“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a way to stand.”.
– Oprah Winfrey
The COVID – 19 pandemic has been a landmark event that has challenged the entire educational fraternity by destabilizing face to face classes and having digital learning tools take centre stage. Never the ones to buckle under a challenge, the teaching fraternity at S.T.I.E., led by Assoc. Prof. Dr.Giselle D’Souza and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Cindrella D’Mello, turned this into a grand learning opportunity for us, student-teachers, by organizing a series of sessions on tech-based learning tools under the course title ‘Tech-Fluent Teachers’. The intensive course spread over a span of eight months, comprising of experts from several prestigious educational institutions training us in the use of various digital tools which we could utilise to enhance the teaching learning process in schools. Each session was unique, focusing on novel digital aids that could help us make online learning engaging, interactive and fun for our students at school. And without doubt, every trainer who came on-board was a connoisseur of the digital world, unraveling secrets that had the potential to turn each of our online lessons into a masterpiece.
The course took flight with the very first class teaching us how to record an audio and add background music/effects to it, using the software ‘Audacity’. This session conducted by Mr. Asir Julius of Universal Teachers’ Academy [UTA] covered an essential tool that taught us how to make voice-based lessons fun and pleasing to students even in the physical absence of a teacher.
The next session by Mrs. Ramya Sriram of UTA, took us a step forward by showing us how to edit videos using the software ‘Olive Video Editor’ on a desktop/laptop. This was a new revelation to most of us as we learnt to customize videos by adding our own title, introductory card and end card to pre-existing or newly recorded videos.
The following session by Mr.Saktivel Murugan of UTA, was a boon to those of us who worked extensively on mobile phones. Thanks to software like ‘VN Video Editor’, we learnt that lack of a desktop/laptop need not necessarily prove to be a barrier to editing videos, and the process can be just as smooth and hassle free even on a mobile phone.
The next digital tool came just in time when we were puzzled as to how we would conduct online assessments in schools in the absence of a physical classroom. Our very own faculty, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Giselle D’Souza, laid our minds to rest as she explicitly demonstrated how to create an assessment tool that was effective and easy to understand, navigating our minds through the wide variety of question options provided by Google Forms.
The ensuing two sessions by Ms.Leena Jain, a secondary school Science teacher, brought in a dash of zing into our plain-vanilla lesson presentations. She demonstrated a bouquet of tools built into Microsoft PowerPoint, that had the ability to make our lessons interactive and engaging. She also showed us that images can not only enhance a lesson visually, but also be used to drive the point home by using ‘Image Hotspots’ on the online platform H5P, that allows the user to learn in-depth information by interacting with the image.
The subsequent sessions by Dr. Agnes D’Costa, Assoc. Professor, Pushpanjali College of Education, equipped us with a variety of online resources just when we were in the thick of our final online internship in schools. Her in-depth demonstration of virtual tools such as Wordwall, Thinglink, Dotstorming, Storyweaver and ClassTools was proof of the fact that the sky was the limit as to how creative we could make our online lessons.
And what better way to drive home or summarize a concept, than to use a visual learning aid such as a Mind Map. Introducing us to the creative landscape, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Giselle D’Souza demonstrated this magical tool that had the ability to capture the attention of every student in a class, in the following session on MindMeister. She also unraveled the secret to being a professional par excellence by showcasing her own E-Portfolio and illustrating how to create one for ourselves using the Wix platform, as we stand at the threshold of graduating from student-teachers to professional teachers.
This was followed by another novel idea, introduced to us again by Ms.Leena Jain, in the form of the H5P Course Presentation. The session threw light on creating a web-based presentation that can not only be used to present interactive content, but also as an effective testing tool to evaluate the comprehension of students immediately after a class.
Enquiry-based learning is one of the ultimate aims of NEP 2020 and the course equipped us with a valuable tool to achieve this through the use of WebQuests. The demonstration by Dr. Geeta. R. Thakur of S.P. College, Pune, helped us understand the uses, importance and steps to create an effective WebQuest in order to enhance the curiosity and imagination of young learners. And no learning is complete without evaluation. The course wound up with Dr.Geeta showing us how to design effective rubrics using web-based tools, so as to lay out an unbiased and coherent standard of evaluation.
As John Dewey said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”. This course has truly transformed us into “teachers of tomorrow” by arming us with the essential tools of technology. Our internship lessons stand witness to how the use of these tools can make teaching-learning a joyful process on the digital platform. And kudos to our teachers who have been the wind beneath our wings!
Indeed! George Couros was bang-on when he said, “Technology will not replace great teachers but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.”