Transforming school education: Learning from COVID-19 and pathways ahead

Prem Prasad Poudel

The context

The coronavirus (i.e., COVID-19) crisis has brought unprecedented challenges in all the systems including education globally, and communities, particularly in the developing countries, are suffering the most as the public service systems in these countries are not well-planned. The coronavirus pandemic has been a portal that leads the world to reconfigure the future (Roy, 2020) largely different from the one we are/were living. The human sufferings are unprecedented, and of course not measurable either in terms of the economic, social, and psychological losses (both visible and invisible). There are tragic consequences everywhere, and the education sector is one of the most affected ones due to school closure, leaving millions of students from pre-school to the university at homes. The fundamental services of education have halted, with students without textbooks, face-to-face formal interactions, and detachment from their peers. This unexpected context has forced people to think about transformations for the future to enable the pedagogical contexts to recover from the losses, and to cope with the similar future challenging in education systems.

Although schools and universities have tried hard and the best to compensate the loss of schooling by adopting the online mode of instruction, both teachers and students’ limited access to internet facilities, particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs) such as Nepal has become a barrier to holistically shift the physical school to online teaching and learning. This scenario has further accentuated the discourse on equity, concerning the widening gap in terms of access to resources, learning opportunities, human resource management, and the effectiveness of the learning (if any). Similar to Ebola, AIDS, SARS, and Spanish Flu, this pandemic has taught us a lot about humanity, human attachments, health, and urgency of international cooperation. Against this backdrop, in this paper, I have presented my reflection, not necessarily based on strong empirical data, on the potential pathways that we MUST adopt to accelerate transformations in our education systems. By ‘our’, I mean Nepali society, however, my arguments would equally apply to other similar contexts waiting for reforms in their education systems.

The schools are closed for an indefinite time, and standardised tests are suspended. Discourses on educational standards and qualities are extended and enlarged due to the spread of coronavirus. Many people are living with the absence of their friends and families, while others are crammed in their families experiencing probably the longest moment of togetherness with family members. For many, the homes are transferred to online learning stations. The online meetings have covered the walls of Facebook and other social media pages. Perhaps it is the worst ever experience my generation people have had of such pandemic. However, it should also be taken as an opportunity and the right time for countries and relevant communities to unlearn, relearn and rebuild their educational systems to prepare for a better future.

The challenges in schooling

Despite the massive stimulus measures in response to the Covid-19 effects, the global economy is estimated to be hit by recession in 80 years (Guenette, 2020), the deepest since World War II (Al-Samarrai, Gangwar, & Priyal, 2020), and the financial distress will severely impact on the education sector. In other words, this pandemic is likely to impact on several key aspects of education, including financing, resource management, school expansion, and access to learning.

Financing Constraints

The pandemic crisis is likely to leave the education sector vulnerable in terms of infrastructure development including the endeavours to equip schools with technological innovations. In Nepal, the budget allocated for education is inadequate. In the fiscal year 2076/77 (2020/21 AD), the Government allocated 11.64% budget for the education sector (Ghimire, 2020, May 29), which is very less than the budget spent in countries with larger and established economies. Although here is a mere increase in the budget compared to the current fiscal year, two of the ambitious programmes:six-thousand volunteer teacher mobilisation and mid-day meal, will cover more than three quarters (6 billion) of the total increment of 8 billion rupees. It indicates that there will be a limited budget needed to embrace information and communication technology (ICT) in the educational sector.

Human resource development and management

The low-level budget allocations in the education sector, especially in higher education will have serious consequences in managing technical human resources, and technological innovations, due to budget shortages. It is making both short-term and long-term effects on human resources development on handling the technology integration in teaching and learning. Last month, I had a talk with a teacher of a primary school about the use of technology in teaching, and his immediate reaction was “We have a computer and a printer in our school, but we are unable to use them because we could not find a technician to repair them”. His exemplary experience informs us about the level of understanding of what technology in teaching is, and how computer technology is used in schools in remote Nepal. I had a short visit to one of the public campuses in Kathmandu Valley, and during a talk, the campus chief of the campus said, “Sir, we have managed IT on our campus”. I was thrilled and wanted to see how they have made the reform. He took me to one of the carpeted classrooms and showed some computers (seemingly unused for months) and said that it was the IT lab, where students could occasionally go to learn the computer.

These two instances, which I brought here from my own primary experience, tell us how people perceive the use of technology in teaching and learning. In none of the above cases, there was technology integration in pedagogy. They have understood that technology means having computers and using them occasionally for specific purposes such as showing how to open a word file, how to type, and how to print. The development of a broader framework for human resource development in a planned way is a greater challenge ahead.

School expansion and access

Insufficient budget for public education leads to the decline in education outcomes, and poorer education services, which ultimately impacts on parents’ affordability for their children’s education. In Nepal, usually, the households that largely rely on the remittances for education funding of their children and relatives will suffer a lot. It is predicted that expensive private school education will cause an increment in the enrollment in community schools and then pressurise the community schools to accommodate a large number of students. However, community schools at the current state without minimum ICT infrastructure and comfortable learning environment for those students coming from private schools will not be able to hold them and again private schools may take this advantage. Consequently, the social gap between the communities with high and low-income will be much wider than it is.

These challenges, along with many others, need to be addressed in time to meet the new demands of educating in the post-crisis period. I suggest some viable ways to begin the reform in education in Nepal.

Ways ahead

In general, the current context requires us to understand and transform the overall schooling system in a completely different way, as the opportunities for learning have completely gone online. However, the majority of students and teachers, particularly in Nepal, are unable to access online learning for many reasons including the lack of ICT infrastructure, expensive mobile data, and limited or no digital literacy of teachers and students. Complaints have been raised regarding teachers’ efficiency in the use of the online learning management system (LMS) platforms. Teachers’ inability is not due to their negligence but due to their ill-prepared teacher education systems (programmes) that did not equip them with even the basics of integrating technology in pedagogy.

I remember when I was mentoring some students during their field experience in teaching three years ago that they were compelled to follow the lesson planning as par with the lesson plan booklets commercially prepared. This practice barred the students to prepare their lessons autonomously. One of the student teachers asked, “Sir, is it good for English students to follow the same pattern as Science students while preparing lesson plans using this booklet?”. I was speechless, as I knew that this system was not viable, and the student teachers were not even having their own space for altering the patterns of lesson preparation. All the student teachers were filling out the same lesson plan formats provided to them. This is just an example that how we are highly structured in our education systems, following the conventions developed decades ago, and not even asking students to think beyond the box. The main concern I wanted to raise here is that “How does the current strategy of educating and preparing teachers to meet with the growing challenges in learner autonomy, blended learning, and integration of technology in teaching and learning?”.

The crisis has prevailed a need for school transformation by enabling educators and teachers. However, the economic crisis hit by COVID-19 will be a great challenge particularly for developing countries like Nepal to even revive the pre-COVID-19 schools. School transformation is a multifaceted process, including teacher empowerment, readiness, and responsiveness. It is a high time to think about how the teachers can be better equipped to navigate the wounds surfaced in this dark time to reconstruct life anew for themselves and their children through the schooling process. The relevant government agencies can also think of benefitting from the outsourcing of the education services, especially in terms of managing the techno-friendly resources including technical assistance in LMSs design, teacher training, and material development. Although outsourcing of educational services sometimes understood as ‘businessification’ of schooling (Bates, Choi & Kim, 2019), it has been widely adopted as a ‘tested solution’ to many educational problems in many countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong SAR of China.

Enabling teacher agency

There needs a ‘transformation from within’ to meet the challenges generated by this global crisis and a shift from the traditional ‘banking model of education’ (Freire, 1970). Teachers should be prepared for fostering their self-reflexivity and responsibility in shaping their actions in their social contexts. Although teacher agency has been underestimated in the educational contexts of the countries with developing economies, it has been observed that teachers can make the change, provided that they are exposed to an all-enabling environment, both through institutional and professional support. Teachers as reflective practitioners and professional decision-makers (Borg, 2008), also as insiders of the learning process, should be encouraged to come up with their strategies to meet their contextualised learning requirements. The current crisis has also taught us that “the one-size-fits-all” type of blanket strategies, mostly drawn from the global-north contexts, are no longer relevant. In the case of Nepal, owing to its wider demographic diversities such as socio-economic status, language backgrounds, geographical situatedness and cultural orientations,  the strategies formed at the federal level will be less likely to succeed requiring greater role of the local government in taking actions to put the policies into practices. In having so, more localised research-supported strategies for maximising teachers’ agentic actions are the must. Teachers are the forefront fighters whenever there is a learning crisis.

Enabling autonomous learning conditions

The transformations can emerge from our actions based on our ideologies and self-regulated efforts to prepare our learners for their life-long learning. The current centralised curriculum development and implementation process have been a problem-posing condition as it does not prepare the learners to be the innovators and self-regulators. The teachers and students are waiting for the state agencies to avail the textbooks for them to start the pedagogies. The curriculum needs to recognise and validate teacher and learner agency in shaping their localised learning environment. The COVID-19 has taught us about making the change from within, not necessarily waiting for some externally sourced interventions facilitating us to transform our professional rituals.

Therefore, it is essential to enable our teachers and students to create their autonomous learning conditions by:

  • Developing and providing them with the simplified digital learning programmes
  • Accelerating local governments’ engagement on developing learning materials at the micro-level
  • Streamlining non-governmental organisations towards facilitating the technical requirements, and
  • Supporting parents to educate (or facilitate the learning of) their children.

These strategies are rightly doable to manage and enable autonomous learning conditions at the grassroots level. However, at the same time, none (teachers, students, and parents) should be the victim of the circumstances like the current crisis. Teachers, students, parents, and the local level governmental and non-governmental agencies can be engaged in supporting the children to learn. It can be done by bringing all of them together with complementary roles in scaffolding design by enabling innovative learning environments. For instance, the development partners working in the education sectors can provide the local governments with emergency funding opportunities, and parents of each learner can support learning by engaging them in the family affairs, rituals, and daily chores.

Embracing technology: A blended mode of learning

Despite the well-articulated ICT enhancement policies of the government since the beginning of the 21st century in Nepal, the use of technology in teaching and learning contexts is still in its infancy, particularly in the public education system (Rana & Rana, 2020). However, it is also important that we should be able to grab the highest-level advantage out of the use of technology in teaching and learning, which is very much a core part of learning in this digital era. It should also be noted that technology alone is not a panacea for compensating all kinds of learning gaps, as it is just a tool or a medium to facilitate learning. Therefore, the best feasible way for all learning conditions is to develop a justifiable blend of face-to-face and online (virtual) learning. Although media particularly social media like Facebook and twitter are covered by discourses of the use of ICT  that would do everything possible, I believe that it is just a good friend of humans and that human values the kids need now are best transferrable and learned through direct human contact and interaction in a comfortable zone. In our educating system, we should be able to ensure that technology is used to integrate the aspects of our indigeneity of knowledge, cultures, values, and worldviews. Moreover, it is essential to include local epistemologies, heterogeneity, the multiplicity of values, and pluralism to make everyone feel owned.

