At a time when schools have had to quickly transform their ways of teaching from brick and mortar classrooms to virtual sessions, the big question in everyone’s mind remains, ‘Is digital learning a temporary fix or here to stay?’
Top educators believe that while online sessions will continue to supplement learning, the brick and mortar schools are here to stay.
Ambika Gulati– Principal, The Millennium School, Dubai, emphasised that physical space in the form of brick and mortar schools would continue in the long run in spite of the digital platform, as excessive screen time was what most parents wanted to avoid for their children. While virtual laboratories would exist, the actual touch and feel of experimentation could never be replaced. While highlighting the importance for schools to have more flexible and adaptable furniture and equipment to allow for collaborative group learning, it is also important to adjust to the ‘new normal’ which was all about learning beyond the confines of time, space, structure, and material resources.
Industry veteran Ameeta Mulla Wattal– Principal, Springdales School, New Delhi agrees to this and further states that there is a need to connect the ‘Head. Heart and Hands’ of people in school activities. The need of the hour is hygiene, and this would help us understand space, light and air and how all these three would work together hand in hand. Schools would now have to focus on minimalism in learning and strike a balance in online and offline education. She further debated if digital learning is the future of education and emphasised that without the human element and connection, that is only possible via classroom teaching, learning is incomplete
Anju Malhotra -Principal, Heritage Public School, Vrindavan, voiced that the current situation presents a golden opportunity for schools to upgrade various aspects of its functioning. She believes that digital learning is meant to enhance the learning experience of students rather than replacing traditional methods of learning. Blended learning is the key word in present times, which used a combination of Virtual reality (using computer technology in a simulated environment), Augmented reality (which could turn an ordinary class into an enriching experience), and Technology (which could be integrated to differentiate instructions).
Further commenting on the issue, Oshima Mathur -Principal, Navy Children School, Delhi, firmly believes that instead of borrowed technology, it should be customized as one size doesn’t fit all – it doesn’t ignite the passion of learning. Speaking about a combination of online and offline learning, she highlighted the role of teachers, co-learners and peers which provided motivation and compassion. The three edges of a triangle are the student, technology, and teacher, which should coexist. The need of the hour was not just to embrace change but imbibe it.
Speaking about the disruption this pandemic has caused, Rina Singh-Principal, Apeejay International School, Greater Noida, spoke about how school systems were recognizing their strengths and weaknesses and developing design change plans accordingly. Schools had to be ready with Education 4.0 which was the convergence of software and technologies, or else they would perish. It was time that schools invested in tools of assessment along with various learning applications by also allocating budgets for cyber security. A good move would be to partner with technology giants to move towards personalized learning programs.
Adding to this being a classic case of disruptive learning, Sangeeta Kain-Principal, Welham Boys’ School, Dehradun, shared, that schools should also take it upon themselves to become hubs of learning for the other (not so well equipped) schools like government run schools. It would be a good idea to see private schools take up the onus to adopt such government schools. She also raised the pertinent issue of cyber security that all educators and parents will have to watch out for as norms of learning change.
Shruti Pandey -Sr. Coordinator, Manava Bharati India International School, New Delhi further threw light on how school infrastructure needs to be sustainable. Schools have to give thought to the kind of citizens they are making. The curriculum design will have to be in such a way that it would be more experiential with tailormade curriculums. Students will have to be empowered with employable skills and technology will play an important role to enhance the overall learning experience without taking over.