt to that system at all. In fact, we sometimes have students who leave us in the elementary and primary grades to go to mainstream schools and they adapt fairly quickly. When Montessori students leave the school, they are keenly aware of the opportunities and possibilities that exist in the world. For example, my student wants to pursue a career in economics, but also wants to opt for physics.”

As the students approach class VIII and IX, many Montessoris streamline their work to prepare students to meet these challenges. They start using prescribed textbooks and study material. Their concepts are in place and they are able to apply them beautifully. Good elementary and adolescent programmes do prepare children to write exams fearlessly but the difference is in how they do it.

The Montessori method of education was developed in 1897 as a multi-dimensional learning experience. A Montessori is a mixed-age environment and this encourages a high level of collaboration. In fact, India has a longstanding connection with adolescent Montessori education. When Maria Montessori visited India, she interacted with older children in the country and it greatly influenced her method. The idea of the adolescent community is not at all unusual to India, as seen with Shantiniketan or Gandhiji’s Tolstoy farm.

By: Shweta Sharan(A free lance journalist and also runs Bangalore Schools, a popular online community comprising parents and educators.)

The Balancing Act

A healthy mix of academics and extracurricular activities is key to a successful school experience

Parents expect you to excel in studies, while coaches push you hard to do well in extracurricular activities. To strike the right balance, every student needs to be organized and become adept at time-management. If you learn to prioritize early in life, you will develop into an efficient and productive adult who enjoys the best of both worlds.

In a learner-centric class-room, the process of evaluation is based on the overall performance of the student throughout the year – in exams, projects, class presentations, and participation in personality development activities. International schools always concur with this and believe it is essential for students to maintain a proper balance between academics, social life, and co-curricular activities.

Integration

As an important part of the international school structure, elementary and middle school students spend around six hours a week and high school students spend around four and a half hours a week on co-curricular activities that vary from participating in physical education to learning music. These activities are integrated into the curriculum and are a compulsory part of the programme.

Most regular schools do not offer subjects such as arts, sports, or music. Although this is slowly changing due to growing interest in pursuing these subjects, they are still considered niche subjects. International schools, on the other hand, offer these subjects right from class I, up until class XII. These schools have excellent theatre and music programmes with multicultural international faculty.

Although most students do not have the cognitive skills to organize their schedules independently until middle school, teachers start teaching them how to plan and prioritise their time from kindergarten onwards. Time management is vital skill that helps students prioritise tasks, accurately judge the amount of time needed to complete them, and balance time between learning and playing.

Opportunities

Students must be given opportunities to participate in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. Inter-school competitions in swimming, football, basket-ball, and other sports are conducted throughout the year in international schools and so re several festivals to celebrate the arts and to nurture creativity and encourage expression in students.

Clubs could be made a mandatory part of elementary, middle, and high school programmes like in most international schools. Teachers and school authorities understand the necessity of helping their students develop skills outside of their classroom, and therefore clubs are a way to cultivate important life skills that a student can use for the rest of his or her life. Research has shown that extra-curricular activities create interest in students and encourage them to participate earnestly in academic activities. This keeps the students, faculty, parents, and peers motivated for higher realms of achievement.

Maintaining a high level of interest in academics as well as co-curricular activities is vital for the all-round development of the students. Teachers and parents should jointly work out how best to equally divide time and interest for their students between the two. A review of the activities offered has to be undertaken periodically to ensure that the students are falling behind in either of them. Based on the review, suggestions can be made by teachers to students about how to improve in any particular area.  This leads to the holistic development of the students. Students with a perfect balance between academics and extra-curricular activities are an asset to society and will be successful in different spheres of life.

By – Shweta Sastri

Speaking Is The Solution

Acquisition of English skills in a formal classroom setting, demands creating opportunities for practice

Educationists often blame the State for lack of English language proficiency among students. The Tamil Nadu government’s structural transformation to make spoken English an integral part of the curriculum from the first standard onwards is laudable.

The primacy of speaking skills

Students with high academic scores, who enter the tertiary education with a low communicative competence, sadly, are graduating with almost same level of linguistic competence. The primary reasons for this sordid state are:  a) reluctance to use the language for fear of shaming themselves; b)lack of opportunities in the class and with their own peers outside (the proficient ones form their own cliques and look down upon the English have-nots); c) prioritizing core subjects over languages; and d) lack of any immediate need.

Obstacles and solutions

Obstacle 1: The physical setting

The 20×20 classroom with two columns of benches and desks and about 40 students, is hardly a place for speaking activities. The rows of classrooms on either side of the building, with doors and windows wide open, can never be an ideal environment.

Solution: Speaking skills cannot be developed by just listening, reading, or writing. Learners become speakers of English only by speaking. Moving them out to an open space, be it the terrace or the playground, will create a facilitative environment to engage in authentic communication.

Obstacle 2: Nature of tasks

The “activities” generally set in the classroom are textbook-based, which promote formal academic English, rarely relating to everyday spoken language.

Solution: Tasks must encourage learners to speak spontaneously and they have to be informal and life-oriented. They should also be Indianised, even localized. Westerners usually have continental breakfast with bacon, croissants, sunny-side up Omelette, and sausages. But this would alienate our learners, whereas idly, Dosa, and Sambar Vada would make them salivate.