From the above discussion, I come to a holistic picture of the transformation required as presented in figure 1.

Figure 1: A model for school transformation

Figure 1 provides a holistic approach to innovations in schooling in such a way that teachers, parents, and the social institutions can actively engage with their agency in the learning conditions that teachers promote autonomy, indigenous pedagogies, and professional development opportunities. A culturally responsive environment that incorporates technology will lead to greater success in meeting our 21st-century learning needs.

Conclusion

This reflection reiterates that evidence-based policymaking for the transformation in Nepal’s education system is essential to prepare our students for a better future, in such a way that our schools remain the “places of mutual respect and a place for understanding human differences and opposing viewpoints” (Arnove, 1994, p. 211) along with their equal access to learning opportunities. We have to be able to institutionalise our indigenous pedagogies that enable our students to equally participate in the learning process. The adoption of technology in teaching and learning might also contribute to foster such inequalities differently, as technology has a double-edged effect. On the one hand, it has created an unequal learning opportunity, and on the other, it has been established as the only alternative mode of learning available during this crisis. All that requires a coherent policy framework that consistently facilitates and controls the local innovations with stronger visions and valuing on teachers. We have a lot to learn from Singapore, where “talk less, learn more” is the core principle of teaching (Hogan, 2014).

 

Mr Prem Prasad Poudel is currently a PhD scholar at The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. He has worked as a lecturer of English Education at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal for more than a decade. Mr Poudel is a well-established as a teacher educator, teacher trainer and material writer in the field of ELT in Nepal. He has presented papers and published articles in the renowned national and international journals such as Journal of NELTA and Current Issues in Language Planning, respectively. Previously, Mr Poudel also served as the secretary of the Central Executive Committee of NELTA.

References

Al-Samarrai, S., Gangwar, M. & Gala, P. (2020).  The Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education financing.  World Bank, Washington, DC.

Arnove, R. F. (1994). Education as contested terrain: The case of Nicaragua: 1979–1993. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Bates, A., Choi, T. H., & Kim, Y. (2019). Outsourcing education services in South Korea, England, and Hong Kong: a discursive institutionalist analysis. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2019.1614431

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder and Herder.

Ghimire, B. (2020, May 29). The national budget fails to prioritise education, experts say.
https://tkpo.st/2AiSQCZ

Guenette, J. D. (2020). Global economy deepest hit by recession in 80 years despite massive stimulus measures. https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/global-economy-hit-deepest-recession-80-years-despite-massive-stimulus-measures.

Hogan, D. (2014). Why is Singapore’s school system so successful, and is it a model for the west?. The Conversation (12th February). https://theconversation.com/why-is-singapores-school-system-so-successful-and-is-it-a-model-for-the-west-22917

Rana, K., & Rana, K. (2020). ICT Integration in Teaching and Learning Activities in Higher Education: A Case Study of Nepal’s Teacher Education. Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Technology, 8(1), 36-47. http://dx.doi.org/10.17220/mojet.2020.01.003

Roy, A. (2020). The pandemic is a portal. Financial Times (3rd April). www.ft.com/content/10d8f 5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca.

 

Cite as: Poudel, P. (2020, July). Transforming school education: Learning from COVID-19 and pathways ahead. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/transforming-school-education-learning-from-covid-19-and-pathways-ahead/

Issues and possible options for teachers: A COVID-19 pandemic perspective

S M Akramul Kabir

COVID-19 context

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges in every sphere of our lives and education is not out of it. With schools shut across the world, millions of children have had to adapt to new types of learning. This resulted in the largest “online movement” in the history of education with approximately billions of children around the world became homebound, together with their parents and extended families. Recently, a report of CNN has confirmed that even though the COVID-19 situation becomes stable, several universities in the USA have decided to consider the possibility that in-person classes may not resume until 2021. During this crisis, everything has happened so fast that it does not seem realistic to adopt a holistic solution that is easy to implement, and that works for everyone (Moorhouse, 2020). The pandemic is a monster situation to deal with, but we can tackle it following a prophylactic approach. So, I inspire individual solutions based on contextual needs.

The whole world has witnessed a paradigm shift in its teaching-learning-assessment process recently. So, the developing countries are no exception. For instance, in Bangladesh, irrespective of all levels, teachers have started teaching online despite several challenges. The government has also encouraged to go online to continue the teaching-learning process of the country during the pandemic. Teachers use different platforms to teach online. As there is a government directive, the primary and secondary teachers of government schools use Bangladesh Television (BTV) as a platform to teach virtually. The BTV announces the schedule of classes on different topics before the live session so that students can learn whether or not the class lesson is relevant to their level of study. In this regard, non-government schools are free from governmental directives. So, non-government schools have multiple platforms to conduct virtual classes apart from BTV. Most of the schools use Zoom or Google Classroom as their online teaching platforms although there are several challenges, such as lack of uninterrupted power supply with continuous access to the internet, unavailability of digital devices for each student, and the unavailability of well-trained teachers to conduct the online classes smoothly. In this regard, there is a huge possibility that the current paradigm shift of teaching virtually may exacerbate inequalities in education between developed and developing countries across the globe. In practically, in the post-pandemic context of education, online classes may become a regular thing in parallel to in-person classes depending on how the situation emerges. So, it’s important to get it right and make sure that no group of students is being left behind in the process. I have tailored some of the practical issues to conduct online classes in developing countries.

Access to ICT

One of those major challenges to the teachers of developing countries is access to the online mode of education to conduct classes virtually. Most of the students in the developing countries lack technical support such as unavailability of the internet or mobile device with a data pack or Wi-Fi connection to be connected to the virtual classes. OECD (2020) reported that a gap is seen across countries and between income brackets within countries in terms of students’ struggle to participate in digital learning via reliable internet access and/or technology. The report showed that 95% of students in developed countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their schoolwork, whereas only 34% of students in Indonesia have a computer with internet access to do their schoolwork. So, it can be assumed that access to a computer with internet access may be similar in other developing countries such as Bangladesh or Nepal. Again, the number of computers owned by families, especially in the rural areas of the developing countries are presumably lower than the urban areas, which can have a negative influence on the whole online education. Moreover, in the developing countries, to conduct the classes online, the cost of the internet or mobile data-pack is beyond the reach for many students as well as the institutions. So, online teaching to all the students is a far cry from what is intended in the developing countries, such as in Bangladesh.

Willingness to communicate online

Another huge challenge to online teaching is the learners’ willingness to communicate (WTC) in the extramural digital environment. As most of the students in developing countries are not familiar with digital platforms, many of them are not enthusiastic about the transition to online learning. Students’ lack of online experience may promote fear and lead to their participation uncertainty. The fear can also cause withdrawal or resistance to their online participation. Therefore, it is a huge challenge for the teachers to remove this barrier to engaging his/her students virtually for the online teaching-learning process. A teacher should know how to apply different theories on virtual interaction such as activity theory of learning. Only then teachers may be able to engage the students in an interactive mode. If teachers can do so, it can be a great opportunity for them to teach interactively online in a real-time situation.

Online collaboration

As we know that the classroom situation in developing countries is more or less is lecture-based. In most Bangladeshi schools, teachers are usually the speakers or controllers of the classroom and the students are passive recipients of the course contents. So, making a collaborative and participatory classroom in a face-to-face situation has always been a challenge for the teachers. However, at present, the teachers from the developing countries have the opportunity to create a collaborative class online as several researchers (Rana, 2018; Shaista, 2018) found that students become more participatory in digital classes than physical classes. In Bangladesh, despite various obstacles, about 80% of the students in a university have expressed interest in joining the online activities (“ [Shorkari Bisshobiddaloi] সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে,” 2020).

Motivation for online learning

Teachers and students harbour their motivation for learning. So, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many students may lack the psychological readiness for online instruction. Even the teachers themselves may lack motivation for online teaching. Recently, in Bangladesh, the Education Minister pointed out that most of the teachers in the government institutions lack a positive mindset and the motivation to shift in-person classes on virtual mode during the COVID-19 pandemic (“[Shorkari Bisshobiddaloi] সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে,” 2020). Students may also have misconceptions concerning online learning and its outcomes. They may consider this ‘paradigm shift’ as temporary resulting in their lack of motivation towards online learning. So, it is the responsibility of teachers to motivate the students that online instruction is necessary for collaborative learning and not a substitute to merely keep students busy until the pandemic subsides. Teachers also have to motivate students to shift focus away from the emotional consequences of COVID-19 to more personal investment in learning and achievement.

In this regard, I can share my experience. I have been running ELT classes on ZOOM since March 2020 for my students. I run three classes per week for this group. After overcoming the initial teething troubles related to technology and the new mode of teaching, participants have settled down and attended online classes regularly. I have motivated them to embrace this new teaching-learning situation. However, it is surfaced that the prevailing online mode of education (both public and private) is undergoing some teething troubles to adapt online exams and evaluation procedure for obvious reasons I have referred to. So, it is too early to comment on how successful the online teaching-learning activities have been until it continues at least for a considerable time.

Nonetheless, it has already been reported in different newspapers that there are more challenges to conduct online classes in rural schools due to the issue of urban-rural contextual dichotomy. However, my argument is that digital tools can be used as a catalyst to remove the urban-rural disparity and to put all the students on equal footing, then distance or institution won’t be a matter! The government just needs to take the initiative to create a level playing field. If we can ensure the internet for everyone with a digital device and train up the primary and secondary teachers to pick up digital literacy, more than half of the work will be done to transform our education online. Other petty technical barriers can be dealt with accordingly. Moreover, third world countries like Bangladesh, where face-to-face education is considered as a reliable but hefty medium, can take the current situation as a good opportunity to change its typical lecture-based classroom into a collaborative online classroom.

The upcoming world is going to based on digital platforms so do the educational skills. Without digital literacy, it may be difficult for students to survive in the academic arena. Therefore, after the post-pandemic reality, all schools should be equipped with digital support so that face-to-face teaching can be underpinned by the online learning scope. Without access to the world of websites, it is not possible to enter into the ocean of unlimited knowledge. By ensuring access to the body of world knowledge, there is a possibility to make a knowledgeable and techno-savvy generation to transform the country.

