From the expanding role of technology in education to the changing responsibilities of teachers and parents, Anuradha Krishnan talks at length about all things education and some welcome personal discoveries.
“But teaching and learning can only happen when the ambience is happy,” adds Anuradha Krishnan, the principal of Primus Public School Bengaluru. An enigmatic and eloquent figure, Anuradha Krishnan further stresses upon having a mindset that is always open to learning new things.
In order to bring the perspective of teachers and school administration into focus and to inject it into the popular discourse around education and more importantly education technology, Wonderpublish talked to Anuradha Krishnan who gave invaluable insights into the present as well as the future of learning.
From the new levelling ground provided by the e-classrooms to the new e-reading program to the concern regarding the lack of physical activities of students, Anuradha Krishnan brought a comprehensive picture to the fore. She also advised her students to enjoy themselves as she adds, “Learning has to be an experience where your curiosity is being satisfied.”
Following is an excerpt from the recent interview Wonderpublish conducted with Anuradha Krishnan:
Q 1. What has been your experience of organising online classes so far?
Ans: While I was concerned about going online, I think the experience has been far more pleasant and satisfying than I had imagined. Obviously, it took a few days to grapple with the idea and sort out all the glitches. Still, we were all able to find our feet and get our act together very quickly.
I must say that it has happened only because all the stakeholders have done their bit to ensure a smooth process. The management gave us the gadgets and access to wonderful tools like the G-Suite which gave us the launchpad to get going. After the initial anxiety, the teachers overcame their fears and delved into the virtual medium with gusto! They were able to find new apps and tools that helped them convey concepts with clarity even on this medium— often managing to do it even better than they could have in the regular chalk and talk method! They have all become experts and it is such a pleasure to watch them in action during their classes.
Parents have had to contribute a lot more this year, becoming true partners in their children’s learning. In addition to investing in gadgets, they had to hand-hold them through the initial days guiding them through the maze of operating them and helping them learn the protocol. Parental support has played a huge part in making our online programme a success. We are very grateful.
The children took to it like ducks to water, being digital natives. They were often offering suggestions to teachers on how to make things work better when hit by glitches! It boggles the mind to see the ease with which they were able to find their way around operating the laptops or tabs and finding innovative ways to beat the system. Even kindergarteners have been heard talking about how they can switch off their video so the teacher doesn’t know if they are following instructions!!
What is most heart-warming is that the teachers and students have formed strong bonds and developed beautiful relationships even in the virtual model. Teaching and Learning are achieved only in an ambience of mutual love and respect. We were a little concerned about this happening when they are not physically together. Those fears were clearly misplaced!
The participation in all online activities whether academic or cultural, games or competitions have been absolutely remarkable. The enthusiasm with which they showcase their expertise and talent is truly heartening. Even here, the parents have gone out of their way to help create some excellent videos and projects.
Overall, I would say that the experience has been a learning experience for all of us and an extremely fulfilling one at that!
Q 2. How are the students responding to the digital classrooms?
Ans: Students seamlessly shifted to the online mode without missing a beat. Once they learnt the ropes, they were completely invested in the process. They have been very interactive and energetic participants in all class discussions. They enjoy watching videos and discussing them. They feel empowered since they are using a medium that they feel confident about! The fear of speaking out in class seems to have reduced considerably in most cases. The earnest and excited response to various competitions and activities organised online have been overwhelming. Students have often shown tremendous initiative in organising events like the Teachers Day and music concerts entirely on their own. They have taken on leadership roles and responsibilities that helped make the events enormously successful.
The assessment patterns have had to change. The regular testing methods are difficult to retain in this mode. We had more assignments, more open-ended questions and observation of classroom interactions to determine how much the student has grasped and understood. This is soon going to be the norm once the NEP recommendations are implemented.
Q 3. How are teachers reacting to conducting online classes and using e-content?
Ans: The teachers were initially very wary but they surprised not only the rest of the world but themselves by realising how adept they are at taking up new skills and mastering them with ease. After the initial stage when they learned to use the basic tools, they have now gone on to search and discover newer and more specific apps that are best suited to make their subject come alive for their particular group of students.
They have been using SeeSaw for the young ones, or Nearpod for collaborative work, or Chemsketch for Chemistry or Geogebra for Math and so on. With the days getting so much longer when we work from home, there is ample time for sharing of best practices and helping each other discover more to make their classes as effective as possible.
At this point in time, the teachers, just like students, are enjoying the process so much that they often wonder how they will cope when they get back to the physical classrooms. They will have to readjust to the ‘new’ normal again.
Q 4. Do you feel satisfied with the kind of online teaching software and tools that are available in the market?
Ans: Many of the tools in the market are fabulous. When we initially discovered each of these, there was definitely a feeling of awe! To be able to switch so rapidly and smoothly into the online medium is a huge credit to the amazing technology that is available to all of us. The strides made in networking technology and the relatively inexpensive cost of high-speed internet have played a tremendous role in our ability to transform education so extensively and comprehensively.
The apps are fantastic and I doff my hat to the developers for creating such easy-to-use and relevant apps. It is only a natural human tendency to always ask for more! So, it should come as no surprise that now that we have got used to using all these apps, we have plenty of ideas on how to make them better and do not hesitate to let the creators know too. Maybe our feedback will help create more specialised apps that are better suited to our customised needs! There is no end to our aspirations!!
Q 5. What are your expectations from the EdTech Industry?
Ans: The Ed Tech industry has found its space in the sun, being in the spotlight during these difficult times! The products of all their hard work over many years have become omnipresent and used by more people than they could have hoped in their wildest dreams even a year ago. This is a symbiotic relationship. With this ubiquitous adoption of the Ed Tech products, all the users will find kinks they need fixed or improvements/variations that they want to be incorporated. For Ed Tech firms to survive, they need to have their ears to the ground, listening and responding to the changing needs of the customers. It can be a genuinely beneficial relationship!
Q 6. What are your thoughts on eStudy material? Apart from eBooks, what are the other forms of content you are looking forward to?
Ans: I believe that learning is done best when there are opportunities for interaction and a method to cater to individual needs. Study material, whether ebooks or otherwise, must be dynamic and able to change course or have layers that help each learner to make it their own. It must follow the needs of the individual learner and adapt to suit their requirement. A lot more visual stimulation using video and images, maybe even using augmented reality will help to make the content come alive for the learner. There must be a constant assessment of the learner’s comprehension so that appropriate next steps can be taken.
Q 7. Lastly, what would be the new normal in education ecosystem?
Ans: In spite of the excitement and novelty of the online learning programme, I strongly believe in the human connection and the need to be physically present together in the same space, see each other and be able to interact with each other freely which are all part of the wonderful learning experience.
A lot of soft skills and life lessons are learned not by teaching but by watching peers and teachers live it. At home, this is limited to their immediate family. The ability to play team games together, collaborate on projects and have passionate group discussions contribute greatly towards building awareness and understanding human nature. These are essential skills that are needed in the real world. Developing socialising skills is another reason to have traditional classrooms and schools. Every teacher and student misses the bonhomie that is shared in a classroom- it is a private place where a very personal bond between the teacher and his/her students is formed and nurtured. This is what we are all yearning to get back to.
I believe that we will evolve to using a blended model of schooling in future. We must have the regular, traditional class but we must not let go of the skills and proficiencies we have developed while on the virtual model. The future looks blended. It will have to be a combination of the old and new, of the conventional and modern, of in-class and online! I am very positive and upbeat about what the future holds for us in the field of education.
Watch the full interview with Anuradha Krishnan here:
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