Obstacle 3: Various formats

Speaking activities are mostly carried out at the individual level. A 40-minute class can provide time just for a handful of learners.

Solution: Individual presentation is perhaps the most difficult task, so it ought to be preceded by group, followed by triad and pair tasks, in that order. Individual tasks must be introduced only after sufficient practice, to minimize the phobia of speaking. Different formats offer equal opportunities to all, so, the perennial issue of articulate students dominating the class is eliminated.

Obstacle 4: Teachers’ English skills

Teachers at the primary level confess their hesitation to teach English, as they never had any real exposure. And, whatever English they learnt is lost as they never get a chance to deploy it either at home or at school. This is the insurmountable challenge encountered now – how could teachers with nearly nil linguistic competence facilitate learners to acquire it?

Solution: Incorporating multimedia contents such as films, videos, podcasts, songs and any other printed texts can be input materials for the speaking tasks so that the teacher dependency is minimized.

By K. ELANGO

Teachers’ role vital in integrating EdTech

Increased technological integration in education has demanded a shift in the way academics teach ina classroom, says Sahana Murthy, professor, Interdisciplinary Program in Education Technology, IIT Bombay, who has recently been awarded the US-based AECT Robert Keiffer International Fellowship for her contribution in EdTech research promotion in India. Being the first Indian to receive the honour, Murthynow has greater responsibility to accelerate the growth of Edtech in India.

Technology alone cannot bring out positive learning outcomes. The learning Effectiveness depends on the pedagogical strategies adopted by a teacher while using various tools. A teacher can contextualize the learning while using technology-enhanced content by creating supporting activities for students to understand the concept, says Murthy, who mentors engineering college faculty for using technology in their teaching practice. She advocates for research-based teaching practices by holding regular workshops and MOOCs in institutes.

Our projects in the Educational Technology department are for students and the teachers. We address the learning process of science and engineering through research by using models and frameworks for effective integration of technology by teachers.

Additionally, IIT Bombay has designed pedagogical strategies for technology-enhanced learning and developed MOOCs for teachers to incorporate in their classrooms. In our outreach programmes, we have conducted large-scale faculty professional development programmes in blended modes, with participants from India as well as other countries.

Technology in Higher Education

Multi-institutional government projects such as the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) has made higher education accessible to a large number of candidates. However, access to content alone is not sufficient.

The next step in the evolution is the learner-centric MOOC (LCM) model developed at IIT Bombay, which leverages learning design principles including active and peer learning. The LCM model has formed the pedagogical basis of several MOOCs designed by instructors in various institutions.

Challenges

To maintain the relevance of local contexts and addressing learner diversity while deploying technology is a key challenge in EdTech. The involvement of stake holders such as teachers at all stages of the project through participatory design is another challenge.

Their greater involvement will empower the co-creation of content rather than consumption of content created by a few. The use of educational technologies have proliferated, teaching practices with digital technology have largely followed the information transmission model. This is an issue seen across many countries in the world. We need to focus on a meaningful integration of the technologies to enable student-centred learning.

An important goal for teachers is that students should not only learn content, but also science and engineering practices, or thinking skills such as design thinking, troubleshooting, estimation, hypothesis generation and testing, and systems thinking which are used for problem-solving, reasoning, among others. To help students develop these skills, IIT Bombay had developed the LEAP (learning of engineering practices), which forms the basis of the design of technology-enhanced learning environments.

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CBSE tweets memes to boost morale of Class 10 and 12 board examinees

#examtime #preparewell #student #students #discipline #yaadrakh #staycalm #study #studysmart #boardexams #preparedness #hometutors

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has devised a new way to engage with the students and help them while preparing for the ongoing Class 10 and 12 exams.

The board has decided to go relatable and posted memes instead of solemn guidelines and instructions.

Board exams for any candidate can get stressful and worrisome. There are also some important notifications that a student has to strictly follow before the exams.

In such cases, it becomes pertinent that a student does not lose calm and can remember the crucial instructions as well.

Keeping this in mind, the CBSE has incorporated study tips and exam hall instructions with trendy memes.

Taking to their official Twitter handle, CBSE shared the now famous photo of a child pumping his fist to convey a message on finishing the syllabus before everyone else.

Students should enter the exam centre ideally before 10 am, no one will be allowed to enter thereafter. CBSE made sure youngsters understand the rule and retain it.

Waking up early and staying up late is part of every student’s exam preparation routine. However, it is always before the exam that sleep becomes overly dear.

In this cheeky meme, board says gravitation can’t be held responsible if a student doesn’t wake up in time to prepare for the exams.

In this uplifting post, CBSE aims at encouraging students to work hard as “there is evidence to support this statement”.

News of students not being allowed to sit for the exam for not wearing proper uniform, carrying mobile phone in the hall, not bringing an admit card, among others are often reported.

But losing a year of your life due to recklessness is hardly justifiable.

The colour of the ink allowed to be used in CBSE board exams is an important aspect. The board allows students appearing for Class 10 and Class 12 exams to use ball point or gel pens. But the colour should be blue.

The CBSE Class 10 and Class 12 board exams begun from February 15, 2020 with the vocational subjects. The main theory papers will start from the next week (February 24).

We at e home tutors wishes all appearing students “all the best” for board exams.

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