So, it is necessary to train the teachers with different online learning models (such as TPACK framework) as they are the main players to implement the process. The training should prepare the teachers so that they can interweave the three essential sources of knowledge  ̶ technology, pedagogy and content to facilitate synchronous online learning to the students through a collaborative approach. All the students should be ensured a digital device with better internet connectivity so that they can have the access to the internet to browse any particular academic site related to their course contents or course lessons anytime and in anyplace. Therefore, the learning will be ubiquitous, no matter a student stays in rural areas or urban areas, and learners will be able to learn at their own pace. However, the major challenge is left with the policymakers as they need to figure out how to reach each of the student irrespective of rural and urban contexts. On the one hand, the COVID-19 has stagnated the whole world, and on the other hand, it allows us to think about the transformation of our education system for the future.

S M Akramul Kabir is an Assistant Professor of English under the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Bangladesh. He has just completed his Doctoral journey and is waiting to be a graduate of the University of Canterbury with a PhD degree. He has taught English to both local and international students for more than 12 years. His areas of research interest include listening skill for language education, discourse analysis, learning theories, and ICT in language education.

References

Moorhouse, B. L. (2020). Adaptations to a face-to-face initial teacher education course

‘forced’ online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Journal of Education for Teaching. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2020.1755205

OECD. (2020). A helping hand: Education responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

https://oecdedutoday.com/education-responding-coronavirus-pandemic/

Rana, K. B. (2018). ICT in rural primary schools in Nepal: Context and teachers’

experiences (Doctoral dissertation). https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/457

Shaista, R. (2018). The effect of training in Mobile Assisted Language Learning on attitude, beliefs and practices of tertiary students in Pakistan (Doctoral dissertation). https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/457

সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে অনলাইন ক্লাসে বাধা মানসিকতা [Shorkari Bisshobiddaloie online classes badhamanoshikota]. (2020, May 30). bdnews24.comhttps://m.bdnews24.com/bn/detail/bangladesh/1764114?fbclid=IwAR0gUCM4_SzRp-nkzhkYp1GCixfSOGlQihOaWTrR-7JBMMRPhx0If9Xf21Y

 

Cite as: Kabir, S.M. A. (2020). Issues and possible options for teachers: A COVID-19 pandemic perspective. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/issues-and-possible-options-for-teachers-a-covid-19-pandemic-perspective/

Techniques of online teaching

Thinh Le Van

Community of Learning

Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) presented the online teaching model as a Community of Inquiry with three main elements: Teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence.

Community of Inquiry by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000, p. 2)

Teaching presence is the responsibility of the teachers to select, organise materials, design the course to encourage students to interact while social presence refers is to show as a real person in the community. Cognitive presence refers to the construction of meaning by students through participating in the course. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) stated there was a correlation between these three types of presence. Since then, many studies have been conducted to examine the relationship among these three elements. Students gave a higher rate of the overall quality of interaction when instructors gave immediate feedback which means that course instructors were highly evaluated when they showed more teaching presence in an online course (Khalid & Quick, 2016; Richardson & Swan, 2003). Teaching presence was reported to be correlated with social presence because when teachers showed more teaching presence, students showed more social presence (Kanuka & Garrison, 2004; Shea & Bidjerano, 2009) and social presence was reported to correlate with learning outcomes (Hostetter & Busch, 2013; Romanov & Nevgi, 2008). These students concluded that students who participated more in the course, their learning outcomes were better than those who did not. In short, teaching presence affects social presence, or the better teaching presence is, the more social presence students will show. When students show more social presence, it will result in a better learning outcome. Therefore, the main responsibility of an online teacher is to organise the course so that students could show more social presence by joining online discussions, engaging in reading more materials. This essay will brainstorm some techniques to organise your teaching presence to improve social presence, which might result in a better cognitive presence or learning outcome.

The online teacher can engage students to do activities synchronously and asynchronously. Here are some techniques to enable students to interact asynchronously in an online course. To engage students to interact synchronously, some learning platforms such as Schoology, Edmodo or Google Classroom should be used. There are three main types of interactions: students’ interaction with materials, interaction among students, students and instructor interaction.

First, to encourage students to read materials, and watch a movie that the teacher should design a quiz to check whether students watch and understand the materials or not. This stage enables students to try to understand the materials. However, the quiz should include in the final assessment so that students will try their best to do it. By doing this step, students will interact with materials and show more social presence in the online course.

Second, after students understand the materials, they should be asked to interact with each other to share their understanding of the materials. At this step, some questions should be posted for students to share their opinions. To encourage students to interact with other students, students should be asked to reply at least two students’ posts. By doing this way, students will read other students’ posts and reply to other people post. The online forum is very important because students could reflect their ideas and show their deep understanding of the lesson.

Finally, the teacher could interact with students through an online learning platform. For example, the teacher could comment on students’ posts or give them some written feedback. If the teacher could give students some oral feedback, he could make a video by using Camtasia to upload on the learning platform.

Similarly, the teacher could interact with students synchronously. Synchronous interactions should also have three different types of interactions as described in the synchronous process. The interaction could happen through Zoom, Google Classroom or Skype. When the teacher gives students some materials, he should set up some activities for students so that they could show their understandings. Also, the teacher could create similar interactions such as group discussions for students such as Zoom breakout. Of course, during the online meeting, the teacher could have direct interactions with students.

These techniques are for online teaching; however, these also could apply in physical classes after COVID-19. The model for this kind of teaching is blended learning. The teacher could send students materials such as reading materials or videos that the teacher prepares in advance. However, to make sure that students watch the videos or read the materials, some tasks such as quizzes, questions or gap filling should be set up and these tasks should be a part of the final assessment to motivate students to complete all the tasks. These activities could be conducted online. Discussions could be carried in class when teacher and students see each other. The teacher can have more time for feedback and explore the lessons further.

In conclusion, the responsibility of the online teacher is to design the activities to encourage students to improve their interactions with materials, other students and teachers so that students could show more social presence which results in better learning outcomes.

 

Thinh Le Van holds a PhD degree from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He is an English lecturer at Banking Academy, Vietnam. His research interest is around language, learning with a focus on computer-assisted language learning (CALL). Email: lethinhpy@yahoo.com

References

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2), 87-105.

Hostetter, C., & Busch, M. (2013). Community matters: Social presence and learning outcomes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(1), 77-86.

Kanuka, H., & Garrison, D. R. (2004). Cognitive presence in online learning. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(2), 1-19.

Khalid, M. N., & Quick, D. (2016). Teaching presence influencing online students’ course satisfaction at an institution of higher education. International Education Studies, 9(3), 62-70.

Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2003). Examing social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Language Networks, 7(1), 68-88.

Romanov, K., & Nevgi, A. (2008). Student activity and learning outcomes in a virtual learning environment. Learning Environments Research, 11(2), 153-162.

Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2009). Community of inquiry as a theoretical framework to foster “epistemic engagement” and “cognitive presence” in online education. Computers & Education, 52(3), 543-553.

 

Cite as: Le Van, T. (2020). Techniques of online teaching. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/techniques-of-online-teaching/

Teacher agency in a superdifficult circumstance: lessons from a low-resource context during COVID-19

Prem Phyak
Bhim Prasad Sapkota
Ramji Acharya
Dil Kumari Shrestha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-2019 has affected personal, economic, and professional lives of teachers in a number of ways. It has created a ‘superdifficult circumstance’ which can be defined as a situation where teachers, students, parents and communities face a multitude of problems which they may not able to address. In the context of COVID-2019, teachers are facing physical, mental, economic, and other socio-cultural challenges which directly affect their personal and professional life. While some teachers have lost their jobs, others have to teach using online tools which they had never used before. The purpose of this blogpost is to analyse teachers’ experiences during the COVID-2019 pandemic and discuss their implications in the post-COVID context. The narratives are drawn from the members of Teachers for Teacher (TfT) group, a small group of teachers for professional development and research in English language education. As a network of teachers, the members of TfT meet occasionally for informal discussions on issues related to teaching, research, innovations and professional development. The narratives in this blogpost were collected in writing and have been organised under different themes.

Learning opportunities for professional development

The pandemic has completely shut down the economy, transportation and social activities. The schools were closed and the planned exams were postponed. Schools and teachers had no clue about what they should be doing next. The situation was getting worse as the lockdown period was extended. We had asked the teachers what they have been doing during the lockdown and discussed how they coped with the pandemic situation. As seen in Raj’s (pseudonym) story, teachers have used the lockdown period as a learning opportunity for professional development.

In the beginning of lockdown, I was not worried about anything because I thought it was like the end-of-year vacation. I heard about online classes and distance learning as I was taking some Zoom sessions for my professional development. As the lockdown was extended, I tried to keep myself busy in taking some online courses. In the first month of lockdown, I was enjoying my personal life by learning different online learning courses. In the third week of April, the school leadership called me to talk about the possibility of running virtual classes and requested me to lead the initiative. It was a challenging job for me to coordinate and train other teachers for online classes. I started studying different means of virtual learning/teaching system management and talked to different experts, principals and coordinators of other schools and found a few learning management systems (LMS).

Raj does not realise that there was a complete lockdown. He kept himself busy in exploring ICT tools and development learning management system. He worked hard to identify the most appropriate tool for his school. As mentioned below, Raj explores multiple ICT tools by considering the financial situation of his institution. Finally, he is able to create an LMS for his school and becoming a ‘certified Google trainer’.

I kept myself busy in learning and applying ICT tools and applications. I was completely engaged. For two weeks, I could not realise that there was a complete lockdown. I worked 18 hours a day to enable myself to handle learning management systems. I studied Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft and the other tools for virtual teaching. I found Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams for synchronous learning and Google classroom, E-mail, Facebook, Viber and other asynchronous tools for communication. Eventually, I set up a learning management system (LMS) in my school. Zoom was used as asynchronous and Google Classroom as an asynchronous learning management system. But I faced some major challenges such as data storage problem (online/cloud data and offline device storage) in different tools and internet connectivity. Later, I knew that I could use Google for education which allows using Google Meet and additional tools for learning. I applied for G-Suite. As our school did not have much funding resource, I could not use other effective LMSs. For the first time in my life, I learnt about the word domain in technology. After a series of communication with Google representatives, I was able to get a G-Suite for Education for free. Now I have completed educator level ‘I’ and level ‘II’ and in the certification process for educator level ‘I’ and ‘II’ from Google. After that, I can go for a Google certified trainer.

Becoming a teacher educator and implementing innovations

The narratives show that teachers have first learned about ICT tools and trained other teachers. Although they faced challenges, they had time to explore new ideas and use them in their teaching and for training their colleagues. Rajan faced challenges to training teachers to deliver classes by using G-Suite. He organised a four-day workshop on Google form and other tools such as Google Meet and PowerPoints. He tells his experiences as follows:

Teaching textbook was a common and easy thing for all the teachers but in this flipped pedagogy teacher should prepare the materials based on the curriculum. Narrowing down the broad curricular concepts into teachable fragments was a great challenge for the teachers. On the other hand, implementing those materials in virtual learning is another challenge for the teachers. In this situation, the training was not effective as it was expected to be but I was able to make teachers familiar with Google Classroom. Though the planning of the lesson was not my part, I was compelled to go through it as the traditional lesson planning is not completely okay with distance learning. Though I was aware of the challenges of engaging students in virtual learning platforms I couldn’t design all the activities based on curriculum. Instead I requested teachers to make their classes more interactive by asking questions.

