As the country was on lockdown due to the spread of Covid-19 for the second time, I, as a teacher was compelled to switch myself in the virtual mode of delivery. Both variants separated teachers and students; therefore, we started practicing online mode of delivery. I could not deliver the lessons in the very beginning. During the lockdown, the government instructed all the schools to facilitate the students in an alternative mode of teaching instead of physical facilitation. Rationalizing the fact of the transmission of Covid-19 in the community, we were compelled to operate schools and teaching in online mode which has been the bliss for all of us, teachers and students.
I teach English at the secondary level in one of the government schools of Ramechhap. Since it is a hilly region and we have to work with low resources. I feel regret to share but it was a very tough and tedious job to run the classes virtually in our territory. We had poor internet access and got a low bandwidth of internet connectivity. However, we had to try our best to replace physical classes. Firstly, I created a messenger group for tenth graders and started sharing notes and self-learning materials among them. After a few days, I saw the possibility of online teaching for the grade ten students. I proposed it to the school administration. Then, I, as the vice-principal, published a notice regarding online classes to explore the students’ perspectives. As a result, I noticed most of the students were ready to take online classes and their parents were likely to manage the internet connectivity along with android gadgets and smartphones.
It was the month of Ashadh 2078, we facilitated students in the online class. Before we launched the online classes, we had prepared all the pre-requisites for the online classes for the grade ten students. Fortunately, the majority of the students joined the class as they promised before. But, some students did not join the online classes for a week.
Thus, I gave a call to their parents and convinced them to create an environment for the online classes. Though they signaled positively, they did not manage the learning platform for their children for almost a week. During the online classes, we learned materials management, ppt slides preparation, lesson planning, etc. We were having a serious concern for the students’ learning and coping with challenges. The parents were hardly able to manage the smartphones and they were about to proceed with online classes.
To our surprise, the government broke out the lockdown and we switched into the face-to-face mode of delivery from the virtual one. The students who were unable to join online classes before were able to attend physical classes. More specifically, the government brought the policy of distributing SIM cards to students from grades four to twelve to facilitate the students with an alternative mode of learning.
As per the instruction, we collected all the documents needed to withdraw new SIM cards from the parents at school. Within a couple of weeks, we distributed the SIM cards to all the students from grade four to twelve withdrawing from the district headquarters. After the distribution of the SIM cards, we instructed all the teachers to facilitate the learning process through mobile phones. Some parents managed mobile phones but the rest of the others did not manage as they could not afford them. Hence, we were able to teach only those students who had internet access and a mobile phone.
It was interesting as well as painful to run the online classes smoothly. However, we continued the online classes through phone follow-up. By then, the majority of the students managed the mobile phones and started showing their active participation in learning. We had usual online classes every day but it was like a ritual.
I found that our students were not paying proper attention in their study rather they were habituated to playing the online game especially Free Fire and PUBG. Then, I started preparing different strategies. Preparing a prior mindset, I designed different language-related activities. Firstly, I asked them to find ten different words used in English while playing PUBG. They brought different words into the discussion. I often demonstrated those words which were new for the other students. I asked PUBG players to explain the meaning of those words which was going to be useful for them. I instructed all of them to find the antonym and synonym for those words. They explored based on their understanding. In the next lesson, I designed some other exercises and asked them to explore further.
During the virtual mode of delivery, I engaged them very interestingly. Sometimes, I would organize online debate competitions and sometimes I would organize quiz competitions based on the content from their lesson. The main purpose of preparing these materials was to help students explore their potential via online games. Finally, my students enjoyed the online platform because it was not time-consuming and boring for them. However, some lazy and below-average students hesitated to practice in online modes. In turn, they were equally happy to use mobile phones even if it was not fruitful for them. In my regular schedule, I never erased PUBG and Free Fire rather I encouraged. But the assignment would be related to the PUBG and Free Fire. Suppose, for example, if they would play the PUBG and Free Fire, they had to narrate all the events in about 250 words. At least, my technique of teaching free-writing was making sense for them. If they were not the PUBG players, they had to write something they were interested in.
Moreover, I taught grammar and freewriting together with the help of mobile phones. The students had already been familiar with the internet issues and I would offer them to find some interesting stories on google. They brought different stories copying from different sources. Then, they had to share all about the story they copied virtually. They had to check back and forth on their mobile phones to confirm if they had not understood the story completely. As a result, my students developed confidence in spoken English.
Fortunately, we were picking up on virtual learning. We almost replaced the face-to-face mode of delivery with the virtual one. The problems with the students in terms of regularity, punctuality, doing home assignments, etc. were likely to solve by ourselves. We took it seriously and started consulting the respective subject teachers whether they were performing well in their subjects.
