COVID-19 has posed a major learning issue to students, parents, and educators. In the face of a sudden paradigm shift, online learning now finds itself at the forefront of mainstream learning. For the first time, students everywhere are completely dependent on digital methods to fulfill their daily learning needs.
“The pandemic has become an inflection point for education, and you can see this in how different stakeholders have responded to the crisis. A majority of educational institutes are conducting their classes online, parents are encouraging their children to learn from a screen, and students themselves are experimenting with new methods of learning from home. While I don’t expect things to remain 100% online or even 100% offline on the other side of the pandemic, I believe certain aspects of the ‘new normal’ will make their way into the ‘Classrooms of Tomorrow,” says Divya Gokulnath, co-founder and teacher of BYJU’S.
Few trends we will see post the pandemic:
Blended learning will be the new normal: In the post-corona era, we will witness the rise of a blended form of education, with seamless integration of the best of both online and offline learning. The proliferation of smart devices coupled with the democratization of the internet will fasten this process. With teachers now understanding the advantages of online learning tools, we will see tech-enabled learning gain importance even in a classroom setting. The ‘Classrooms of Tomorrow’ will have technology at its core, empowering students to cross over from passive to active learning. The future will see us take a leap from the traditional one-to-many approach to blended one-on-one learning experiences, providing students the best of both physical and digital worlds.
Interactivity will take center stage: Given the prolonged exposure to online learning tools during this period, engagement and interactivity will emerge as a priority for students, parents and teachers. Newer dimensions to quizzes, interactive games, story-based Q&As, engaging lessons that strengthen concepts, will see greater inclusion and adoption.
Personalization will be the need of the hour: Students are looking for learning solutions customized to their own style and pace and a majority of innovation will be geared towards making personalization as effective as possible. Data and analytics will play a major role in making this a reality. Virtual mentoring for personal guidance and tutoring will also emerge as a key service.
Early learning will become more innovative: As the importance of formative learning and early conceptual understanding gains more acceptance, we will see a lot more innovation in products, tools, and ideas to help young children get learning right from the beginning. From storified concepts to their favorite cartoon characters playing teachers, kids will experience a highly engaging form of learning from their early years
Vernacular learning will gain importance: As internet penetration and smart device adoption continue to increase across India, learning will become more customized. To cater to the huge student population outside metros, learning programs will be effectively created and delivered in all key vernacular languages.
Digital learning tools will see greater adoption from teachers: The on-going pandemic has caused teachers to become digitally empowered. Even teachers who were hesitant to adopt digital tools are now using them in different capacities. This has enabled them to see the advantages of digital learning. Because of better awareness, the coming year will see teachers/educators increasingly adopt tech-enabled learning tools to support their students’ learning needs. This could be in a classroom or in an after-school learning setup.
Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 10 books on different subjects and translated around 130 books from English to Hindi.
Legends of Quintessence – A column which interacts with Sci-Fi in a South Asian context.
As I look around myself, I feel inspired by the talent surrounding me. I am inspired by my South Asian culture. I am inspired by Sci-Fi. So the conversations I have with those around me have a natural proclivity to include all the facets of my identity.
And what better company than chai, pakoras, and friends?
So sit down with me, Srishti Prabha (IC Assistant Editor) and some chai, as we explore the themes of Hanifa Hameed’s artwork for the LoQ column.
Hanifa is a UI/UX designer and is also very active in creating digital art with underlying South Asian cultural influence. Her art takes inspiration from real life and highlights concepts that are beautiful, real, thought-provoking, and essential. She and her art have recently been recognized by ELLE India. Her art dedicated to the movie ‘Sheer Qorma’ recently featured on the movie’s Insta page. You can find her art on her Instagram page.
Sci-Fi Column, Legends of Quintessence is poised to introduce you to some great South Asian talent. We aim to bring you closer to South Asians doing creative stuff and breaking new grounds. So get ready to be wowed by some amazing artists, chefs, entrepreneurs, poets, and other creatives.
Rachna Dayal has an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA from IMD. She is a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion and has always felt comfortable challenging traditional norms that prohibit growth or equality. She lives in New Jersey with her family and loves music, traveling, and imagining the future.
The coronavirus pandemic has penetrated nearly every sphere of public life, including our educational system. While many students can afford the work-from-home setup, young people in rural or marginalized communities are bearing the consequences of our current digital divide. To learn more about how to support equitable education, I had a chat with Avighna Suresh, founder, and president of nonprofit STEAMPower, which offers virtual tutoring sessions to students all over the world.
What prompted you to start STEAMPower? Why is equitable education important to you?
Growing up in a family that has always provided me with educational opportunities and having always gone to private schools, I lived in my own little bubble of educational privilege for most of my life. The first time I was really faced with the reality of educational inequity was when I worked at an afterschool program in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco called Up on Top. Seeing the vastly different opportunities these children had in contrast with the opportunities I had at their age changed my perspective on the issue completely. I quickly realized that sitting around and being complacent was not an option; I had the privilege and resources to do something, and I felt the responsibility to do it.
Equitable education is incredibly important to me because it’s such an important asset for success and really shapes your attitude towards the world in many ways. The fact is that it isn’t enough for simply education to be a right; everyone deserves the right to quality education, and we are seeing that now more than ever.