Teachers as a change agent and a community mobilizer

Teachers can play an agentive role during the pandemic situation. In the narratives we have collected, Reg (pseudonym), who has been teaching in a public school of Kathmandu and went to his village in Gandaki province during the lockdown, has played a critical role to establish learning centres to teach students by maintaining a physical distance. He tells how classes were run at those centres as follows:

I went to the learning centre near my house. Most of the learners were happy with new textbooks. The teacher was supporting every student in reading and writing. All learners were busy in reading and writing. I wanted to demonstrate different learning strategies so I requested the teacher to try out something new. I asked students to do creative tasks like drawing, small field visits, project works. […] I told them to maintain the physical distance and walk to the Shiva Mandir close to the learning centre. Most of the learners were passionate to know about the temple. I asked them to observe the temple closely and encouraged them to ask some questions about the temple and other activities around it. While some students were observing the temple, others were reading the notice board and the list of the donors pasted to the door. Others were counting the bells in front of the temple in a loud voice. They asked questions regarding the foundation, management committee, worshiping practices, and religious significance of the temple to the old grandfather, who was in the temple. After an hour I gathered them in the meadow and asked them what they observed. […] I was surprised by their confidence and happy mood while sharing their observation. Even small kids were sharing interesting information about Shiva Mandir, which I had not known before as the permanent inhabitant of the village. One of the learners shared the story of Shiva and Parwati as told by the old grandfather. After that, I told them to go to the learning centre. Most of them wanted to go to the next temple located in the community. I made a promise to teach them the next day and return to the home listening interesting talking on the way.

By engaging learners in project-based activities, Reg was helping them to develop research skills. The learners were motivated to learn about the temple in their own community. For them, it was an opportunity to interact with their friends, by maintaining social distance, observe the details of the temple and organise information to share with their friends and the teacher. By doing, Reg was helping the students to learn reading, writing and research skills beyond the textbook. Reg’s efforts help students connect their learning with real life experiences. The anecdote given below implies that students learn better when the learning process is linked with their personal life and community.

On the second day, despite a heavy rain, I went to the learning center. Due to the heavy rain, it was difficult to go out so I asked some questions related to how rainfall occurs. Some answers were funny and interesting. One of the learners answered that cloud brings a huge pot to carry water from a stream/pond and pours it from the sky. Some students from the upper level explained the process of rainfall correctly. They asked a number of questions such as why the cloud blocks the rays of the sun, how the hailstone falls, and what the reason behind hot and cold weather is. I was surprised with their questioning techniques. I was unable to answer some of their questions. I answered using taking the help from the internet but they continued to raise more questions. I promised to answer their questions the next day. I was impressed by their logic, curiosity, and passion for asking the questions.

Reg’s efforts imply that, in a superdifficult situation like COVID-2019, multiliteracy projects can help students learn effectively. Such projects do not necessarily follow the textbook contents. As discussed above, by engaging students in a fieldwork, they developed observation, reporting, communicative, speaking, and collaborative skills. Such activities promote students’ participation, motivation, and self-learning. By participating in such activities, learners gather historical information about different sites in their communities and develop questioning and research skills. As Reg describes “such activities have taught me a memorable lesson in my teaching profession that teaching and learning are not limited to textbooks and classroom; students can learn from their communities.”

Addressing the digital divide

Many schools do not have ICT infrastructures to run online classes. The teachers working in low-resource schools are not able to contact their students. The story of Rita (pseudonym) implies some key insights to address the digital divide and help students learn when the schools are closed. Rita begins her experience as follows:

My school has also tried to create virtual learning environment during Covid-19. For that, we contacted students through phone calls to confirm that whether they can learn through internet, T.V., or Radio. There were around 500 students in my school before the lockdown began. Among 500 students, 200 students came into our contact but the rest of them are still out of contact. The students were divided into 3 different groups based on their access to digital tools such as internet, T.V and Radio. Among 200 students only 82 of them were able to participate in online classes. We tried to begin the classes but we found that very few students could join the class. More than a half of the students were left behind. I thought this situation could create negativity in their mind […]. So, we could not run classes. Now, students read the textbooks at home and ask questions to their subject teachers via phone.

Rita further tells that due to lack of ICT devices with parents, it is not possible to implement online mode of teaching. However, as mentioned above, mobile phones could be a helpful tool to help students learn. Rita suggests that:

I would like to suggest that we could ask students to do different things beyond textbooks. We can ask them to do activities they are interested in. They can use their local knowledge and build up life skills by doing the things around them. Rather than asking them to do textbook-based activities for the purpose of assessment, it is important to give activities that foster their creative and critical thinking skills. They may enjoy documenting what they learned at home and in the community. They can describe what they have seen during COVID-19.

Rita argues that digital divide is a serious issue in education. While the schools are exploring alternative approaches to learning, it is important to assess whether such approaches (mainly online teaching) could exacerbate unequal participation in learning activities and access to knowledge.

Conclusion 

The stories of three teachers imply that teachers could play a critical role in addressing students’ learning challenges created by the superdifficult circumstance of COVID-19. As discussed in this blogpost, teachers have engaged themselves in a number of professional development activities to strengthen their ICT and creative pedagogical skills. This situation indicates that teachers have utilised this difficult time to upgrade their professional skills which they could use in post-COVID classes.

Authors:

Dr Prem Phyak, an MEd in English from Tribhuvan University, MA in TESOL from University College London, and PhD in English from University of Hawaii, USA, is an Associate Professor of English at Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

Mr Bhim Sapkota, an MPhil student at Nepal Open University, is a Lecturer of English at Kathmandu Shiksha Campus and English teacher at Shree Bishnudevi Secondary School, Chandragiri, Kathmandu.

Mr Ramji Acharya, an MEd graduate, is a Programme Coordinator as well as English teacher at Regent Residential School, Lalitpur.

Ms Dil Kumari Shrestha, an MEd in English and MA in Political Science graduate, is a Lower Secondary English teacher.

 

Cite as: Phyak, P., Sapkota, B., Acharya, R., & Shrestha, D. K. (2020, July). Teacher agency in a superdifficult circumstance: Lessons from a low-resource context during COVID-19. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/teacher-agency-in-a-superdifficult-circumstance-lessons-from-a-low-resource-context-during-covid-19/

Expectations of post-COVID-19 era education in Nepal

Krishna Prasad Parajuli

Introduction

Now we are facing the global health crisis caused by COVID-19. Most of the countries in the world are asking people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. Following the recommendation of WHO, the Government of Nepal also ordered lockdown on March 23, 2019. The lockdown is going on and it is not certain that when it will be lifted. On the 15th June 2020, the Government of Nepal changed the modality of the lockdown and is loosely monitoring it. The lockdown has been eased to increase economic activities. As a result, the government offices, industries, shopping centres are carefully operated with some preventive measures. However, there is much uncertainty over schools and universities reopening. This article reflects on the effect of the global pandemic on education and the possibilities it opens up for the transformation of teaching-learning in Nepal, especially in the rural area where access to information and communication technology is limited. The rhythm of educational activities has been seriously altered because of the lockdown. Robert (2020, June 11) reported a deep learning crisis worldwide as about 1.5 billion students have been taking measures for COVID-19 prevention as the schools have shut down. All countries are making an effort to combat the COVID-19 and normalise people’s lives including education sectors.

Tribhuvan University, the oldest and largest university of Nepal, decided to adopt online teaching as an alternative teaching mode. Other universities followed similar practices. Nepal Open University based on online learning mode has been normally operating all academic activities. It has been observed that the majority of university students except Nepal Open University are scattered across the country and locked where they had been before the commencement of the lockdown in the country. They are unable to communicate with their university colleges and are probably waiting the day when their colleges will reopen for academic activities. The majority of undergraduate and school students are outside the coverage of online learning, especially in rural areas. Although some campuses have started online classes for Bachelors and Masters students, a large number of students are unable to join such classes because of lack of internet access and digital devices.

Although I have created a Google class for my students to extend learning space beyond four walls of the classroom before the pandemic, only few students used to visit it. Now they come to join Google classroom or ZOOM meeting more frequently although some students are unable to join my online classes. It is too early to forecast the effectiveness of online class for my students. We are experimenting with new learning technology. I am fortunate in the sense that I can apply my experience of studying in online and blended learning mode. I had done an online teacher training course from the University of Oregon and I am doing M. Phil at Nepal Open University. Now I am using my experience of remote learning to shape my online teaching practices.

To continue teaching-learning during the lockdown, many countries in the world have used radio, television, mobile technology or home delivery of printed materials to help students in their self-learning activities at home during COVID-19 (Robert, 2020, June 11). The government of Nepal has implemented alternative learning system for students grouping them into five categories: students outside the access of any technology, students with access to radio, students with access to TV, students with access to computer and students with access to computer and internet. The government has instructed to provide learning opportunities to all students at their home with the appropriate mode of delivery using print, audiovisual and online resources (Ministry of Education Science and Technology, 2020). The guidelines recognised online teaching as one of the teaching-learning modes.

I have observed high enthusiasm among the teachers in virtual space when the schools and campuses are shut down. Teachers are making attempts to reach to their students through various media on one hand and they are learning digital and pedagogical skills through online conference and training. Teachers have participated in professional development activities organised by various organisations. I frequently get an invitation to attend such opportunities. For example, I had three invitations on Facebook to participate in join online teacher training sessions on zoom. I have observed that many teachers are ready to teach online. However, limited access to ICT in rural areas prevents teachers to go online teaching immediately.

It seems that the teaching-learning continues with this alternative teaching mode for a few months. The face-to-face mode of learning will resume when the global health crisis will be resolved and school classes become safe. By the time the pandemic is over, I guess that more teachers will acquire digital and pedagogical skills and more teachers and students will have access to digital technology. Teachers are unlikely to unlearn the skills they learn during the pandemic as Robert Franek notes (Dickler, 2020, May 20). Kim (2020, April 1) predicts that in post-pandemic situation blended learning will rapidly increase and the top priority of educational instructions and that professional development of teachers will be geared up to integrate ICT in teaching-learning rather than outsource agencies to provide online learning.

