Educate the Educator

Almost 3 months ago, the world was brought to a standstill by a vicious pandemic. 

Sound familiar? Of course it does.

 We’ve all taken to twitter to complain about how ‘Madam Corona’ has closed our favourite restaurants or spas, at one point or another. 

Yet, a topic that remains somewhat in the shadows, is the impact of COVID-19 on education and what this means for the education system in India. Is it truly a setback? Or is it a sign for the Indian educator to evolve and up skill? 

In this post, I will touch on the advantages of e-learning and an introspection into some of the digital tools and platforms that will ease your teaching journey. 

It goes without saying, the educational landscape in India is being deeply affected by restrictions placed on physical classroom learning. While social distancing measures are absolutely vital to reduce the dreadful impact of COVID-19; they are proving to be hurdles that are making it quite difficult to maintain the educational system at a level that is necessary for the smooth and efficient running of the nation.

In theory of course, the new MOJO of online learning is a boon to teaching institutes. Why not?

Online learning is safe, convenient, relatively cheaper, and most importantly, no one cares if you’re wearing pyjama pants under your shirt in a virtual zoom class. (Take it with a pinch of salt.)

Online lessons ensure the learning cycle is protected from disruptive presence of the pandemic. In our battle to restore normalcy in our lives, it is important we continue to adapt and evolve. Having regular online lessons, like one would have in a lecture room or classroom, allows a certain degree of normalcy back into our routine. 

After all, humankind has survived on this planet for so long because of our ability to adapt, and firm belief in the philosophy that, ‘the show must go on’. It is vital to the future of our youth and the nation, that E-Learning be embraced and strongly encouraged as the new method of teaching. 

Moreover, e- learning promotes the concept of learning without borders. Regardless of geographical or social constraints, educators all over the world are able to share their knowledge with any student willing to learn in their virtual classroom. This allows the educators and learners of India to join the rest of the world in one multifaceted global village. 

I was surprised to realise that the idea of distance learning has actually been around for almost two centuries. In the 1840′s Isaac Pitman, the English professor who invented ‘Pitman shorthand’, taught his pupils shorthand via correspondence. Pitman, who was a qualified teacher,marked finished assignments that were mailed to him, and he would then send his students further learning material using the same system.

In fact, it was only late into the 20th century, that e-learning as we know it, came around. The launch of the new MAC system popularised online learning and lead to more and more people being able to learn from home. Thus, it is apparent that the concept of distance learning is not a foreign one. It is part of our history, our heritage and DNA, as educators. 

So why is it that educators nationwide feel lost at sea at the prospect of online teaching?

Indeed, there is a vast difference between knowing how to work the English mailing system, and being able to successfully operate digital teaching platforms and tools. Ironically, digital tools aimed to facilitate online teaching, are actually morphing into one of the biggest challenges educators of today are juggling with. 

But fear not fellow educator, for although the task at hand may seem daunting, nothing is beyond the scope of learning. 

‘Learning’ stems from the old English word ‘leornung’, which means “knowledge acquired by systematic study, extensive literary and scientific culture”. However, is it not our duty as educators to set an example for young minds to keep learning and adapting, even in the most difficult of times? To keep that hunger for knowledge alive, rather than becoming mere recorders of scientific data?

It is time to combine your priceless knowledge and expertise, with platforms of the new digital age. 

As educational theorist and psychologist, B. F Skinner so aptly put it, “Education survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten.” Here, Skinner emphasises upon the importance of positive reinforcement in the learning set-up and how we educators must keep educating ourselves to set a positive example for our students. 

Hence, before we can facilitate the learning of others, we must familiarise ourselves with the scheme of ‘Unlearning’. 

‘Unlearning’ involves the archiving of certain old ideas and information, before new learning can occur. So in order for us to master the art of online training and teaching, we must unlearn the notion that the physical proximity of the student is important to the learning process. It certainly is not.  Platforms like Zoom and other online conferencing applications, allow for class discussions and exercises much similar to a physical classroom lesson. 

