What I Learned From Teaching Online for 3 Weeks

What I Learned From Teaching Online for 3 Weeks

Ryan Chadha 18/05/2020 10
What I Learned From Teaching Online for 3 Weeks

On March 10th, we heard that the government had asked all schools to close for a day.

This was a sudden announcement, and it came as a shock to everyone. A day’s closure certainly wasn’t going to stem a raging virus. This was when the coronavirus was not that well understood. I mean, we had all heard of people dying from this virus in China and a few other countries, but the dangers it posed didn’t seem that grave.

The next morning, we heard that some schools had announced closure for the summer. Later the same day, we were told that the government has asked all schools in the state of Karnataka to shut for the summer. Was the situation really that bad? We sent a note to our school parents telling them this, but we did not really have a back up plan.

Given there were still 3 weeks of term left, we announced online classes, without really knowing how we were going to do this. I had run an online school before, albeit briefly, but that was slightly different. The content for that school was produced beforehand and then uploaded. There was neither the time, nor the money to do that now. That school was aimed at adults, while the children at our school were all below 10 years of age. Conducting live sessions was the only answer.

We had so many questions when we first started out:

  • Would the preschoolers have the patience to engage with us online?
  • How would parents react to the idea of online classes? {what with the fear of screens making us dumber}
  • What sort of activities are likely to keep children engaged?
  • Is learning really possible online for children as young as 6 and 7?

At the time of this writing, as an institution, Jigyasa has conducted over 60 hours of virtual classes. For children ranging in age from 3 years to 10 years. My learnings, in no order of importance, are as follows:

  1. The only people struggling to this new normal we find ourselves in are the adults. Seriously. The kids have taken to online classes like fish to water. It didn’t matter whether we were doing arm rotation exercises or making a project on scratch — they play along, and they give it their all.

  2. For children above a certain age, practically anything can be taught online. Intuitively, I have known this for a while, but the last 3 weeks really helped drive the point home. We’ve done songs, stories, dramatisation, yoga and exercises, dance, math, science experiments, virtual tours to learn about the geography of various countries, and the list could go on…

  3. Keeping children engaged online is part art and part science. You can’t just show up on camera and lecture 8 year olds on a topic that they haven’t encountered before. We quickly realised that this doesn’t keep their attention for long. So we started creating slides which we then modified live when online. This not only gave the children something to focus on, it also allowed us to explain concepts better.

  4. Children who find it hard to focus in class showed remarkable levels of concentration during our online classes. This was perhaps the most surprising and heart warming takeaway. It is almost as if the absence of other children in the same room helps them focus better. The chatter of classmates is something we take for granted, but it certainly does hinder the ability of some children to focus on the lesson.

  5. For the age group we are catering to at Jigyasa (6 — 10 year olds), the expected attention span is short. As such, it is imperative that we have a few games and exercises up our sleeve, to be unleashed whenever we find focus wavering. In a typical 30 minute session, at least 2 such time outs go a long way toward ensuring that children are able to keep their focus.

  6. In my opinion, the ideal online learning solution is one where children are manipulating something on screen as the lesson goes along. At the simplest level, this could be a common whiteboard that all children have access to. However, I’d love to use something which is more than just a whiteboard. This would also mimic an activity based classroom like a Montessori environment, which is what the children a Jigyasa are used to.

  7. The younger the child, the shorter the session that will keep the child engaged. For 3 year olds, we have had story sessions which lasted ten to fifteen minutes. Some 8 and 9 year olds have been working through scratch projects which lasted over an hour. This supports my conjecture in point 6 above — as long as children have something to do, and are not passive recipients of a lecture, they will be engaged in the lesson.

All said and done, I see online learning as here to stay, even for children as young as 6. Universities the world over have had to teach online for weeks now. Even students that had never enrolled in a MOOC have now had the chance to experience online learning. One can never replace all the facets of face to face interaction, but online learning does bring a certain amount of efficiency into a sector which seems to justify the high cost of real estate as the basis for charging very high fees. Remove the biggest cost (the real estate) and you have a model which is far more affordable and accessible to a larger number of people.

A wise man once said, ‘never let a good crisis go waste’. Hopefully, all educators and educational institutions are using this as a time to experiment and re-evaluate the future of education, and their role in it.

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  • Glenn White

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Karen Molloy

    My kids can't focus during online classes

  • Martin Hughes

    Special thanks to all teachers

  • Richard Warner

    Valuable read !

  • Sandra Steel

    My son doesn't want to come back to school anymore :D

  • Jim Tansey

    Interesting story

  • Paul Crossman

    It seems like you love teaching !

  • Stuart Young

    Good luck for the next few weeks

  • Lee Reed

    It's time to experiment new teaching methods

  • Wayne Hart

    Kids will get used to remote teaching

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Ryan Chadha

Learning Expert

Ryan is an entrepreneur based in Bangalore who believes that the most rewarding learning experiences are driven by curiosity. He runs a school in Bangalore called Jigyasa The School, where the emphasis is on allowing children ample opportunity to learn by doing, making and collaborating in an environment which nurtures the freedom of movement and expression. Additionally, he is one of the lead instructors at The Crypto University, an online school where he teaches people from all over the world about the various quirks and innovations in the world of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. He holds a BSc from Loughborough University, MFIN from University of Cambridge and has passed the CFA exams.

   

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