I am not much hopeful that Kim’s prediction comes true in our context. However, I believe that, when school will resume, thousands of teachers will use some of the digital skills for teaching they acquired during the pandemic period. However, the actual use of these skills depends on available technology and school administrative policy. I believe that teachers teaching in rural schools will also continue with the use of ICT. I see the following possibilities in ICT integration in education in Nepal in post-COVID-19 era.

  • The Federal and local government will invest more in ICT infrastructures in remote areas. More schools will get access to the internet which will open a new venue for teaching-learning.
  • Teachers will continue to attend virtual conference, training and seminar regardless of their location. The frequency of online professional training will increase.
  • The government can provide virtual training so that teachers can balance time for teaching and participating in the training. This will save time and expenses for attending the training.
  • The training centre can hire experts drawing from the wider pool of experts easily and teachers can study at home.
  • Teachers can teach or take part in school meeting when they are away from school for personal or professional responsibilities.
  • Teachers can invite more experienced teacher as a guest teacher in their class through video conferencing.
  • Teacher and students can share class notes and other digital resources on the virtual classes which will save more time for class discussions.
  • Teacher and students can have a virtual discussion during long holidays or examination times.
  • Teachers can support the students who cannot attend face-to-face class because of illness or other reasons.
  • Teachers will share, collaborate and create digital teaching-learning.
  • Teachers are likely to observe other teachers’ virtual class which will enhance their pedagogical skills.

Conclusion

The global health crisis has forced teachers and students to stay at home. The use of ICT tools for teaching and learning in online mode has become an alternative mode instead of traditional face-to-face mode to prevent the spread of corona virus. ICT has drawn the attention of teachers, students, parents and educators. Despite the fact that many students in Nepal are unable to get access to virtual classes due to lack of ICT infrastructure, many teachers are trying to utilise internet and other available resources to meet the current needs of students. It is evident that the use of ICT will continue to grow in the post-COVID-19 era in Nepal by opening several possibilities.

Krishna Prasad Parajuli is a lecturer of English Education at Drabya Shah Multiple Campus, Gorkha. He is the Vice-Chair of NELTA Gorkha and a member of IATEFL. He is an M.Phil scholar of English Education at Nepal Open University.

Reference

Dickler, J. (2020, May 20). Post-pandemic, remote learning could be here to stay. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/20/post-pandemic-remote-learning-could-be-here-to-stay.html

Kim, J. (2020, April 1). Three post-pandemic predictions.

Ministry of Education Science and Technology. (2020). Alternative learning system implementation guidelines 2020. https://moe.gov.np/article/1323/html

Robert, J. (2020, June 11). Opinion: Reimagining education — this is the moment to think big. Devex. https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-reimagining-education-this-is-the-moment-to-think-big-97405

 

Cite as: Parajuli, K. (2020, July). Expectations of post-COVID-19 era education in Nepal. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/expectations-of-post-covid-19-era-education-in-nepal/

Crisis, teaching-learning via alternative means and ground reality

Pushpa Raj Paudel

Introduction

COVID-19 has been one of the critical human crises ever recorded after Plague of Justinian (541-542), the Black Death (1346-53), Spanish flu (1818-1819), Asian flu (1957-1958), HIV/ AIDS (2005) and Swine Flu (2009). Following the advice of WHO about maintaining physical distance to control the possible spread of the virus, the government of Nepal had announced the nation-wide lock down, and the four-month long lockdown has been recently waived though the educational institutions seem to shut down for some more weeks. During the ongoing crisis, the venture taken by some of the proactive teachers to continue teaching-learning activity to the extent possible for them and to engage themselves in continuous professional development is appreciable.

It was, undoubtedly painful for me to be detached from my students and the classroom for a long time. However, what made me satisfied was the constant contact with the students and colleagues via different digital means. Although the online classes were not as effective as the physical classes in the beginning, they remained a useful alternative to practise teaching-learning activity during the lockdown period. So, in this article, I have attempted to explore the ground reality of teaching learning from a survey and critically reflect on my teaching-learning and professional development practices including my feelings during the lockdown.

Digital divide deteriorating teaching-learning activity

Problem with the technology more or less exists in every nook and cranny of the world but the digital divide in our context seems bigger. For example, Sharma (2020) reports that only 8% of households and 12% of total schools have broadband internet facility in Nepal. Although 90% of the population use mobile phones, the majority of them do not have the internet facility. Similarly, Rana, Greenwood and Fox‐Turnbull (2019) show that only 72% of the total population of Nepal have the internet access and the majority of them (95%) are mobile data users, and mobile data is too expensive to use for educational purpose. Moreover, the urban dwellers have better access to the internet facility (not in the reach of all though). Indeed, this kind of disparity is present in the online classes that I have been taking at present, where there is the presence of less than 50% students. The condition is even worse in the case of the rural part of Nepal, which is waiting for the development of the internet infrastructures and access to web technology.

Professional development in the crisis

Although teachers are not physically present in the classrooms, some of the active teachers are busy taking the online classes or continuing teaching-learning via other alternative means. On the other hand, during the lockdown period, various national and international organisations were active in organising e-conferences and webinars for teachers’ professional development. I also participated in some of the webinars organised by Cambridge University Press, Webinar Series: British Council and NELTA, Continuous Proficiency Development Institute (CPDI), Thailand and TESOL Virtual Convention and English Language Expo 2020.

Having got opportunities to participate in these webinars and conferences, I was acquainted with new trends and ideas of English language teaching. So, they proved to be highly insightful for me to gain and share new knowledge and skills. I have used the learnt knowledge and skills in making the lessons interactive while teaching in the online environment. Moreover, I also utilised the crisis for creative writing and reflections, and also used them in my online classes to encourage my students to compose creative writing. History shows that there has always been the emergence of new literary figures and a new field to work with by the established figures due to the situation created during and post crises. So, as a teacher, we can encourage and support our students to express their emotions, feelings and experiences through creative writing or other forms of arts, which can help them to release their tensions and have a sense of achievement in the form of creation.

Teaching-learning practice during the crisis

Exploring the ground reality

Like other teachers, I always enjoy having students around me, but the ongoing health crisis caused havoc in teaching-learning activity with the temporary closure of the educational institutions globally, where Nepal couldn’t be exception. Some of the schools in Nepal, especially in the urban setting, have run the online classes by using different digital apps where there is internet facility and parents are capable enough to manage basic technologies for online classes. However, student participation in such online classes are observed low.

It is commonly reported that there is less student participation in the online classes and the delivery of lesson also has not been as effective as the face-to-face mode. Therefore, I wanted to understand if other teachers have similar problems. I conducted a survey by using the Google form about teaching-learning activity during the pandemic, where 48 teachers participated. The data showed that the majority of teachers faced the problem of low students’ participation. Additionally, some other problems mentioned by them were related to technology and learning environment like unstable or lack of the internet access, frequent power cut and learners’ unfavourable learning environment at home. Likewise, lack of apt digital contents were reported as another challenge. Similarly, challenges were reported on students’ involvement and learning facilitation like lack of students’ attention, disturbances at the students’ end, low participation in English course and lack of student-centred activities. In addition, the teachers also reported to have challenges in assessment including the lack of immediate feedback to students.

The responses of this brief survey indicate that online teaching cannot replace the physical classroom in Nepal immediately as there exist major challenges like technological preparedness, online pedagogical innovation, lack of digital contents and assessment. In such situation, the government in collaboration with public and private sector should come up with immediate strategies to reach students and also should envision to bridge the digital gaps in future.

Facing the crisis as a teacher following alternative ways

While some of us are taking initiative to run online classes to the limited number of students having with access to the stable internet and digital devices, Dawadi, Giri and Simkhada (2020) argue there exists a huge challenge to give equitable access to e-learning to all the students in Nepal and a swift move to e-learning will further widen the disparity gaps, depriving a large number of students from inclusion. This study, therefore, indicates that we need to adopt different modalities to reach to different students based on the means of connection they have. For instance, we can provide offline materials to students having mobile phones and computers without the internet connection. On the other hand, for the students having neither the internet nor the digital devices, we should reach via radios and televisions as some of the teachers have already taken this initiative. For example, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and local bodies are telecasting and broadcasting educational programmes via radios and TVs though people are skeptical about the effectiveness of such teaching-learning. On the other hand, to reach the students of difficult topography, we should deliver the print materials in coordination with local government. Moreover, teachers can also reach them and engage in teaching-learning by maintaining physical distance in their own locality.

Crisis and some food for thought on our practices

The present health catastrophe, I believe, is questioning our education system and has compelled us to rethink the way we are delivering public services like education and health. Our existing education system emphasises more on competition, i.e. producing a successful person is getting priority over helping a person become a good human being. With the same token, society gives value to the rich and this has led them to achieve more power. The existing gap between the rich and the poor is constantly increasing, which is visible during the crisis, where the poor suffered the most and the marginalised and minority people were much more affected. Education and health services are highly dominated by the private sector, which were already out of the access of the working-class people, seemed more unwelcoming during the crisis for many private hospitals denied treating the patients suffering from the corona virus. This was the failure of the present neoliberal society which emphasise privatisation, marketisation, and deregulation in various services including education and health sectors diminishing the nation’s role in these sectors of fundamental necessities.

Summing up

Similar to English proverb “there is a silver lining in every black cloud”, I also tried to make the best ultilisation of the time I had in the crisis. I first focused on my professional development, especially ways to teach students online effectively. Then, I have been using the new knowledge, ideas and skills I gained from it in my own online classes. Now, my students in the online classes are no more passive listeners but the active co-participants of the teaching-learning activity. I use Easy Class and Google Classroom to manage my online classes. Likewise, to make the online lessons interactive, I use various digital apps and tools, such as online quiz using quizizz, Kahoot, ProProfs, Mentimeter, interactive videos using playposit and padlet to ensure learners’ participation in the online class and Google forms for feedback and for online test. After lockdown, I am confident that I am going to make visible changes in the lesson delivery in the physical class and the blended mode of teaching and evaluation. Moreover, I feel that the crisis in general has taught us an important lesson that Nepal also should envision alternative ways of teaching-learning by using various digital technologies.

Pushpa Raj Paudel, an M. Phil scholar at Nepal Open University, is a faculty in Sainik Mahavidyalaya, Bhaktapur. Mr. Paudel has interests in creative writing, teachers’ professional development, critical pedagogy and translation. Mr. Paudel, a life member of NELTA, has presented papers in various national and international conferences and webinars, and has published articles in various magazines and newspapers.

