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How are we working with students and colleagues to continue providing education despite the crisis?

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They say change is the only constant in your life but who would have expected the change to be so drastic that it questions your chances of survival?  CNM School caters to more than 3000 students. We conducted regular classes until 13th March when the Government told us to close. Initially we were to reopen on 31st March, but closure has now been extended till 3rd May, with talk that it will be further extended to 18th May.

On Monday 16th March, teachers went to school to discuss and assess the way forward. We organized many meetings and then took all our resources home to prepare for the coming weeks. In the meantime, some teachers created teaching videos. We uploaded them so everyone had access and parents were ecstatic.

On 18th March, the closed school to everyone, so the only available helpline and support were the online classes conducted from home. Within 3 days, we had made around 50 teaching videos, uploaded worksheets and presentations on our school portal but it did not seem enough. The communication seemed one way. We were teaching but was there learning happening? Were students even accessing the material? Was there any way we could monitor student’s engagement and enthusiasm?

The following week we began Zoom classes for our older students, teachers began creating 1-hour teaching slot where students logged in meaning learning now seemed two way. We could see our students, answer their questions and upload files. However, there was still a hitch. What should we do for students unable to log in? How do we ensure the 1-hour classes were available for them to rerun and revisit? How do we post an assessment after completion of a unit to test learning?

Thus, while we continued with our teaching videos and Zoom classes, we needed to look for something more to gather students on a common platform. So, I connected with LabXchange, a free online platform which integrates learning and research experiences initially through Twitter. On Wednesday 25th March, I spoke with Ilyana and Jessica from LabXchange to discuss training for the platform and the support desired. I also confirmed with my teachers their willingness to learn and use this new platform. On Friday 27th March, a training session for around 85 teachers was conducted which lasted an hour and a half. The training went very well and the next day, our accounts were created under “SVKM CNM school” and students were added. The platform let teachers use their virtual online material and, most importantly laboratory simulations, along with their own personal teaching materials. It allowed testing and for materials to be reused, and for the student to revisit at anytime. LabXchange completely met our teaching and learning needs.

Every day the news and social media were reporting that the numbers of people affected by COVID-19 are increasing and that everyone needs to take vital precautions. Panic had become a way of life. We wanted to help students with their mental health and so, on our school Facebook page, we created live events every day from Monday to Friday from 4 pm to 4:30 pm where we could reach out to our students through Yoga, cooking, music, games, quiz and stories. We created a timetable for teachers when they would go online for their students, along with a co-host, to lead a lively and positive event through which students could share their feelings through comments and emoticons.

We never knew that online teaching could be as powerful as face to face teaching and that with the advent of a virus, the whole world would have to refocus, realign and redesign the definition of life, work and play. The crisis has brought us completely to our knees but it has also opened windows to demonstrate immense gratitude to mother nature and all human beings.

 

Kavita Sanghvi

Kavita Sanghvi was one of the finalists of the Varkey Foundation's Global Teacher Prize.

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This piece is part of the Teacher Task Force’s #TeachersVoices campaign, created to bring forward the experiences of teachers working every day to ensure their students continue to benefit from a quality education despite the COVID-19 pandemic. To participate, go to our dedicated webpage.