Just a little while ago, I received a meme on – you guessed it right – WhatsApp, about how mobiles were not allowed inside the school and ironically, now the school is inside the mobile! Talk about a turn of events! Not just an ordinary turn, a complete U-turn. The word “paradigm shift” is what we are experiencing now.
Lots of debates are happening about the pros and cons of the situation we are in. While the resounding sentiment is that of frustration from all parties involved – parents, educators, and students, I strongly believe we need to put things in perspective and see the positives in this change, too.
My biggest worry about this change is that children miss chatting, playing and through that, bonding, with their peers. The essential social and life skills that develop as a result of this can be drastically reduced too. This may add fuel to fire in the age when communication and connection between people are already dropping as a result of technological invasion. We are all too familiar with the scenes of family get-togethers wherever everyone is glued to their mobile phones and there’s hardly any quality conversation going on. The increased screen time, the sedentary lifestyle and its effects on children’s eyesight and health is an issue that’s discussed and done to death.
Schools were places where children got to be independent, outside the safe cocoon of their homes where sometimes protective parents hover over them like helicopters! Managing yourself, your belongings, your time and resources, your emotions, standing up for yourself, fighting for your rights, learning to spot and grab opportunities, learning to collaborate and co-operate with others, making friends, dealing with all kinds of personalities, leading and taking charge, listening and following… and so many other life skills developed simply as a result of leaving the safe haven of home and going to school. It’s unfair that children are robbed of that. Interactions with peers and friends outside of school has reduced too.
So, is everything down in the dumps? Perhaps not. There are some visible pros I have seen and experienced. Children who were unhealthily attracted to mobile phones – are now (healthily) attracted towards outdoor activity. It may just be the primal human attraction of the forbidden fruit, but it works to our advantage now. Families are bonding better with each other as a result of being together for the whole day – parents’ attention is the single most contributing factor in the mental health of children. A healthy child, physically and mentally, is in a better position to be a good learner.
The triangle of students’ success has three crucial angles – parents, educators, and the student themselves. Educators are probably the pivot that had to go through a huge change- a metamorphosis of sorts since the pandemic began. Otherwise, ‘outstanding’ teachers found themselves at a loss while performing in this new normal. However, the educational fraternity has risen like a phoenix to deliver in these trying times. I personally believe that the “chalk and blackboard” being taken away, may be a boon in disguise for the educators.
While there may have been resistance to technology in the past, now teachers are forced to explore technology, tools and content to support their educational process. I am quite sure that once the power of technology is realized, teachers will not be able to go back to the old, sometimes dogmatic ways. The efficiency of time and effort that educators can achieve by using technology as their friend is immense. Not only is it efficient, many times, it is also significantly more effective than typical age-old methods.
In the end, it does benefit the student. If good content can be made available to students with technological aid, it will actually make both the teacher’s and the student’s life easier. If students can do self-learning, especially for run-of-the-mill, mundane content, the educators will get more time to focus on improving the quality of education they deliver in classes – one that encourages children to critically think, experiment, analyse, evaluate, and apply their learning. This latter part is grossly missing from the education system. Teachers are constantly complaining of getting barely enough time to complete the curriculum. This change may actually ignite and expedite the shift in our approach to education.
The younger we are, the more adaptable we are to change. The way young children today are adapting to the new normal is laudable according to me. We, as educators and parents, need to help them overcome the cons. Meeting their friends, relatives, loved ones even virtually to spend quality time, can go a long way in developing their social-emotional intelligence. The screen time they are exposed to, perhaps cannot be helped, but at least let’s try to make it “quality screen time”. Do activities with them which will help them develop their critical thinking skills, collaboration skills, help them feel emotionally satisfied, appreciated by adults and peers. Social distancing is recommended, emotional distancing is not.
As they say, your life is ten percent about what circumstances or fate presents to you and ninety percent about how you respond to those circumstances. It is important to take this change in its stride, focus on the positives to be derived out of it and make the best of it!
About the author:
Rupashree Sable, Director and Principal, Bedrock Educare Pvt. Ltd.