References

Dawadi, S., Giri, R. A., & Simkhada, P. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on the education sector in Nepal: Challenges and coping strategies. Sage Submissions. Preprint. doi:https://doi.org/10.31124/advance.12344336.v1

Rana, K., Greenwood, J., & Fox‐Turnbull, W. (2019). Implementation of Nepal’s education policy in ICT: Examining current practice through an ecological model. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 86(2), 1-16. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/isd2.12118

Sharma, L. (2020 May 09; retrieved 2020 June 7). Online education increases disparity [translated from Nepali to English]. Nayapatrika. https://jhannaya.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/970/2020-05-09

WHO (2020). WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard. https://covid19.who.int/

 

Cite as: Paudel, P. R. (2020, July). Crisis, teaching-learning via alternative means and ground reality. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/crisis-teaching-learning-via-alternative-means-and-ground-reality/

Empowering learners with learning strategies: Preparation for uncertainties

Karuna Nepal

Scene setting

When the government of Nepal decided to close the schools due to the pandemics of COVID- 19, initially I thought that it was going to be a good session break. I expected to have a good rest after finishing the busy schedule throughout the academic session. Similarly, I would have enough time for preparing for the upcoming session. But things did not happen as I expected. I began to think about my students and gradually this became intense. I even saw them in my dreams. I started growing more restless day by day. It was strange because I never experienced this type of feeling during other vacations, some of which had lasted for almost a month.

The imposition of lockdown has brought more uncertainties and sharing the same whereabouts with my school students has added to my discomfort. Being a teacher of a community school, I have had an opportunity of making a close observation of the vicious circle of poverty that the young children have to fight against. Moreover, I am well aware of the socio-cultural background that my students are a part of. Surely, the students are being victimized by the abrupt changes imposed into their lives.

One day, one of my friends shared a video on Facebook in which he was playing a language game with his daughters in his room. I was happy with the way he was dealing with his daughters. Shortly, I raised the curtain of my room. Through the window, I could see the smoke coming from the chimney of the brick factory nearly about a half kilometre ahead of my house. I started to visualize some of my students working there with their parents. Some of them were carrying buckets full of water and others were dangling with bricks on their head. I could not decide if it was just my imagination or a part of reality. I closed the window but still, I could not detach myself from thinking about my students. I wanted to know what they might be doing at that moment. I knew for sure that their parents must have neither been playing language games with their children nor been reminding them to revise what they had learnt at school. What were they doing then? I believed that they might either be working with their parents or have become de facto baby sitters for their siblings.  Now the question echoed and as a teacher it was my turn to answer it. I started trembling since I did not have any justifiable answer.

My past efforts to boost students’ self-directed learning

This is not the first time that the schools have been closed with lots of uncertainties. I started recalling the past and reached to 2015 AD when schools remained closed for almost a month due to an earthquake. And of course, that incident had compelled me to devise some strategies that would possibly help the learners learn on their own when schools remain closed. Some strategies that I developed were making vocabulary web, playing word games, reading and retelling stories, doing individualized homework which addresses individual differences, keeping journal entries on significant life events such as interesting tasks accomplished and so on. I had also attempted to make students practise doing self-assessment while they work on their own at home.

I find these strategies useful but not sufficient. Now, my concern is, if the strategies were efficiently practised the students would be able to use them independently. It is because there is a significant difference between knowing about something and making them a part of life. At this point, I am not sure if my students are prepared enough to use these strategies on their own. I am seeking for some ways to get connected with my students but I have not found any way out. I would opt for virtual classes but in my context, it’s just like making a castle in the air.

The status of virtual learning in my context

Virtual classes have been advocated to be one of the best options for bridging the learning gap created by this pandemic. Although buildings are shuttered and classroom teaching has not been possible, learning is somehow being continued with distant learning. Some institutions are able to address the sudden demand of the time without delay. However, this is not equally applicable to all groups of students and perhaps completely impossible for those who study in a community school like the one where I teach. It is because running virtual classes is a challenging job in our context since it demands an excellent technical infrastructure which is beyond the access of most of the school students in Nepal. On the other hand, it is almost wrong to expect from the students belonging to lower-middle-class families to have access to the internet and modern electronic gadgets. Moreover, teachers are less experienced regarding online teaching. There is no doubt that the proliferation of technology equipped instructional setting is the demand of the day but doing this abruptly is not feasible and effective. Also, availability of teachers either directly or virtually in the current situation is beyond imagination for most of the school children, as many of the teachers have returned home and most of which are remote having no good access to the internet. Hence, teaching seems to have halted during this time.

Thinking of a way out: A need to work on developing self-directed learners

As I reflect on my teaching, now I realise, had I made some efforts for preparing the learners for these types of uncertainties beforehand, learning would not have been discontinued. Empowering the learners with self-learning strategies can be the best solution in the long run. As a language teacher, it has been crucial that we plan and implement our instructional activities efficiently for preparing our learners to take the responsibility of learning on their own. It helps in the continuation of learning both during and post-crisis situation if in case we face a similar situation in the future.

Hence, for preparing ourselves to respond to such catastrophes creatively is one of the primary responsibilities of a teacher, I have framed below some additional activities/strategies to incorporate in my upcoming lessons:

  • Make a birthday calendar and tell the learners to prepare a birthday card for their friends who have birthdays even on the days when schools remain closed. Similarly, the birthday boy or girl should write invitation letters to his/her friends and teachers.
  • Make the learners prepare a newsletter, covering reviews of the films they watch and the books they read.
  • Ask the learners to maintain their diaries every day.
  • Ask the learners to write letters to their classmates about their own stories whenever they have some changes in their daily routines. They can exchange the letter when they meet.
  • Ask the learners to collect some interesting news they listen to and comment on them orally.
  • Let the students decide the project works themselves and provide flexibility while carrying them out. I will encourage the learners to write reflections.
  • Design the lessons in such a way that I could bring a variety in my classes to address my learners’ multiple intelligence.
  • Involve the learners in activities that make them active both mentally and physically. For example, while teaching a story I will let them act it out. The learners choose the preferred roles themselves.
  • Engage the learners in translation activities. For this, I will separate a lesson each week when learners can translate self-chosen text (any story, a poem, an essay or so on).
  • Make the learners maintain a word book or vocabulary journal and add at least five words in it every day.

Although these are classroom-based strategies, I believe that once the students internalise these strategies, only then will they be able to replicate and adapt them to some extent even in the absence of the teachers. Activities demanding less or even no support of the teachers would certainly be useful. Here, it is necessary to make the learners aware of multiple strategies and let them decide which works best for them. The learners should be introduced to these various strategies to facilitate effective and autonomous learning. Eventually, the learners should be actively involved in the entire learning process from goal setting to evaluation.

Conclusion

Catastrophes are abrupt but preparation can be gradual. These types of pandemics close the door to the regular learning spaces but at the same time opens the doors of multiple alternative opportunities. For opening these doors, pre-planning and some rehearsals are needed. Empowering the learners with various learning strategies sufficiently will help the learners grow independent. This will, in turn, assist in bridging the gaps in teaching and learning during some unanticipated situations like the one we are facing these days. For this, teachers planning and facilitation play the key role to avert the cognitive loss in the learners. It is because teacher autonomy is pre-requisite to learner autonomy and is very crucial for handling these types of unpredictable situations.

 

Karuna Nepal is a lecturer at SS College. She also teaches at Shree Krishna Secondary School. She has completed her M.Phil. degree from Pokhara University. Her areas of interest include translation, philosophy and literature.

Cite as: Nepal, K. (2020, July). Empowering learners with learning strategies: Preparation for uncertainties. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/empowering-learners-with-learning-strategies-preparation-for-uncertainties/

Online class amidst COVID-19 lockdown

Hiralal Kapar

Abstract

This article presents an examination of teachers’ experiences and understanding of online learning amidst COVID-19 crisis in Nepal, pandemic impacts on education and future challenges of schooling. Open interviews with four teachers teaching their students investigated how they managed to teach few students on virtual classes and what complications they experienced when using digital tools to teach their students. Although the findings suggest possibilities of utilising various freely available ICT tools in teaching and learning particularly in urban areas, the majority of the students are unlikely to have such access in the rural area.

Context

There is a pandemic crisis that has created a kind of terror almost all over the world. The terrifying situation (COVID-19 Pandemic) made all the human activities as water in a pond in general and educational activities in particular. The entire world is being ceased where all the human chores are also being postponed indefinitely. More than 210 countries including Nepal are severely affected by COVID-19 (Worldometer, 2020, April 13). The majority of them have a lockdown to control the pandemic and keep their citizens safe (Argenti, 2020, March 13). However, I have a question “is teaching and learning possible in such pandemic?” on my mind. This is perhaps a common question to teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders of schools and colleges across the world because the entire world has been affected by the COVID-19. Perhaps similar to the Poudel’s (2020) experiences of stress during the lockdown initiated on 23 March 2020 by the government of Nepal to prevent the spread of Corona-virus infections, many others might have gone through frustrations losing their jobs, regular earnings and social relations. In Nepal, almost all educational institutions are closed but some of the universities have been trying to develop online learning mechanism (Poudel, 2020). Several webinars during this pandemic have emphasised online mode of teaching and learning as an alternative to physical classroom teaching and learning. However, the majority of schools and universities have a lack of ICT infrastructure and have the majority of teachers with limited ICT skills.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis made me speculate some alternatives to teaching and learning where I experienced that there is a good future of online education. Similar to American schools following online learning (Bakia, Shear, & Toyama, 2012), I wish we had have minimum ICT infrastructure to switch our schools to the online mode of teaching and learning in Nepal. With this idea on my mind, I talked to my four participant teachers from various schools to get their views to a major question such as “what are the major prospects of online education in the context of Nepal to meet the needs in such a pandemic condition?” The following sections offer their experiences and understandings of online teaching and learning during this lockdown.

Online Education and its Effectiveness

Bakia, Shear, and Toyama (2012) have defined online learning as internet-based teaching and learning. In the teaching field, online education is the electronically supported learning that relies on the internet for teacher/student interaction and the distribution of class materials. One of the first institutions to use online learning for completely off-campus students was the British Open University (Bates, 2005). Bates (2005) further stated some of the terms that are being used in place of online class synonymously such as virtual, hybrid, blended, mixed-mode, and distributed teaching and learning. With the historical flows and meaning of virtual class in mind, we easily can predict some of its roles in teaching and learning.

In COVID- 19 pandemic crisis, people in the crisis of food are trying to grab opportunities of learning in virtual classes. In academia, it has multiple advantages. In the interview, teachers shared different views on the issue with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. For example, Mr A expressed that online learning is only one alternative during the lockdown, and it may be cost-effective and feasible. Likewise, Mr B emphasised a virtual class that it provides students with face-to-face learning opportunities without any risk of being affected by the Corona Virus, is cheaper than regular conventional school, allows students to work autonomously and meets students’ needs. His idea aligned with Crystal (2020) that virtual class does not require any physical classroom to conduct teaching and learning activities similar to the conventional schools. Similarly, Ms C shared that online teaching saves teachers’ time and also makes them less formal as they do not need to go to school and college. Similar to Underhill’s idea (2020, April 19), she presumed that teachers can teach by sitting in the kitchen or lounge if they have virtual class facilities. Mr D shared that teaching virtually makes students psychologically free from their learning burden by creating a kind positive as well as a motivating learning environment.

