On the learning curve in life’s eternal classroom
SPICE OF LIFE: Our tech-savvy angels at home and our students in class held our hand and led us through the digi-tunnel
While the fear of gadgets is not uncommon among the children of the sixties/seventies in general, those of us in the pedagogy were singled out by the thunderbolt from the pandemic blues. We woke up on March 23, 2020, to abruptly assume the novel charge of online teachers. A tectonic shift from physical to virtual classrooms happened in a jiffy. PPTs, term-end presentations, assessments, evaluations, statistical data, PDFs, charts and Excel sheets were flung at us even before we rubbed our eyes open.
It was assumed that we were all tech wizards who had been keeping our digital skills under wraps all this while. Oh my, who do we turn to now? Who would defuse the bombshell that had landed in the college campuses? The millennials in our lives, of course. In course of the bumpy ride from seminar to webinar, most of us had epic moments we can now look back at with a smile.
The first gauntlet landed in the form of an invite to be a resource person for a week-long online workshop for research scholars, and I lifted it little envisaging the details of the drill that would ensue. The talks were to be forwarded to the coordinator as segments of audio-video recordings. Honestly, the delight of the talks was sucked out by the anxiety typical of a digibeet. My daughter, who had taken to work from home like duck to water, was in guffaws of laughter at my awkwardness. For me, the bizarre demand of talking into a static black screen was not only ruffling but also eerily post-human.
We can look back at the bygone year with pride; the task of packaging lessons in totality for online platforms was daunting. Our homes changed into mini theatres and the natural animated spontaneity of the classroom was reworked into measured bytes of information. As the buzz of Webex, Zoom and Google Meet swept across, my comrades went into a virtual overdrive to keep the ship of education sailing.
Our lot had not signed up for this! ‘Once a teacher, always a learner’ applied to the world of concepts not algorithms. Thankfully, our tech-savvy angels at home and our students in class held our hand and led us through the digi-tunnel we thought we had escaped. Wordsworth’s epigram, The child is the father of man, spun into play, not in the context of human nature, but that of the Almighty computer.
Was there a generation in history that remained eternally schooled? That took directions from parents, and now constantly seeks instructions from children? Or to put it bluntly, were ‘beamers’ for their parents and are ‘boomers’ for the progeny? Yes, those who slogged their way up the academic ladder only to begin afresh in the kindergarten of technology in dire circumstances. Ironically, while the elders at home refused to understand what more was there to frantically learn, the youngsters with nimble fingers were surprised by how little we knew.
The writer heads the English department at Government College for Girls, Chandigarh