When pandemic hit the world in March 2020, little did we know that we will be introduced to a
completely new world of technology in terms of education. Definitely this generation which the internet refers as Gen Z is tech savvy, but technology in education was something (and still is to some extent) that did not receive that much of our attention. It would have still remained the same as the pre pandemic era, if the world did not face the destructiveness of the corona virus.
In terms of the use of technology in education, the timeline could be divided into two section: the pre-pandemic era and the post-pandemic era. The pre-pandemic era of education was mostly physical classrooms with projectors, wifi connection, and teachers mostly using power point slides to teach in the classroom; at least that is what I perceived by the meaning of ‘using technology’ in the classroom as a student as well as a teacher. The text books that were taught to us, as well as the text I used as a teacher to teach my students had little to no knowledge as to how we should be adjusting our pedagogical style if we had to completely shut down the educational institutions for months. We learned, however, at the cost of time.
The post-pandemic era of education came with its own challenges. In a country like Bangladesh, the challenges did not only include which platform is best suited for online classes, or how to assess students online but most importantly how should we include our students who live in the most rural-est parts of the country where they feel ‘privileged’ enough for getting an hour of electricity a day. Affording a phone with a camera and a stable internet connection was a luxury many could not afford. News of parents selling their domestic animals to buy smart phones for their kids to continue the online education circulated in social medias in those days. Many students journeyed miles to another village or a bit urbanish area to get a wifi connection to at least connect to the class.
We teachers on the other hand had our own struggles. We had all the means but we did not know the ‘how’. There were after all many hows! James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente introduced us to the Stages of Change in the early 1970’s where they described the human behavior in different stages of a new change. Precontemplation is the first stage where human beings are in denial of the problem. The initial month or two were the precontemplation stage for us teachers. It was in fact a very difficult transition for majority of us teachers because up until that point video calls were only a mean to connect with relatives living in other districts or outside the country. How can the exact same video calling service could then be used as a medium of
The second and third stage of the change came as an urgency because of the extended period of lockdown. We could not afford to waste another day because students were losing their precious time. Contemplation and preparation went hand in hand, and we started to make ourselves educated for the new beginning. Learning about new online platforms, learning new tools, incorporating the learning materials, making adjustments, becoming considerate of students’ problems and many others. What was a bit awkward and funny for me was to take class in front of my family members and also making them aware of the fact that my whole bunch of students can also hear them! Learning to mute the microphone, I would say, was THE most important part of the whole spectacle.
In a physical classroom before the pandemic, we had the liberty to do activities according to the class size. Since I am a teacher of English Language, most of my classes circulate around
speaking and listening tasks. During speaking sessions in the physical classroom, the students were right in front of me and I knew what they were doing. But what happened during the online classes was that students could be present in the class but they also had the liberty to navigate to other applications. So keeping the students engaged and interested in the classroom became my priority. In order to do so, I had to choose activities which would keep them engaged in the class even (if they did not want to), and keep additional tasks at hand to make sure everyone’s doing something even if they are not actively participating.
Speaking activities take (I would rather use the word ‘consume’) a lot of time. Because of the
setting, its impossible to make groups or pairs and ask them to do an activity. What worked for me was I used to give them a topic before hand and would ask them to prepare a presentation. During the class I would assign them another task that they would be doing such as watching a video from youtube, mostly TedTalks, and summarizing the video content in their own words. So while I took presentation of a student, I made sure other students were not sitting idle and scrolling Facebook.
Conducting listening activities was another mammoth’s task! For the listening activity to work
properly it was important that all the students had stable internet connection and ensuring clear audio from my end as well. That’s where the problem lied. Doing a live listening activity through an audio more like IELTS style was not possible. Because there would always be students who would suffer from poor internet connection. And as a teacher I couldn’t continue doing activities knowing a portion of my students aren’t able participate. So IELTS style listening tasks were kept for physical classrooms. Rather students were given links of video contents from Youtube and audio contents such as podcasts to summarise or make a presentation. That was listening was ensured as well as speaking.
One thing that the pandemic taught me was to be prepared for any situation no matter what; change is inevitable and the sooner we accept something, the sooner we learn new tactics to adjust to the change. Adjusting and assimilating to new changes makes a person resilient to challenges.
Writer: Mahinur Akther, Lecturer