ICT infrastructure for eLearning

Interviews with participants investigated the need to develop ICT infrastructure and to prepare the workforce for the implementation of online teaching and learning in Nepal. For example, Mr A emphasised electronic devices (laptop, smart-phone, etc.) and internet to initiate online learning mechanism. However, Ms B argued that both teachers and students’ physical, psychological and social aspects need to be considered before thinking about virtual classes. Mr C and Mr D focused on the peaceful and calm environment along with computer technology and internet facility to effectively conduct online teaching and learning activities. However, all the participants involved in interviews argued that teachers need to have minimum knowledge and skills of computer technology and be literate to teach on virtual classes.

I believe that Phillips’ (2020) suggestion to consider students’ learning needs, the content and purpose of the lesson, technology and pedagogy and access to technology need to considered to implement internet-based teaching and learning. Moreover, teacher preparation and infrastructure development are the basics of adopting eLearning mechanism in schools.

Challenges with online education

Various posts on social media indicate that schools in Nepal are capable of adopting eLearning mechanism. I have observed many webinars where many educators have highly emphasised the use of internet facilities where possible and some raised issues. I believe that Nepal at its current situation having limited ICT infrastructure in schools may be unable to holistically switch conventional physical classroom to online. Nepal, an underdeveloped country, where the majority of schools have a lack of ICT infrastructure (Poudel, 2020), the majority of people particularly in rural areas have limited or no internet access (Rana, 2020) and teachers have limited or no ICT skills and knowledge, cannot adopt eLearning overnight and may need another decade or so to equip schools with ICT infrastructure and teachers with ICT skills.

With the challenges of virtual classes in mind, my participants shared their challenges that they encountered when teaching in online classes. For example, Mr A shared the challenge of online class management because of untrained students. Similarly, Mr B shared students’ expectation of physical classroom more than virtual class. His experience reminded me of Johnson’s (2017) idea that the virtual classroom cannot replace traditional classroom where students can have natural life to engage them with their friends. Likewise, Ms C shared similar challenges, as she said, “Spoon may not replace someone’s hand. Although he can feed himself with spoon, he may not get satisfaction as of hand feeding (हातले खाने बानी भाको मान्छेलाई चम्चाले खानु पर्यो भने खान त खान्छन् र पेट पनि भर्छन तर सन्तुष्टि हुदैन ।)”. She indicated that an online class is not a replacement of the physical classroom. Although online class can be an alternative to physical school during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, it may not be effective to teach life skills. Moreover, Rana’s (2020) argument such as the majority of teachers and students are outside the range of broadband internet is one of the major challenges to implement eLearning in Nepal. However, teachers can utilise a few potential technologies like television and radio to deliver limited courses and engage students in possible projects.

Conclusion

With long interaction with the participants, I came to know that online/virtual classes can be a complement to the physical classroom and an alternative during COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are some challenges such as limited or no internet particularly in rural areas, lack of trained teachers and lack of digital devices in the majority of schools and families which prevent to switch to online teaching and learning. Although online learning has potential, it may take decades to realise it in the context of Nepal. It suggests that future researches may report how both teachers and students have experienced the use of available ICT tools in their teaching and learning activities and how many teachers and students having no such access have gone through this pandemic.

 

Hiralal Kapar, an M. Phil student at School of Education, Kathmandu University, is a teacher of English. Mr. Kapar believes on THIRST of education to be successful in the educational world.

References

Argenti, P. A. (2020, March 13). Communicating through the coronavirus Crisis. Harvard Business Review, Nicholas. https://hbr.org/2020/03/communicating-through-the-coronavirus-crisis.

Bakia, M., Shear, L., Toyama, Y., & Lasseter, A. (2012). Understanding the implications of online learning for educational productivity. U.S. Department of Education. Center for Technology in Learning SRI International, U.S.

Bates, T. (2005). Online learning tools and technologies Strategies for College and University Leaders San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Canada.

Crystal (2020). What’s new in the English language? IAREFL Global Get-Together Day 2. An Online Conference, UK. https://www.iatefl.org/iatefl-global-get-together-day-1

Johnson, A. (2017). Why virtual teaching will never ever replace classroom teaching. Study.com. https://study.com/blog/why-virtual-teaching-will-never-ever-replace-classroom-teaching.html

Phillips, M. (2020). 5 things teachers should consider when moving lessons online. Monash University. https://www.monash.edu/education/teachspace/articles/5-things-teachers-should-consider-when-moving-lessons-online

Poudel, T. (2020, April 20). Teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic: A reflection of a university professor in Nepal. ELT Chautari, Nepal. Vol. 12 (95). http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teaching-virtually-during-the-co vid-19-pandemic-a-reflection-of-a-university-professor-in-nepal/

Rana, K. (2020, April 20). E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/e-learning-is-only-a-means-but-not-a-replacement-of-physical-classroom-dr-rana/

Underhill, A. (2020, April 19). Kitchen table teaching; Affective teaching online. IAREFL Global Get-Together Day 2. An online Conference, UK. https://www.iatefl.org/iatefl-global-get-together-day-2

Worldometer (2020, April 6). Countries where COVID-19 has spread. Worldmeter Web. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/countries-where-coronavirus-has-spread/

 

Cite as: Kapar, H. (2020, July). Online class amidst COVID-19 Lockdown. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/online-class-amidst-covid-19-lockdown/

Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions?

Manish Thapa

Introduction

With time and evolution of structures, the teaching practices and classroom set-up have also evolved. Internet facilities have been widely adopted in educational practices across the world. With the evolution of internet and communication technologies, distance learning is now the widely discussed subject among academic institutions and policymakers (Traxler, 2018). Many academic institutions across the world have been conducting full-fledged certified degree programmes from distance learning modality (Owusu-Boampong & Holmberg, 2015). There are millions of people, who study through YouTube videos and short term (credited/non-credited and certified/non-certified) courses at different online course platforms such as Coursera, edX and so on. Owusu-Boampong and Holmberg (2015) reported that over three million interested people every month visit Studyportals, a platform to do distance courses available there. Many new students hit several websites in search of online courses to pursue higher education.

Technologies have been widely used to deliver course contents, for instance, broadcasting through television and radios, video conferencing through apps such as Skype, Zoom, Viber, Google Meet, and so on, sharing of educational materials through e-mail and having discussions through online based forums have been widely adopted. In developed countries where they have minimum ICT infrastructure, distance learning has been officially recognised and widely adopted. However, in the case of least developed countries like Nepal, there lies the question: “Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions?”

History of distance learning in Nepal

Nepali education setting has been dominated by the face-to-face teaching-learning system. Historically, it was limited to Gurukul (teacher’s home or temple), Gumba (managed by the Buddhist community) and Madarasa (managed by Muslim community) (Pangeni, 2016). Formal education was started after the establishment of Durbar School in 1853 (Sapkota, 2012). In 1978, His Majesty’s Ministry of Education launched Radio Education Teacher Training Programme (RETTP), a quarter of the whole ten month primary teacher training, to develop teachers’ professional skills.

The tenth Five-Year National Development Plan (2002-2007) introduced distance learning in the education sector and highlighted the need for the open university to broaden access to higher education. The Government of Nepal formulated Open Education and Distance Learning (OEDL) policy 2007. OEDL policy helped formalise distance learning programmes and establish educational institutions for distance learning. Establishment of Open University was further stressed out by Three-year Interim Plan (2007-2010). Since then, Open and Distance Education Center (ODEC), International Centre for Academics, College of Professional Studies, British Council Nepal, and College of Distance Education and Online Studies (CDEOS) have been providing distance learning courses. Nepal Open University (NOU), a recently established university, offers a wide range of online courses and follows both synchronous and asynchronous modes of course delivery. Likewise, Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University (KU) have been offering certain online courses since 2011. The progress rate and expansion of full-fledged distance learning have been somewhat limited due to lack of smooth electricity supply and internet with high bandwidth, the poor economic condition of a large population, lack of distance learning-friendly curriculum at universities and lack of trained human resources (Pangeni, 2016). However, distance learning has benefitted particularly employed people.

Adoption of distance learning during COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the potentiality of distance learning in Nepali academic institutions has been one of the widely discussed issues. Education sector similar to other fields is affected by COVID-19 as academic institutions are forced to shut down. However, several efforts have been made by various institutions to minimise the impact of the crisis on education. National TVs and radios continued their SEE-related tuition classes as usual. Academic institutions such as Ace College and Kathmandu University started to teach courses on Zoom classes. Being one of the students at Kathmandu University, I have experienced how distance learning can be productive and intimidating.

Distance learning was a completely new experience for me before my enrolment to M. Phil at Kathmandu University. Before COVID-19 lockdown, I had completed 30+ non-credit short courses through online platforms. Those non-credit short courses were completely different from any academic course. Short courses on an online platform are more about self-paced learning with flexibility in learning hours, tests, and assignment submission (if any) by learning through reading texts, listening to audios and watching visuals. Meanwhile, the academic course through distance learning is somewhat similar to classroom modality in terms of timing, assignment deadlines, course contents and teaching-learning modality. Moreover, it is launched as an alternative to regular classes for which there may or may not be any supporting classes once lock-down ends and the university will be able to resume face-to-face mode of learning. I am, therefore, curious to know how physical classroom teaching will be resumed. By the end of the lockdown, most of the courses may be completed. For me, distance learning has been more useful and efficient than traditional classroom modality as I can stay home and study my courses. However, the experience of distance learning differs depending on the nature of courses, students’ interest in studying online and also the state of internet connection.

Increases adaptability to technologies and increase digital literacy

Distance Learning itself is carried out through the optimum use of available technologies. In the current scenario, some schools and academic institutions have adopted information and communication and technological (ICT) tools to conduct teaching and learning activities. However, it has been limited and mostly relied on the availability of resources such as internet facilities and digital technologies.  I believe such practices of ICT tools increases digital literacy and skills. During COVID-19 pandemic, some of the schools from urban areas have initiated distance learning.

The major difference, I found in distance learning is about the use of teaching-learning materials. In regular classroom teaching, instructors mostly use limited resource materials such as markers, whiteboards and textbooks/notes with occasional use of PowerPoint and visuals. Distance learning modality widens the use of resource materials and teaching-learning materials. For instance, an instructor can easily instruct through visuals and animations available in visual streaming sites (YouTube) and guide through a wider range of published texts with examples to clarify the concepts. I noticed an instructor can easily shift from one PowerPoint to another and link contents from one chapter or theme to another with examples to help students understand the concept. Distance learning also provides students with an opportunity to perform multiple tasks at the same time. While listening to the instructor, students can search for wider arrays of learning materials to understand the taught concepts. Upon any confusion even after going through learning materials, students can inquire with their instructor to get issues clarified.

