'Zooming in on Digital Education' by J. Mangayarkarasi

10th June 2020

The Covid-19 virus has had a tremendous impact on all educational institutions in the world, and India is no exception. When PM Modi declared total lockdown with only 4 hours’ notice in the evening of 24 March, no one was prepared, especially not educational institutions. Total lockdown forced the suspension of concrete classrooms, which was a shock. It took a day or two to realise that we needed to move to virtual classes, but then it made us create virtual learning infrastructure in our institution and transform the way education was offered up to that point.

Lockdown – Phase One

I started exploring the availability of online teaching and learning pedagogy in ELT on Google Meet, Zoom, and so on and delivering my lectures through these platforms. This way academic activities in our school were much less affected by the lockdown than they could have been.

Lockdown – Phase Two

On 10 April the Government launched a campaign called "Bharat Padhe Online'', designed to promote online platforms for teaching and learning. It was a blessing for institutions like my school. A ‘Digital Glass Room’ initiative was made available by the school management to engage ESL learners by sharing interactive resources such as lessons, videos, worksheets, assignments, puzzles, debates and so on. Assessment and feedback strategies were also available to enhance and encourage the learners' participation in Google classrooms.  These spontaneous developments provided better learning experiences.

Lockdown – Phase Three

I started exploiting and integrating web tools through ELTAI, our English language teachers' association, to teach English to ESL learners. As I understood these tools create a learner-centred atmosphere because they allow learners to create something new out of their own knowledge rather than be passive recipients of classroom lectures. The web tools used in teaching online in our school were Edmodo and Projeqt. They both make it possible for teachers and learners to connect and assimilate into a social network.

Through Edmodo, teachers can create online groups to provide resources for learning and administer the learning process and outcome, while Projeqt allows the creation of multimedia presentations, interactive maps, interactive quizzes and videos which can be used for presentations at various levels. These web tools can provide opportunities to enrich the language learning environment and create a visual impact that motivates shy and slow learners to open up with their creativity. They also encourage them to engage in their online English classes in an effective way and makes the learning experience fun. 

Lockdown – Phase Four

Webinars, online interactions and workshops on online tools for teaching English were offered freely by the British Council, RELO, ELTAI and OUP. As a follow up to my online training I decided that some investment in the infrastructure and additional training for the school and learners was required, so I made digital transition in two ways. I first used recorded classes via live online platforms such as webinars or zoom sessions. For this high-speed internet was required, as well as members of staff who were already comfortable with teaching online. Learners also needed computers/mobiles to attend the classes.

Lockdown - Phase Five

The quarantine period made me active, and within a few days I gained confidence through thousands of followers on social media platforms. I am already planning to move live lessons to YouTube soon The webinar sessions energise myself, my teaching, lesson planning resources and methods

It is really amazing to have a vibrant series of lectures, interactive sessions and presentations by students rather than being trapped within four walls with text books a single teaching tool. I am lucky to reach larger groups with varied backgrounds through live sessions, and this is why my ESL learners enjoy and appreciate their new learning environment. 

Lockdown - Phase Six

The only accessible media for underprivileged learners in India are Television, Radio and Podcasts. It is a blessing that those who do not have access to the internet can learn through television educational programmes.  This mode of education provides an opportunity to design common syllabus and teach essential English language skills that can be devised to reach out to different levels of learners. For teaching the ESL learners we have been having educational networks through TV, educational programs that have been converted through educational channels. After the outbreak of the pandemic India also broadcast educational ESL programmes on television.

Post lockdown

I am looking forward to bringing challenging topics and online courses to learners in an easily accessible mode. I would like to inspire learners to integrate artificial intelligence and augmented reality into their educational lives by using smart content by continuing personalized learning.

In conclusion, let us together fight our inhibitions, embrace the change and make way for our new future!

About J. Mangayarkarasi

Mangayarkarasi . J.  is Associate Professor and Head of a PG and Research Department of English at Ethiraj College for Women, India and Coordinator of English Language Teachers Association of India, an associate of IATEFL. She has published 3 books for language teachers including the course cum work book on language resource centre and ESL Methods and Practices:  An assessment of syllabus in her state. She is currently interested in bringing artificial intelligence and augmented reality into ELT.Recently she has been recognised as one of the Top 50 Women Educators across India by a news organisation.


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