Learning in COVID ”“ 19 times: Pause. Reset. Renew.

Learn from life, learn for life.

By Sudha Kumar

A microscopic bug brings humanity down to her knees. And how!

But as we absorbed the shock and reality sunk, we realigned and repositioned, albeit with diminished clarity and a generous dose of confusion, all shrouded in an all-encompassing fear for life.

The gravity of the situation was evident as with every passing day updates brought in new restrictions, closures and shut downs, some mandated as law.

With the NSW Premier encouraging parents to keep children at home, for most schools learning went virtual in the week starting 23 March 2020. There were three weeks of school to end of term and teaching transitioned to digital mode. Learning was important.

And so students, teachers and parents, embarked on this surreal virtual journey of learning in the cyberworld away from the classroom and from each other. Cyber education has been part of education system, but not as much as being 24/7 as in Covid-19 times for the educators and the students. Add to this scenario now, parents as well.

Teachers scrambled to connect with their students through the only tool available ”“ the internet. It was a huge challenge as they created digital portals for their students ”“ Google classrooms, Zoom accounts, Google hangouts, Slack hangouts and more. Many of these contradicted the mandatory protocols for ”˜use of technology for learning’ and ”˜duty of care’. Consequently, as the situation demanded, new protocols were drafted and parents consented. Learning was so important.

It took hours to create digital copies or change the format of anything and everything. To  recreate, reformat, download, upload and post teaching and learning resources required a whole different set of skills. Inboxes of teachers exploded with student emails ”“ questions and clarifications, queries and worries.

But they soldiered on, because learning was so important.

And it was yet to be ascertained as to what the student was doing with it at his/her end, what was the most effective mode of submission of the work, how was the student going to receive feedback from the teacher. Teachers struggled to reach out and connect with every single student and parents found themselves right in the middle of it. Younger the student, greater the role of the parent.   Parents struggled to make sense of subject matter ”“ biological kingdoms and classifications, mathematical prime numbers and improper fractions! It was doubly difficult if they had more than one child at home and online, and worse still, if they themselves were working from home. Suddenly learning as we knew it was turned on its head. Realisations of all kinds dawned ”“ for the student, for the parent and for the teacher. Social media had memes floating around, and although hilarious, they put out a lot of home truths.

But no one gave up, no one quit, because learning was so very important.

After a couple of weeks of working very hard at this, realisation hit.

That the human connect could not be compensated. The nuances of face to face interaction that enriches learning – the smile, the tone, the pause, that glare, that nod of encouragement, the frown, that look of excitement in the eyes, that grin of ”˜knowing the answer’, that raised arm with the hand flapping in the air, could never be compensated.

No, no emoji could do that. No electronic or digital interface could compensate for that.

Because learning in the formative stages of life is more than just dissemination of information or impartation of knowledge. It requires care and support and affirmation every step of the way. Care and support that can never be justifiably quantified.

And as excited as everyone was at the prospect of staying away from school when it all began, now everyone is waiting to get back.   Everyone misses the myriad human interactions that occur spontaneously in the course of the day. The day-to-day human connection not only energises and rejuvenates everyone involved, both thrive from each other in a feed-back loop.

Will we ever revert back to things as they were before Covid-19?

There is much at stake and much consideration required, before everyone gets back to normal. And so, as we move into term two of the academic year, because learning is so important, we move into a new norm in learning and in life. Perhaps learning for life? Or survival?

As much as this microscopic bug, Covid-19, has created havoc in the structure of life that we created, a life as we knew it, it has inadvertently provided us a wide window of opportunity to rediscover and reassess, empathise and realise.

Who knows, there might perhaps emerge a new generation that may benefit from a slower pace and a simpler life, knowing what it is that truly makes a good life, and have a fantastic historic story to go with it.

New theme for learning in Covid-19 times ”“ Pause. Reset. Renew. Learn from life. Learn for life.



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