Almost overnight, the entire world was faced with a new norm, thanks to COVID-19. Many were and continue to be affected. CyberSafeTT and our Google Partner, Blue Chip Technologies, have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to help many schools quickly adapt to this new norm. As of today we have had 3 successful implementations of entire schools getting on board with Google Classroom. Technology support was provided by our team along this road less travelled and it was indeed a bumpy ride as we also had to deal with school politics, parent politics, teacher politics, so much so that we might as well go up for the upcoming general elections! And while some may paint a pretty picture of the transition to full online learning, we would like to speak about the reality of the situation for many teachers.
To adapt to these changes and to maintain a glimmer of similarity to the quality of teaching and learning, students have grown accustomed to via in-classroom sessions, teachers and support staff have had to almost reinvent their style and approach.
For instance, within a limited time frame our schools were required to conduct online training workshops for its staff members, while at the same time upgrading their online presence, in some cases, purchased additional software licenses, added accessories such as the 3CX Phone and Video conferencing system, compiled user guidelines, established additional e-learning laboratories and set up eSupport emails, so teachers, parents and students were able to use online teaching and learning resources smoothly wherever they were.
We must commend some of the teachers for their hard work, as when done as prescribed, online teaching requires much more preparation than normal classes.
Teachers had to revise their subject teaching plans, assessment details and teaching materials and adopt new ways to interact with students. Video teaching and classroom teaching differ immensely in terms of methodology and skill. Teachers need to adapt to online teaching and over time will be able to fully integrate technology, contents and pedagogies; while at the same time, simulating human interactions in a virtual classroom to make the entire effort successful.
Coupled with the academic side of things, teachers also had to handle new issues and challenges, such as students’ and parents’ privacy, their own home environment, whether they lack good quality Wi-Fi connections at home, their network speed and stability, cyber safety and the time schedules for students who are unable to sit in on sessions. If teachers wish to conduct video recordings that involve students being present for real-time teaching, then they have to consider the student’s home environment and need for privacy.
Another point of contention worth mentioning is that teachers now have to answer to parents on their style of teaching. We have seen instances where parents have become very abusive and demeaning to teachers and school administration for the simplest of things. It’s almost as if these parents are waiting for the slightest hiccup in the technology to find fault. Some parents choose to sit in on online sessions and have even gone as far as to criticize the teachers style and method of delivery. While constructive criticism is welcomed, blaming and chastising will not help to improve the process.
Just like many of us who were made to stay at home along with our kids, so to did teachers. They also had the responsibility of looking after kids and elderly as the facilities they would have employed previously such as day-care or nurses were no longer available during the lock down. Having to deal with all the daily responsibilities, some on their own, coupled with meeting the demands of the school and parents to formulate some resemblance of a regular school day can prove far too much for a teacher to handle. A quote from one of the teachers I spoke with regarding this article said:
For us, teachers, the reality of it is, more trying to give what is expected, while dealing with how COVID-19 has affected our lives too. I feel some people think that teachers remained unaffected (by COVID-19).
In the face of new teaching and learning modes, and given the limited time, resources and experience available, some traditional teaching methods are simply not applicable to online learning. While a teacher may have been accustomed to blended learning pre-COVID-19, now those same techniques may not entirely apply in this whole new style of fully online teaching.
We have noticed teachers who attempted to take their traditional teaching style and course content online without any modifications were the ones who become frustrated and also who are slowly losing the engagement of their students.
A common mistake for example is the expectation that one can replace a face to face classroom session with an online video session. We have found this to be ineffective in many cases for the following reasons:
- All students aren’t always in attendance
- Video call dropouts due to internet issues; this is even worse when it happens to the teacher
- Difficult to monitor each student’s video screen to see if they are paying attention while at the same time conduct your classroom
- In-class technology problems become more of an issue when there is no I.T. support available to troubleshoot, leaving the teacher with that responsibility.
- Having to deal with student disruptions due to a plethora of reasons
A teacher’s time is not only in teaching but also working with each student to ensure they understand. Re-usable materials will give them the time they need for this. As such, our team has recommended that video teaching be used as a supplement to the online learning process where the process instead should be:
- Teacher creates reusable material, quizzes, questions etc and shares on the learning platform
- This can also be in the format of a video of the teacher explaining a topic
- Videos should not be too long but broken up into small segments and you can have multiple videos per topic if need.
- Students are given sufficient time to download, review and even upload responses
- A live video session can be done after, either to the entire class or to those who are interested to answer questions on the material previously provided.
- In some cases, we’ve seen very effective use of this where the teacher schedules one-on-one sessions with students. Such sessions last less than 20 minutes and deal with very specific issues.
- A collaborative effort among teachers in a particular grade, standard or form has shown to be quite effective and also takes a bit of load of an individual teacher. In this regard, the work can be shared such that some teachers produce the class material, some oversee the setting and administering of online exams and others handle the online sessions.
We do congratulate those teachers and students who have been able to adapt quickly to this mode of teaching and learning. However, we are also aware of many schools who are struggling to just send emails to all parents or set up a WhatsApp group per class. The challenges being faced are not only technological but much more.
Throughout history, the teaching profession has gone through many changes, from abacus to calculators, chalk to white boards and blended learning. Now, COVID-19 has forced yet another change, maybe faster than many would have preferred. While we do hope that the situation dissipates soon and classes can return to some degree of familiarity in September 2020, we believe that all schools should continue the process of moving their teaching and learning to an online platform as the benefits of this in the long run will far outweigh the challenges we are facing today.2