I am a teacher, but a teacher who loves to connect with students live and when this Corona crisis dawned on this world, I was totally caught unawares. The teaching scenario had no doubt been abuzz with the need and utility of online teaching mediums and how they are student- friendly, as the students can learn at their own pace and at their own convenience even from the comfort zones of their homes. Especially working students who are compelled to complement the family income and have to sacrifice their live classes in the college can also connect with this online teaching and become resourceful.
So now, the teacher has one more added responsibility and that is to survey how many of his/her students have smart phones to start with? It is a proven fact that students in Vidarbha who come to the Arts faculty are mostly from the lowest strata of the society and if at all, they are able to buy a smart phone, that remains with the head of the family and he carries it to his workplace which means your student is without a mobile phone throughout the day. In the evening also again, the father needs his phone to connect, if he has a business. So, once more students cannot connect with your online teaching. You have a class of say 100 (what with dwindling numbers in the Arts faculty), the students having smart phone numbers are only 40 and out which the students who have their own phone are only 20 who are free to be at your beck and call to connect with online teaching.
It was early times, when the teachers like me and my students from the Arts faculty were just beginning to realise the positives of Online teaching when this Corona tragedy struck. The teachers did not have any formal training for this kind of teaching Of course, as the maxim goes, a teacher has to be a perennial learner and therefore, I started making sincere efforts to learn. But not all teachers can be that techno savvy and therefore it is a big challenge staring at the face of teachers like me who can be good teachers offline but cannot reach out to students that effectively right now as they are handicapped technologically.
Teachers like me, who were ignorant in this sector had to learn from scratch this process of online teaching. As I was making efforts to conduct classes on zoom, I was further told it is always better to prepare videos and send them to your dear students (who are as if ready to lap up, all your efforts immediately) They, I mean the techno savvy of our lot (TSTs’–Oh! that is Techno savvy teachers) said that the students can then access your priceless videos whenever they want and even go back to them again and again if they have any doubts.(which I doubt, because very rarely they have any doubts, as they have immense faith in you) I thought it was difficult to bring the students to the classroom for a live class ,so will they attend these classes where no one is there to see what they do? But when the tale of the whole world has taken a sudden anti-climax, character artists like me (i.e. technologically ignorant, who have already lost lead roles of a protagonist) have to do whatever roles we are given without a complaint! So, I set about the herculean task of preparing a video and kept on dashing against barriers. I persisted still, every time seeking the help of my son. Like a snail, I made slow progress. The little technological steps were forgotten by me many a times and my exasperated son would teach me—who, was now his helpless student, in the same way and with the same desperate expression with which I had taught him English Grammar. It suddenly dawned on me then, that here in this same world, you get your opportunity of revenge. When my finely cut Diamond (video) was ready, I decided to launch my efforts with great élan. i.e. send it to my students. I waited and waited for a warm response. I imagined that my students would be quite elated to receive this “learn at your pace module’ but as I said the students came from such families which had bigger existential crisis to be solved before them than your questions on English comprehension. Only a protected few from the middle class could respond to my enthusiasm. This dampened my spirits but then I decided to initiate a dialogue with them on what’ s app or normal phone call, where I could understand their problems and be of real help to them. English teaching can wait I felt, their questions of survival were more pertinent.
As if this online teaching was not enough for a poor soul like me, I was further caught in this web, when the web started getting crowded with Webinars. In the beginning, it was fun logging in and listening to someone resourceful from the other corners of India. A webinar does not have much to see unless and until the resource person was sharing some interesting slides. I realised that it was difficult to concentrate on what the person was saying. So I found a way out, If the food was yet to be prepared, I just listened to the resource person. This concentration on only the audio part made my comprehension better and gave some relief to my eyes. If, I had finished with the cooking, then I preferred wearing my earphones and closing my eyes and listening to the speakers. Both ways, my precious eyes were protected from screen glare. I concluded that it was just like going back to the Radio experience. But soon the novelty died down and the themes of the seminars and even the resource persons started repeating.
I found that every other college wanted to enter the bandwagon and finally there was an immense traffic jam on the web. The timings clashed and you were pulled by the organisers like a game of tug of war. I became tired of typing my own details in the Google form for registration. Eventually, I began to even forget for which seminar I had registered and for which I had not. I was confused whether I had to use the telegram app or the zoom or Google meet to join the webinar. Then one fine day, enlightenment dawned on me that I should free myself from this web and enhance my knowledge through reading. I surmised, that I am not going to lose much by disentangling myself from this mindless game of webinars. I should not jump at each and every webinar but I should choose and hear only what is compatible to my interest.
We have come a long way. The Indian system of education was Gurukul, where the student had to leave the comforts of his home and go and live in the ashram with the Guru and his wife. They obeyed their Guru and Guruma and learnt the life skills through practice and not just through precept. The student developed a great bond with his teacher and this Ashram was a great leveller as the son of a king and a commoner resided together here. Then we had day boarding schools where students were entrusted with the schools for a few hours and were expected to learn all subjects. For the life skills. they had to join special workshops. And now, we have entered this age, post Corona where we do not know whether eventually, we will never be able to see our pupil live! We will be online for everything and doing everything online and these technical gadgets will be very important for our survival. I think an innovative programme in the institution will then be when, we are doing something live and the students would be amazed at that experience as they are of audio-visual aids now.
A frightening picture for people like me. This is not to say that I am totally against technology. Technology is no doubt an invaluable support and has been our elixir in this tough period of social-distancing but I personally feel that nature had given us time to rejuvenate, to connect to our inner souls, to meditate, to read, to introspect, to rewind and identify some of our follies and rectify them. But are we doing it or are we doing the same old things but just through the prism of technology??