Editor’s Note: The FII #MoodOfTheMonth for August 2021 is Digital realities. We invite submissions on the many layers of virtual world experiences throughout the month. If you would like to contribute, please email your articles to [email protected]
The Covid-19 pandemic has restricted students of all levels of education to their homes. While discussions of a digital divide have existed even in pre-pandemic times, the multiple bottlenecks have highlighted just how stark the differences in access to technology are, especially when it is to be relied on for. learn.
Azeema, a senior teacher in a network of schools for low-income communities, shared her experience teaching children from low-income families and communities. “Teaching during a pandemic has been difficult, and teaching children from low-income families is even more difficult. Whether it’s getting in touch with all the kids, providing them with devices to get to “school”, or helping them balance health and study, it takes a lot of time. Many of them had to migrate to their villages because their parents lost their sources of income.. “
Equally shocking are images of lakhs of migrant workers returning to their villages due to the lockdown a year later. Globally, countless students have been expelled from schools due to the pandemic. February 2021 Reports suggest that in Delhi alone, 1,66,000 students broke down as schools moved online, and education officials at North MCD said that about 20% (58,000) of the 2,90,000 pupils enrolled in 714 schools could not be reached despite numerous attempts over the past 10 months.
The main reasons are believed to be the mode of online courses and the migration of families due to the loss of jobs. Azeema continues: “At the same time, authorities expected teachers to develop their skills almost overnight. Zoom online education, create asynchronous learning packages, maintain attendance – while surviving a pandemic. The learning gap is widening at a rapid rate, and many students are not learning at all. It doesn’t even take into account students with learning disabilities, who need extra help. We have strategies to help them in class but on an online platform it’s almost impossible. “
She says the past year has taken a toll on the mental and emotional health of students and teachers. “Most of the teachers I know are considering leaving the profession or struggling with mental health issues. The system is sorely lacking in support or voice from teachers.”
Neetu, another teacher, explained how the lack of direct contact with students makes it more difficult for teachers to understand the level of understanding and learning of some of the students. Often, students do not show up to class or turn off their cameras and maybe leave.
She further states that online testing should primarily be in the form of multiple choice questions that do not adequately inform teachers about student learning or their writing habits. Most students who have migrated to their hometowns often do not have access to smartphones or have network problems and they miss what is taught in the classroom.
“Online courses are a challenge for teachers. Most are unfamiliar with the technology. Planning lessons, writing quizzes and checking homework takes longer, it takes me twice as long to create a google form than doing quizzes by hand. “
As a parent of two young children, she tells how her young child does not understand most of what is being taught and needs to be made aware by her. Additionally, most teachers mute all of their students to minimize disruption. However, this prevents students from asking questions and interacting with the teacher and their classmates. This greatly hinders their socialization and is very different from what it would have been in an offline classroom.
Therefore, there is a serious lack of infrastructure to meet the needs of teachers and students. Master’s student Divya explains what it’s like to switch from physical classes to online classes, especially in higher education. She shares that in her experience, they struggled to cope for most of the last year and had to go through semesters. They believe that while the system will eventually wear you out, the pandemic has made them run out faster.
Read also : Crossing academia in the midst of the pandemic
At the same time, terms such as burnout, anxiety and simply the idea of taking breaks are increasingly accepted, which would otherwise have been stigmatized. However, they say it’s still hard to focus online and get motivated to attend and excel in academics, ”improve skills”CV, and do internships when you’re already dealing with a mental health situation.
The shift to digital learning along with the unpredictable losses caused by the pandemic have not fully met the needs of people with neurodivergent diseases, mental health issues and physical disabilities.
From the prescriptive of a higher education educator, Vidhi, a teacher and a theater facilitator, shares, “The switch to digital media over the past year and a half has been somewhat mixed. On the one hand, it has given us the ability to continue education, learning and teaching, even if we are not together in a physical space; at the same time, we were made aware of the digital divide in our country.“
“Until last year I was working at a government college and the students we had there came from a variety of backgrounds. We understood that not everyone had access to devices and spaces they could be comfortable with, many had to deal with household chores and other jobs alongside their education, and the transition to life. he online education has made it difficult because you can no longer occupy the space that has been specially designed for you to learn. However, you are supposed to learn the same way. You could feel the students’ discomfort turning on their videos and re-activating their mics, especially when they didn’t have their own space, it affected how they were a part of the class, many not wanting to talk about theirs. privacy and spheres that need to be taken into consideration,” She adds.
The learning loss for students in such situations can be immense, even more so for students who already come from marginalized communities and hope that education is a means of social mobility. Vidhi talks about the fatigue that has set in over time due to the digital exchange of learning and teaching, especially with theater, where learners are confined to very limited physical space and the inability To meet.
However, not all transitions to digital learning have been exclusive and inconvenient. Vidhi explains how digital learning enabled students to continue their education and also helped educators experiment with their teaching styles and become more inclusive, if they so choose.
The flexibility of time and space has helped her reach a wider audience and meet people from all over the world, including offering online theatrical productions. While she appreciates the rise of such creativity, she says the overall loss has been significant as access to different platforms and communities also comes from privilege, and privilege has become very clear in these times.
Burnout, fatigue, anxiety and loss have all been limited to one screen, especially when it comes to digital learning with privilege as the determining factor in access to quality education and to other opportunities. A common theme that emerges is the importance of communities and infrastructural support, mainly from educational institutions of which students and teachers are a part.
Digital learning has limited the educational experience for young students entering school, young entering university, as well as the freedom that can come from being away from home, and the fellowship that forms as a result of campus politics and interactions with students – all of which contribute to an individual’s education.
While schools and colleges remain the last to open after multiple lockdowns, the future of students and teachers unfortunately remains uncertain.
Read also : Learning through rectangles: online courses took away precious moments
Selected image: Ritika Banerjee for feminism in India