No labs, innovation best tool for science teachers in Mumbai

Teacher Kshitija Sankpal explaining ‘dry cell’ to students at VPM’s Vidya Mandir High School in Dahisar.(HT Photo)
Teacher Kshitija Sankpal explaining ‘dry cell’ to students at VPM’s Vidya Mandir High School in Dahisar.(HT Photo)
Updated on Oct 19, 2020 12:07 AM IST
Copy Link
ByPriyanka Sahoo and Ankita Bhatkhande, Mumbai

Teaching basic and conceptual science without access to laboratories has emerged as a challenge for teachers in schools and colleges across the country as classes move online.

As the Covid-19 pandemic forced a nationwide lockdown, schools and colleges moved to an online mode of instruction. However, explaining concepts in science without stepping into an actual laboratory has become equally difficult for teachers and students.

“The initial few days of online teaching was tough for all of us. The science teachers were tried to figure out ways and means of teaching concepts to students in a manner that they could understand,” said Kshama Valanjoo, assistant headmistress, VPM’s Vidya Mandir High School in Dahisar.

The challenge has pushed teachers to innovate in their teachings by using visual aids. For example, science teachers at Valanjoo’s school used videos and diagrams.

“While some laws in physics were explained with the help of videos and diagrammatic representations, teachers also used available resources like dry cells to demonstrate some simple experiments from their homes,” said Valanjoo. The school has also allowed teachers to carry a few science apparatus at home for teaching purposes.

At Kandivli’s Children’s Academy school, teachers have started using simulation platforms to demonstrate experiments to students. “We had started exploring the idea even before the pandemic. There are several simulation-based resources that explain concepts in science in a very interesting manner. These platforms can be used by teachers in online classes and students can be asked to try out the experiments post class,” said Nikita Mukhopadhyay, research associate (physics) at Children’s Academy. The school has also delivered STEM kits to students of Grade 3 to 10. “The kit consists of some ‘do it yourself’ activities for students to understand the concepts in science easily,” said Sheela Mallya, school principal.

While private schools managed to innovate, municipal schools in Mumbai, which are struggling to get students to attend online classes, have a different set of troubles.

“Every three months or so, we take our students on field trips to Vidnyan Bhavan in Sion to show them various models in science. Students also get hands-on learning experience as there are several interactive models. This year, however, we could not do any of that. Some of our students are unavailable for online classes too. So, our teachers try to send them short videos of basic experiments which they can watch. We have also distributed them worksheets through their parents,” said Suman Patil, principal at Ayodhya Nagar Municipal School in Chembur.

Meanwhile, engineering and technology institutes, including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), have adjusted their curriculum and deferred all laboratory courses that require physical presence to the next semester. Only computer-based practical classes are being conducted but with limited success, said teachers.

Engineering colleges are adopting animations and virtual lab simulations as teaching aids. “In some cases (very few), animations or demonstrations are being used [to teach concepts]. In a regular semester, these animations are used in addition to hardware laboratories with live experiments. While these videos help, they are not very effective for learning remotely, especially if students are not getting hands-on experience,” said Shantanu Roy, dean, academics, IIT-Delhi.

Virtual labs is an initiative of the ministry of education, government of India, to provide remote-access to labs in various disciplines of science and engineering. Teachers said that while the labs have aided instruction, they could not replicate actual experience of a lab.

“In general, in engineering and sciences, a lot of learning happens in laboratories by physically doing experiments. It is difficult to replicate that experience online,” said Roy.

Connectivity is just one of the challenges in teaching online, said Varun Bhalerao, assistant professor at the department of Physics at IIT-Bombay. “It’s important to have a good rapport with the students and understand their situation, and decide how busy to keep them,” he said. Bhalerao heads a team of researchers working on Growth India—the country’s first fully-robotic telescope.

“There was no point pining for a lab that you could not visit. The only solution to this was to redefine our goals,” wrote Bhalerao in a recent article in a series titled ‘Academics Post Covid-19’ hosted by the Indian Academy of Sciences. The solution was to shift focus to long-term activities such as wrapping up ‘almost complete’ papers and reading review articles.

“We shifted the focus of every group member from their primary project to a closely aligned data analysis project,” said Bhalerao in the article.