What is your teaching philosophy? How do you structure tutoring sessions, workshops, and curriculum?
Our teaching philosophy is centered around the student. A typical first tutoring session is preceded by contacting the student about what previous experience they have in the subject matter they want help in, asking for any resources they would like us to use, and then using those resources to craft personalized learning plans. Our other programs like STEAMChangers, our curriculums, and our videos are structured around demand: how much do students and parents want to see the topic, and how will it change the landscape of STEAM?
All of our work is done online through Google Meetings or Zoom, and we are always open to communicate through text or email. The beauty of technology is that it widens our reach in ways that just wouldn’t be possible physically. Tutors in Brazil are able to tutor students in California. It’s a really unique and wonderful way to experience understanding of universal concepts regardless of where in the world you are.
What challenges did you face in founding STEAMPower? Do you find it difficult to establish regular clientele because you’re a high school student? What resources did you tap into to form the robust nonprofit you have today?
Founding STEAMPower was one of the most challenging things I have ever done: from finding people to help me run and advance the initiative to spreading our reach to impact as many people as possible, there were definitely many bumps in the road to get where we are now. The first biggest challenge was finding a leadership team and tutors who were really passionate about what they were doing.
After finding a lot of students, the next challenge became organizing and matching students and tutors. I was able to do this through email and Google Calendar, which is a great way to visualize how many tutoring sessions are happening in a day, and notify students and tutors that there is a session coming up soon. Our largest challenge was scaling our initiative, and broadcasting it worldwide.
As a high school student, it was initially difficult to pitch my idea to local leaders and adults. I knew that they were the best way to get the word out about STEAMPower to communities that needed us most. I sent around 70 emails, and only got responses and help from around 5, but that was more than enough to get the support I needed.
The main resources that helped me the most in establishing STEAMPower were:
Local leaders who spread the word and enabled us to establish local presence.
Social media and Instagram that allowed us to go worldwide and help students from around the globe.
How did the coronavirus change the scope and purpose of your nonprofit?
With school closures came a lot less support and resources for those who need it. Many students need structure and guidance to effectively learn, and the compromised conditions of school during COVID-19 made it difficult for a lot of students to continue studying. Due to the coronavirus, STEAMPower’s purpose shifted completely to supporting students with remote learning through virtual tutoring and free educational videos to help some of those hardest hit by the pandemic.
Currently, you’re developing curriculums for students in India, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe. How do the curriculums differ along geographical boundaries?
The primary differentiator for curriculums in different countries is the variance in classroom resources available to them to complete experiments and demonstrations that we weave into our curriculums, though we try to keep demonstrations largely accessible to everyone.
What is teaching students from different countries like? Do you face any linguistic and cultural barriers while teaching?
Having students and teachers from different countries is a great experience as it allows for a peek into the ways others live their lives, learn, and experience education. So far, there have been no linguistic barriers in tutoring. However, there are certain cultural differences as some countries and school systems may teach a certain formula that another doesn’t, or may have a different name from a concept. These small peeks into these subtle differences don’t inhibit the quality of learning or instruction, but it is interesting to acknowledge those differences.
What policies and programs do you think governments need to initiate to provide equitable education?
It’s important that schools start providing unique, personalized support to students to help them succeed. We need to understand that students are diverse, and as a result have diverse needs. It’s not practical to assume that every student starts off at an even playing field.
Schools need to stretch possibilities and challenge status quos that prevent certain students from achieving to the utmost of their ability. This begins primarily with teachers and faculty who are well-trained to address these issues and approach these problems with the intent to achieve the end goal of equity. There should also be specialized college access programs in schools/communities where there may be no access to college and further education opportunities otherwise. In addition, having diverse faculty to reflect a diverse student body is important. There are many steps schools can take, and while they may not eradicate the problem of educational inequity completely, any progress is a stride in the right direction.
Do you have any advice for students who want to help bridge the gap that plagues our education system today?
My advice for students who want to bridge gaps in education is to take matters into their own hands. Whether it’s tutoring your siblings or neighbors, donating your old textbooks to those who can’t afford them, joining and supporting nonprofits and initiatives like STEAMPower, or reaching out to local representatives to propose solutions to problems you see, it’s important to turn dissatisfaction into action and do what you can, no matter how big or small. Though you may feel like you’re too young to make a difference, your voice is incredibly powerful.
With the coming academic year, schools are considering many possibilities in terms of teaching styles, attendance, etc. What are your thoughts on another year of distance learning? Should schools in the Bay Area open their doors?
It really depends on the state of the pandemic and whether or not it is safe for students, teachers, and families. While another year of distance learning is not ideal, it may be what is necessary to protect lives and lessen the impact of the virus. In the meanwhile, it is imperative that schools ensure quality learning experiences for their students, whether it is virtually or in a hybrid environment. To me, quality learning means interactive instruction where students can get one-on-one help and clarify questions. In the meanwhile, STEAMPower is here to support anyone who needs us!
Kanchan Naik is a rising senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin California. Aside from being the Youth Editor of India Currents, she is also the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton.