As a reaction to the pandemic, Asian societies have handled the transition from offline to online teaching smoothly at schools. This opens the discussion for the impact of tech on schooling, the availability of technology to students, the role of governments, and how parents are coping with work from home and teaching their kids at the same time. Here are edited excerpts from the talk “Tech & Schooling: The sudden impact of COVID-19 on educational systems, technological preparedness and parents having to become teachers” at AsiaBerlin Summit 2020.
Namya Joshi, a 14 year old grade 8 student from India, is a technology wizard. She figured using Minecraft; a Lego styled video game as a teaching tool as she accidentally ventured into one of its features, which she leveraged in the education system. Teachers are now using it to make teaching and learning more exciting and fun-based. She says, “I used to think that Minecraft was only for playing, but then I understood how we could take it to a higher level.”
A Microsoft blog says that, so far, Namya has trained more than 100 teachers in her school and worldwide, over Teams, on the use of Microsoft tools such as Minecraft, Scratch, Kahoot, and Flipgrid in their classrooms. Her first-hand experience of these tools’ effectiveness for learning has led her to become a strong advocate of gamification in education.
Her mother, Monica Joshi, an IT Head at Sat Paul Mittal School says that the technology of converting creative writing into something so playful is impressive. . She took inspiration from her daughter and has started using this technology in all kinds of lessons in her institution.
She says, “I was initially apprehensive about how I have to introduce Minecraft into my school. When I saw Namya’s interest in converting lessons into it, I got my first warrior. Taking her as a motivation level, I passed it on to other students & teachers as well. Now we are using the same technology in every sphere of lessons.”
Gamification to learn and teach is nothing new, yet it is being looked at differently now. It is becoming more acceptable. Through gamification, students depict their ability to engage their imagination to think outside of allowing the opportunity to explore so many possibilities while brainstorming a game design through their creativity. It has the capability of opening their minds that nothing is off-limits to them.
Matija Squire, the founder of The Paradigm Effect & COO, Buzzy Games, says, “We have a huge vision to get 100 million kids creating, collaborating, and playing games together because games are children’s language. It is the easiest way to communicate with them.”
TEACHERS’ ADAPTATION TO NEW PEDAGOGY
Matija further says, “We want to give teachers simple yet fun ways to speak the kids’ language to get them engaged in learning & enjoying that process. To have that harmonious synergy between technology and teaching, we need it to be easier for teachers to communicate across these mediums.”
Teachers have a huge responsibility of making their teaching interesting for their students. Technology in education for them should be made more accessible and usable. They should not be burdened with yet another thing they need to upskill. It should rather come as a medium for them to communicate with their students easily and smoothly. It should act as a catalyst to their teaching skills.
Matija says, “We have streamlined these processes and made it very intuitive for teachers even with no coding experience to engage students in these modules.”
MAINTAINING BALANCE WITH ONLINE TEACHING
A balance is to be maintained for tech-based teaching for students. Many schools worked proactively to balance the increased screen time during Covid. Schools were sending pre-recorded modules on relaxation techniques, developing motor skills, and something on socio-emotional learning.
Monica also shared that the tech-based teaching has helped students across all levels. It has also developed children with learning disabilities. The learning is evaluated based on the tests given to them and has been found to be a more effective means of imparting knowledge.
EUROPEAN SCHOOLS’ PERSPECTIVE and THE COVID EFFECT
“More and more schools across Europe are engaging in online education marketplaces. Schools in the USA and UK are connecting with this format of teaching. Finland’s Board of Education has already opened its door to technology like Minecraft. There are many European countries which are still lacking in providing internet services to students, “ says Sean Tierney, Director – Teaching & Learning Strategy, Asia Microsoft.
Covid has further accelerated the use of technology in education. People who were averse to online tech-based teaching opened to the same. Earlier, they would instead drop their children at a camp and then be glued to computer screens. This pandemic completely switched their perspective to wanting their children to be safe and engaged productively at home.
Organisations have learnt about the existent barriers in the system. People are experiencing first-hand use of this technology due to emerging working from home culture at Zoom’s expense. People now come with prior know-how of how to communicate on these platforms. There are many re-enrolments as the parents have realised that their children are getting the opportunity to be more creative and build on their critical thinking skills. This has also removed a major apprehension of their kids getting isolated while being involved in online games. However, they can socialize with children from across the globe which broadens their horizons.
Sean Tierney, Director – Teaching & Learning Strategy, Asia Microsoft, feels that good teachers already use many games. These games must increase the cognitive discretionary load. Gamifying should be used more and more to make learning experiential and straightforward. The grading system at times becomes detrimental to children. Games, on the other hand, become supportive of learning.
People are ready for remote and hybrid learning. During the last one-year people realized that children were disengaging from learning once the Zoom call finished. Technology has ensured that they are properly engaged throughout. Social wellbeing becomes paramount when a hybrid mode of learning is used. Sean informed that today’s technology also assesses the child’s mood and response to life. There is a data available to determine their mood and patterns. Teachers can now stretch themselves based on this data. Online teaching must be more supportive of providing and assessing this data.
Covid has helped people understand business cases from where the technology can support learning. It should be more than just buying computers and piling them on teachers to use it for online teaching. It should bear a proper structure, planning, and infrastructure. Data content is very important for the application of this tech-based teaching. It should recommend the right content for the right time for the person as a whole. Data will lead people to productive and a high contributing lives.
The vision of technology allows children to do things that they could not do earlier at levels of complexity and engagement that exist now. We will have an exciting future when students know-how, what, and why of learning. Introducing technology does not mean removing teachers from the classroom. It can never be the caretaker of the students. However, it will supplement the teaching and learning methods. It is empowering teachers with different means to a more productive classroom session.