While only a section of teachers is part of the common class under Kerala government’s First Bell programme, others pitch in with digital presentations for students.

How online teaching has transformed teachers in KeralaStudents attending online classes/Sreekesh Raveendran Nair
Coronavirus Education Friday, June 19, 2020 - 20:21

Gayathri, a Malayalam teacher at the Captain Memorial Vocational Higher Secondary School in Alappuzha district of Kerala, had a challenging task at hand — to help her students identify the most influential character in a story, which she was about to present online as part of the ongoing virtual classes. Not only did she have to make them identify the central character, she also had to make them understand the relevance of each character. 

It was for the first time that she was making an online presentation of a portion that she has been teaching for years at school for Class 8 students. Gayathri not only made the video on litterateur Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s story, Plavilakanji, but also uploaded it on YouTube, which got her wide applause from fellow teachers and students. 

Like Gayathri, scores of teachers have quickly taken to the online mode of teaching since First Bell, the virtual class programme by the Education Department of Kerala, was launched in June. While only a section of teachers is part of the common class under this programme, others like Gayathri pitch in with digital presentations for students.

 

The First Bell initiative required the teachers of government and aided schools to adapt textbook portions for online teaching and make it appealing to students of all regions in the state.

Kerala restarted the classes for the 2020-21 academic year with the experimental online classroom on June 1. The online classes are meant for an estimated 43-45 lakh students of the government and government-aided schools. For the students who don’t have access to a smartphone or internet, the classes are streamed through the government-run Kite-Victers channel, which is available on cable TV networks.

Read: In mammoth exercise, Kerala starts virtual classes for more than 40 lakh students

“Not that the centralised form of teaching through Victers channel isn't appealing to all the students of the state, but that has been conceived in a general format. Teaching should also cater to the regional specifications. For example, the language or dialect of a particular region or tribe can be reflected in the online classes only if teachers of that region come out with their own contributions. Even the government has conceived the project in such a way that all teachers can come up with their own contributions that would cater to the intellectual level and learning ability of the students of their classes,” Gayathri told  TNM.  

Hence, teachers like her are now busy preparing online material. They share the teaching videos on the school WhatsApp groups, where parents are also members. 

Dineshan P, a teacher of Government Vocational Higher Secondary School, Meppayur in Kozhikode, told TNM that online teaching has helped scores of teachers to improve their teaching style. 

“These online classes have helped the teachers to make use of technologies. While students are more tech-savvy, many teachers were left behind in technological advancement and were struggling to keep pace with the students. The virtual teaching style has addressed this, to an extent. Teachers have begun excelling in online presentations now,” explained Dineshan, adding that some teachers listen to the classes conducted by fellow teachers and improve their own teaching style. 

Both Dineshan and Gayathri also said that online teaching has shifted the spotlight on the strength of the public education system. Parents, too, have a better understanding of the syllabus now. “This has even inspired some parents to admit their children to government schools,” Gayathri said.

However, there are some teachers who are still reluctant to adapt themselves to this new mode of teaching. 

“The online classes under First Bell are not communicative in nature, considering the region-wise differences of students across the state. And, virtual classes cannot be equated with the real classrooms, as there are limitations. Hence, it is the responsibility of all teachers to do online classes that could be more communicative to their own students. Unfortunately, not everyone is putting in equal efforts for this. Some teachers are still reluctant to take the effort to adapt to changes. They simply share what others have done,” a teacher told TNM on the condition of anonymity.

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