Instead, let us hone the digital skills that will help us, and our youth pave the way to a bright future. 

So what is this E-Learning all about. Let us explore the concept further.

E-Learning is of two main types. First we have synchronous learning, which involves live training sessions that are conducted in real time, mostly through video conferencing apps. 

Next, there is asynchronous learning, which is usually carried out by uploading prerecorded lectures and materials onto your college or school’s website to be accessed by the student/s at a later date.

Let us delve into 6 key tools for easy online teaching.

  1. Laptop / Computer – While this may seem fairly obvious, it is important that the PC or laptop you are using has a good core Processor and RAM, in order to host seamless teaching sessions. Personally, I have found the MSI modern 14 A10 M incredibly useful to create my teaching content. The 10th gen processor and 8 GB RAM makes it a vital asset to the content I create.

The link to the Laptop I am using is – MSI Modern 14 A10M-652IN Intel Core i5-10210U 10th Gen 14-inch Laptop(8GB/512GB NVMe SSD/Windows 10 Home/UMA/Grey/1.29Kg )9S7-14B361-652

  1. Large display device / TV – This particular piece of hardware is less for the content, and more for your sake. Synchronised teaching sessions can go on for long periods of time and so, to prevent straining your eyes, I recommend casting your laptop screen onto your large display. Google’s chrome cast device has proven to be a true ally, as it is remarkably easy to set up and connect to your devices. There are many other options such as a Smart TV, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, etc.

The link to the Smart TV I am using is – Mi TV 4X 125.7 cm (50 Inches) 4K Ultra HD Android LED TV (Black)

  1. External wireless mouse and mouse pad – Sometimes the touch pad on laptops become unresponsive, and if you are scrolling through a document in a live session, the natural flow of the lesson is hampered. The same problem is prevalent with wired mice, because you run the risk of pesky wires disturbing your workspace. For this reason, it is best to use a wireless mouse, to give you better control over the hardware. 

The link to the External Wireless Mouse I am using is – Logitech B170 Wireless Mouse (Black)

  1. Handwriting recognition device – e.g a pen tablet – My pen tablet has been my saving grace for all the virtual training I have hosted. Of course, not all courses or subjects would require this tool. However, all those teaching technical subjects, where one needs to jot down formulas for demonstrative purposes, should definitely consider investing in a pen tablet or a stand alone android tablet that supports the use of a graphic or XP Pen Tablet. It is a purchase you will definitely not regret. 

The link to the PEN Tablet I am using is – XP-PEN Artist 12 Pro 11.6 Inch Drawing Pen Display Graphics Monitor Full-Laminated Technology Drawing Monitor with Tilt Function and Red Dial (8192 Levels Pen Pressure, 120% sRGB) (The Pen Tablet in the Pic is 15.6 Inch, I am using the 12 Inch Model)

5. Microphone 

It goes without saying, for your educational message to reach your students, they must be able to hear you clearly. A microphone with condenser is preferable, as it betters the quality of your voice, and reduces feedback and static. It is advisable to use a microphone that you can mount onto a tripod, so as to improve your voice projection- especially when recording lectures to post on a website. 

The link to the Microphone I am using is – Samson Technologies Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone

6. DSLR/Mobile camera – If your online teaching programme involves recording lectures and course material, then a quality digital camera that is compatible with your laptop, is a must have. Most cameras come with a tripod, but you can also purchase the tripod separately from Amazon or flipkart. The golden rule to recording a lesson is good lighting. The learners must be able to see your face properly. Clarity in video sharpens the focus and engagement of the learners.

I am using the Mobile Camera for Samsung A70. The link to the Mobile I am using is – Samsung Galaxy A70 (Black, 6GB RAM, 128GB Storage)

And so there you have it: online teaching made easy. 

The marriage of technology and your knowledge does not have to be a troubled one. A well-functioning, interlinked hardware system, will only enhance the quality of your content. Let us create and learn with the tide of time! 

Conceptualised by Prof. Awesh Bhornya

Written by Ms. Rushda Bhornia, Budding Content Writer