While teachers are rising up to the challenge, students face a myriad of difficulties ranging from lack of connectivity, poor infrastructure and absence of peer groups.

Usually, videos, animations and simulations are used as auxiliary tools to live teaching, which is the primary mode of instruction. “This semester, the primary mode of instruction is missing and only auxiliary tools are available to us. Lectures are pre-recorded and circulated,” said Pranav Jeevan P, a PhD scholar from IIT-Bombay.

“For researchers, it is the environment around us that matters the most while doing research work. Usually, we work in isolated academic spaces with very little distractions. That safe space is missing,” he added.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • The Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP-JJP government has set a lofty target to diversify at least one lakh acre land under paddy cultivation to crops such as pulses, cereals, cotton and maize every year to check Haryana’s rapidly deleting ground water table (Representative Image/HT File)

    Haryana’s money-linked diversification drive:Area under paddy cultivation reduced by 10% in 2021

    Two years after it was rolled out, the Haryana government's financial incentive-linked diversification drive, has gained some ground with area under water-guzzling paddy reducing by 10% in 2021. As per official data, during the kharif season in 2021 crop diversification took place on 51,878 acres. As many as 62,562 farmers were paid 53.34 crore as incentive for opting for crop diversification. It came down to 14.60 lakh acre in 2021.

  • On Tuesday, the chief secretary, Arun Kumar Mehta chaired a high-level meeting about recruitments being made through the J&K Public Service Commission, Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board (J&K SSB), J&K Police Recruitment Board and J&K Bank in the UT. (PTI File Photo/ Representational image)

    Jammu and Kashmir SSB registers highest-ever recruitment in 2021-22

    The J&K SSB registered the highest-ever recruitment in 2021-22, since its inception, said the J&K government. On Tuesday, the chief secretary, Arun Kumar Mehta chaired a high-level meeting about recruitments being made through the J&K Public Service Commission, J&K Service Selection Board, J&K Police Recruitment Board and J&K Bank in the UT. “Previously, the J&K Service Selection Board recruited 8,580 and 8,115 candidates in 2009 and 2015, respectively.”

  • When Bhagwant Mann inducted Vijay Singla, a dentist, as the Punjab health minister, he was a surprise pick over several two-time legislatures and eight other doctor MLAs with higher qualifications than him. Singla was sacked over graft charges by CM Bhagwant Mann on Tuesday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

    Punjab minister sacked over graft charges: A dentist, green warrior & social crusader: Singla is ‘Mr Clean’ in hometown Mansa

    For the 52-year-old first-time AAP legislator and a dental surgeon Vijay Singla, who created history by winning the Mansa assembly seat by a record margin of 63,323 votes on the plank of 'political honesty', the downfall was as unexpected as his rise --- all this, in just two months after his induction in the Bhagwant Mann-led cabinet in Punjab. Singla had defeated the Congress nominee and popular Punjabi rapper Shubhdeep Singh alias Sidhu Moosewala.

  • The track is part of the 1,875-km Dankuni-Son Nagar-Ludhiana section, which has been termed as the Eastern Corridor. (HT Photo)

    Punjab section of freight corridor likely to be operational by year-end

    An 82-kilometre-long section of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, extending from Sahnewal to Shambhu in Punjab, is expected to become operational by the end of the year. The 175km single-track section is spread across Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Ambala, Yamunanagar and Saharanpur districts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh under the Ambala and Ferozepur divisions of the Northern Railways. It extends from Sahnewal in Punjab to Pilkhani in Uttar Pradesh.

  • A cop salutes during the wreath-laying ceremony of slain constable Saifullah Qadri in Srinagar on Tuesday. Police said that the cop identified as Saifullah Qadri was attacked by militants near Anchar when he was walking on the road along with his daughter outside his house. (Waseem Andrabi/ HT)

    Constable shot dead; daughter injured in Srinagar terror attack

    Militants on Tuesday attacked an off-duty police constable killing him and injuring his nine-year-old daughter at Anchar in Srinagar. Police said that the cop identified as Saifullah Qadri was attacked by militants near Anchar when he was walking on the road along with his daughter outside his house. “The terrorists involved in the killing of the cop will be identified and neutralised soon,” inspector general of police Vijay Kumar said.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 25, 2022