Most interestingly, I encouraged my students to be critical and open up in online classes. Therefore, they could reflect on what they actually learned. It was difficult for them to speak up in the very beginning in the online class but later they slowly started questioning and critiquing. Sometimes, we would not be audible due to internet issues. Otherwise, I would prioritize the students’ needs and interests and ask them to accomplish their work timely. They learned about different apps such as Zoom, Skype, Proquest, Microsoft Team, Google Meet, etc. At least, they developed the concept about different terminologies such as email, Gmail, link, connection, internet, in the last few months.
Every weekend, we teachers sat and shared different techniques and strategies we employed. It was somehow difficult for math teachers to tackle students in the online classes. But the rest of the other theoretical classes would be easily handled and it was much effective as well. The PUBG and Free Fire players started playing those games because they had to write almost 300 words on what they played. Frankly speaking, some of the students were counseled very positively about the reason for not being able to attend the class. Later, it was diagnosed that the PUBG players would sleep late at night. Then, I successfully solved those all problems and the ratio of the regular classes remained constant in my online class.
The platform provided to the students in online classes was praiseworthy. The students got several opportunities to enhance their language skills. The students developed the habit of listening to the text and became able to solve the majority of the problems. I also focused much on spoken skills. Every week, they had to give their talk on some of the specified areas such as ‘Glory of Nepal’, The Most Interesting Place I ever visited in my Life’, ‘Pen is mightier than swords’, Mobile Phones in Students’ Life, ‘Role of youths’ in Nation’s Development’, etc. My students practiced speaking in English in different themes. To support them, I would often pinpoint their mistakes and would give immediate feedback. Then, they developed spoken fluency and accuracy by the use of mobile phones. More specifically, I would supply related reference materials in their respective groups.
The writing was also much focused in the online classes. The students were instructed to examine the pattern of writing. Sometimes, I would be giving them samples for letter writing and sometimes for application writing. They had to practice observing my samples minutely. I often designed varieties of materials for the classroom. They got an ample opportunity to explore the world around them. In every subject, they had to work and submit their assignments timely to their teachers. Online delivery remained one of the prior and successful techniques for secondary level students; however, it didn’t remain a milestone for basic education.
The students’ facilitation during the pandemic has been one of the pleasurable moments because we were not familiar with the effectiveness of the online classes. After a long investigation in different educational institutions in and around the world, we happened to practice alternative modes of delivery and it has been useful means of communication for all the learners around the world. Initially, we had a challenge but later we accepted it and developed at our own pace. Thus, the novice practitioners and the innocent students all learned several dynamics of online classes. The parental consciousness remained paramount for enriching students’ learning. The rigorous practice in every content from language to grammar and literature to writing have been taught succinctly via online medium.
In conclusion, learning without burden for students and teaching without burnout for teachers is essential for -the wellness of students and teachers. The students after being usual in using mobile phones geared up their learning. However, I realized that there are some individual factors including age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and teaching experience, and so on. bring the variation on their understanding. Due to having a distinct socio-economical status in our society, we were straggling with the hardships of online classes but it was resolved in the latter stage of our lives. As a result, my students doubled their interest in learning than playing online games. Giving a lesson to every student should be viable and organized either we follow physical mode or we dictate virtual one. Achieving pedagogical goals require technological enhancement, students’ enthusiasm, and the well-being of the teachers. Therefore, I brought effectiveness in my teaching by examining the need and necessities of the students.
Students’ well-being is primarily judged by the cognitive abilities that they perform in their professional platform. Thus, online class and the use of mobile phones in the classroom has brought additional challenges to teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success. Effective and natural connections between the teachers and learners have been broken out. However, our dynamic students sharped their creative minds and learned to handle several awful situations. As a teacher, I often tried my best to make them feel not panicked by revising the previous lesson. The use of mobile phones was much helpful to gain self-confidence, self-esteem, and content knowledge.
At the end, my students learned to prepare some ppt slides, collected useful authentic materials, and developed presentation skills. From this experience, I came to know that offering opportunities and challenges to every individual are to make them able to reflect, rethink, and renew their existing knowledge and skills. Due to the massive use of the virtual mode of delivery, I myself became able to move a step ahead. It was extensively useful for both me and my students. The normal class was replaced virtually by the help of different videos, pictures, materials, and engaging tools. Thus, the use of mobile phones has been a prior tool in engaging students either in webinars or on other virtual platforms. So to say, this global pandemic created by COVID-19 has been a boon for many teachers like me because it demanded updated and upgraded professional expertise and gave a vivid glimpse of the students through innovative ideas and professional practices.
Hira Lal Moktan is an MPhil graduate in English Language Education from Kathmandu University School of Education. He has been currently serving as a vice-principal cum English teacher at Shree Dahoo Secondary School, Ramechhap. He is a life member of NELTA. His interests include research on Teachers’ Identity, Linguistics, and Discourse Analysis.