Hannah Arendt wrote in The Crisis in Education, “A crisis only becomes a disaster when we respond to it with preformed judgments that is, with prejudices.” She calls on using crises as an opportunity for reflection to create new realities and experiences. Similarly, education did not stop in the UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead reimagined itself with sophisticated technologies and leveraged the power of the internet.
Education did not stop in the UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead reimagined itself with sophisticated technologies and leveraged the power of the internet.
A Fierce Educator, Dr Sriya Chakravarti, PFHEA, FRSA, FRAS, MCIPD
Dr Sriya Chakravarti developed a virtual friendly course, operable by multiple educators using innovative educational technologies with synchronous and asynchronous features pre-pandemic. The epidemic created a need for digital teachers overnight and set a test for Dr Chakravarti’s course. However, the transition for her team was successful because they were able to go online 100% seamlessly, as the digital course was resourceful, adaptable to various forms of delivery, and compatible with several technologies.
Furthermore, it incorporated Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) to empower learners and connect them for peer and faculty coaching service during the pandemic. Artificial Intelligence induced assessments helped in giving quick feedback to the learners and reduced the grading work of teachers. Innovative teaching and learning methods (McGraw-Hill Smartbook, Kahoot, Vevox, Nearpod, Citation Machine, Resoomer, Google (English – Arabic) dictionary, Google Jamboard, Padlet, Youtube, HCT Online Library and Research Databases) were embedded in the digital course for student support, engagement and data mining purposes. Additionally, the course was mapped to an international industry certification, which helps students stand out during job placements.
Assessment is the Key
Assessments in the course were aligned to UNESCO’s 21st century skills (mainly the 4Cs of Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking) for a modern student to become 100% employable upon graduation. The assessments required no alteration during the pandemic because all assessments were relevant and imparted job skills. Students had to display individual proficiency in the application of the 4Cs through the tests, presentation and project of the course. All assessments were digitized and Dr Chakravarti ensured that students were thoroughly aware of the online assessment procedure. However, she was considerate with her students on assessments, as English is their second language.
Dr Sriya Chakravarti looked into academic records of students on a case-by-case basis, and offered extra tutoring; bonus work rewards points, multiple practices and revision before exams.
Creative Solutions by Dr Sriya Chakravarti
To encourage and engage the students further during the pandemic, Dr Chakravarti designed mini animated lessons on the course topics using mysimpleshow.com. A custom simulation experience of running a chocolate factory with Edumundo to strengthen student collaboration skills and online rewards for increasing learning motivation of the cohort through BB Learn reward badges and certificatemagic.com
As part of the leadership module in her courses, Dr Chakravarti used the Finnish approach of Phenomenon Based Learning (PhenoBL) to build tangible connections between curriculum theory and the real world. She connected her leadership lesson with the corona crisis and encouraged students to complete the Community Immunity Brand Ambassador Program with Mohammad Bin Rashid University. The idea behind it was to apply concepts of leadership that students studied in class, learn about the pandemic, spread awareness about the virus and let students become leaders of their community on how to contain the virus from the information they gathered and not fear the disease. Approximately 60 students were involved in this activity and student engagement was 100%. This activity had a chain effect, and led many more students and their family members to enroll in the program to learn about breaking the chain of the pandemic and be a leader in spreading awareness of this contagious disease. Using this approach, Dr Chakravarti changed her role from a provider of knowledge to a guide that helps students find knowledge on their own and apply it to a given situation.
During the pandemic, the positive mental health of students was very important to Dr Chakravarti. Therefore, she used the SEAT principle from UNESCO MGIEP to conduct her classes. This principle helps students and teachers to self-regulate and co-regulate with each other and prepares students’ minds and bodies for learning. This activity during class transitions was very helpful. Dr Chakravarti noticed a higher level of engagement in her classes through this principle, and so she shared it with her team. She also used WeaveSilk, BB Learn White Board and Poll tools for an interactive and artistic class experience. Moreover, these tools helped as virtual calming and de-stressing agents.
Maya Angelou once said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Therefore, during the pandemic, Dr Sriya Chakravarti increased her use of technology for personal interactions with students. Her Zoom office was accessible round the clock and open to support students with all kinds of issues. She was a one-stop shop for her students and they trusted her wholeheartedly.
Dr Sriya believes that students need a double dose of support and kindness during these times of isolation, so she worked as an anchor to keep the ship (students) safe, secured and prepared for the next destination.
Dr Sriya Chakravarti is a pedagogical pioneer who has worked with several educational strategy boards and committees to bring innovation into education through curriculum design, program establishment and policymaking. She believes in quality education for all and retains a strong leadership and community development perspective.