Distance learning in post-COVID-19 scenario

Looking at the prospect of applicability of distance learning among Nepali academic setting in the current situation, it seems challenging. Although the use of internet facilities may allow learners to learn from their place, limited or no access to such facilities particularly in remote villages is the major concern to develop distance or online learning in Nepal. However, the underlying opportunities and lessons gained through COVID-19 pandemic should not be neglected in a rapidly growing education culture. Experience of distance learning has helped academic institutions and policymakers find the difference between a face-to-face physical class and technology-based distance classes. Discussing on wider opportunities of distance learning, academic institutions should introduce academic courses through online mode. Many employed enthusiasts who would like to achieve a higher qualification can study from their place.

With the experience of distance classes and having brief insights about its positive and negative consequences, I passionately believe that the current courses focused on theories and lectures can be operated through distance mode too. Meanwhile, academic institutions can either revise the existing course or develop a new course for distance learning. I believe that distance learning can complement conventional physical classroom teaching.

 

Manish Thapa is an M. Phil student at School of Education, Kathmandu University. He has over seven years of experiences on research and knowledge management at I/NGOs. His professional interests include research and advocacy through professional and loose networks focused on community development issues.

References

Owusu-Boampong, A. & Holmberg, C. (2015). Distance Education in European Higher Education – the Potential. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, International Council for Open and Distance Education

Pangeni, K. S. (2016). Open and Distance Learning: Cultural Practices in Nepal. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning. Vol. 19. No. 2. https://doi.org/101515/eurodl-2016-0006

Sapkota, S. (2012, September). Teacher Education through Distance Mode: The Nepalese Experience. Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology. The Open University, UK

Traxler, J. (2017, December 30). Distance Learning- Predictions and Possibilities. Education Sciences. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8010035

 

Cite as: Thapa, M. (2020, July). Can distance learning be widely adopted at academic institutions? http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/can-distance-learning-be-widely-adopted-at-academic-institutions/

Significance of parents’ involvement in children’s learning in crisis and ever

Babita Sharma Chapagain
Introduction

“Children learn what they live”. It is one of my favourite poems written by Dorothy Law Nolte. Throughout my 15 years of work in education field in Nepal, this poem always reminds me of my ongoing quest, which is to understand what children should experience at home. Facilitating children’s learning at home and empowering parents to support in their children’s learning is proved to be more important at the moment where the schools are closed. Therefore, this article offers some practical ways to bridge the gap between what theoretical knowledge children acquire inside four walls of the classrooms and what experiential learning opportunities parents can offer at home. It discusses the importance of educating parents regarding how they can contribute to their children’s learning at home and school.

Importance of parent education: My reflection

Academic achievement of a child in Nepal is mostly based on theoretical knowledge. However, some exceptional schools provide students with good environment and ample opportunities for experiential learning. In any case, schools alone cannot help individuals achieve success in life. As a teacher educator, I have visited more than twenty districts across Nepal where I got opportunities to work with various primary and secondary schools. During my visit, I was interested to explore the relationship between parents and schools, and parents involvement in their children’s learning. Most school communities understood that parents involvement means forming a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that holds meetings sometimes only to have general discussions regarding students’ assignments, stationary, school infrastructure and so on. It was disheartening to notice that most of the schools did not pay any attention to the fact that parents can play an important role contributing to their children’s learning and overall growth at home and at school and learning can go beyond school boundary. All parents including those who are illiterate can be trained to be the ideal contributor.

While working for Rato Bangala Foundation some years ago, I was involved in a five-year long child-centred teacher training programme implemented in around six hundred schools in far- western Nepal. At the end of the project, we visited many cluster schools for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Many teachers in those schools expressed their concerns that it was challenging to improve children’s learning outcomes without the parents’ support. They reported that the children who were irregular at school were either busy in household chores, for example looking after their siblings, or working in the field. There were times when students stayed absent for a week or more even on occasions such as a distant relative’s wedding or a minor ritual in their neighbourhood. The teachers further complaint that many parents did not care about their children’s dress up, regular diet, health and hygiene. To our surprise, some children, especially girls, even used to bring their younger siblings to their classrooms to look, which would distract the whole class. What a teacher shared with me about a parent’s view, still hovers around my mind, “What’s the significance of sending my child to school? He can rather be a helping hand at home!” It was evident that many parents were illiterate and immature for good parenting and taking responsibilities of their children. That trend of parents to be irresponsible was not just because of poverty, child marriage, family break ups and lack of education but mainly because it sadly became part of the community culture. An important lesson learnt from that experience was that parents education and involvement in children’s learning plays a vital role in the learning achievement of children. In response to the findings of the monitoring and evaluation process, our organization then began to work intensively to run series of workshops for educating parents. To the best of my knowledge, there is a limited attention paid to educating parents to support Nepal government’s initiation of parent involvement and I feel proud to be a part of that movement.

In yet another experience, while working for an organization, we managed to incorporate parent education as a component in our training programme run in a mountainous district in the eastern region. I found it challenging to motivate headteachers and teachers to spare time to run workshops for parents on good parenting and involving parents in their children’s learning. However, once we did start working with parents, we were amazed to see the result. Parents easily accepted the change and happily began to participate in various school activities. For example, some parents visited their child’s classroom and shared the skills they knew. They set up a trend to read with their children at home and even those parents who could not read began to listen to their children reading to them or have meaningful interactions with them. It was a successful practice that helped to improve the parents’ relationship with the schools. Consequently, children began to take library books back home regularly, fill in the reading logs, try bringing healthy snacks to school, and most importantly they began to look quite clean, happy, and cheerful. Moreover, they looked very proud when their parents made an effort to visit their classrooms and shared any of their life skills ranging from the skill of brewing tea to kitchen gardening.

Parents’ contribution at home while schools remain closed

Finally, building upon my learning about the significance of parents’ involvement in children’s education and addressing to the current scenario of school closure due to the pandemic, our team have developed a set of guidelines for parents for our partner schools. Here, I have briefly shared some of the steps that I think parents can take away to guide their children:

Raising awareness about ecology: Parents can explain with an example, how human actions affect the environment and living organisms around them giving an example how throwing rubbish in a clean river can pollute water and poison fish which in turn can lead to various diseases such as cancer, when consumed. They should teach children how they can contribute to save mother earth from home by engaging them in the process of:

  • practicing to reduce wastage
  • making compost from food waste, and planting trees and flowers
  • recycling, reusing or reducing plastics
  • loving and caring animals in their surrounding

Boosting a child’s social skills: These tips can help parents to develop the social skills in their children. Therefore, parents can be requested to;

  • Spend about 15 minutes of quality time with their kids, telling them stories and biographies, reading aloud and trying  to use good words at home learning to teach new words.
  • Try to interact with their children in their mother tongue.
  • Always listen to their child and acknowledge what he/she has to say.
  • Showcase good social behaviour such as showing respect and speaking politely to others as the children are good at imitating us.

Raising physical awareness: Parents can follow these simple instructions to help their children achieve overall physical wellness:

  • Prepare healthy food as much as possible for children avoiding regular junk food. A balanced diet is important for wellness.
  • Teach them good personal hygiene such as washing hands regularly using soap, brushing teeth, wearing clean clothes, and keeping nails trimmed.
  • Teach them basic movement skills such as catching, hitting, jumping, throwing, and running. They can actively play games with their children and make them practice focusing more on participation and enjoyment rather than winning.

Help children grow spiritually and emotionally: Parents can focus on these tips to attain proper spiritual and emotional growth:

  • Spend some quiet time with their children in nature and meditate with them.
  • Teach them to express love and gratitude to nature and the community.
  • Demonstrate how to solve issues without becoming violent and teach that we should control our emotions.
  • Teach them various acts from a young age such as making their bed after waking up, thanking someone for their kindness or service. This is to help them develop good habits for their future.

Parents should always try and identify their child’s strengths, abilities and interests in particular areas of learning, i.e. sports, music, arts, language, nature, mathematics, society, culture, and so on. Also, they can work with the people in the community to improvise their daily activities to incorporate in their child’s learning when needed. One can always consult elderly people from their community how various skills, culture, and traditions were passed being transferred from their ancestors and see how they can adapt the ideas to their teaching.

Conclusion

The present havoc created by pandemic and the closure of educational institutions around the world has compelled us to redesign the school-centred teaching learning and institutionalize the role of parents particularly in facilitating children’s learning at home. The joint effort of schools and parents will definitely produce better learning outcomes of the children. Therefore, it is a prime time to work on parents education so that children can get better academic support at home too. Moreover, the aware parents can also equip their children with important life skills, which can help them to fit well in this century. Although these aspects are addressed across the school curriculum, in the present context, children’s learning inside the classrooms is not connected with what they experience at home. The educators, on the other hand, should create and make a meaningful connection between teaching learning in the classroom and activities at home. Likewise, apart from contributing at home, parents’ regular participation in the school programmes is very crucial and they should be encouraged to spare some participating in the schools events, interaction and activities. Parents are the best educators who can provide their children with an opportunity to learn by experiencing above mentioned fundamental skills.

 

Babita Sharma Chapagain is associated with Integrative Education Research and Recreation Centre and also works part time in Himalayan Trust Nepal. She earned her MA in ELT from Kathmandu University and completed another degree from the University of Warwick as a Hornby Scholar. She is interested to work in the areas of classroom based research and integrated education.

Cite as: Chapagain, B. S. (2020, July). Significance of parents’ involvement in children’s learning in crisis and ever. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/significance-of-parents-involvement-in-childrens-learning-in-crisis-and-ever/

Welcome to Pandemic Pedagogy Special Issue- Second Quarterly Issue (April-June), 2020, 12(95)

How is everything there? How is your lifestyle in isolation? Not easy, is it? We have been in a halt and despair from the last couple of weeks, especially due to the spread of Corona Virus. It has really affected all walks of our lives in general and education in particular. We have not been able to normally accomplish our daily activities. We have been mentally pressured, physically idle and psychologically awkward due to the lock-down. However, we have been trying to settle down ourselves and continue our discontinued activities virtually.

In this issue, we have collected the reflections of the academics to explore the various practices of online-based teaching and learning. We have also amalgamated some specific tips for teachers of the 21st century to let them know more about digital literacy and using ICT tools to enhance their knowledge and skills required in a virtual classroom in one side and teacher-led professional development on the other. We have tried our best to envisage and offer the possible options from Face-to-Face mode of delivery to virtual ones. Moreover, we as teacher-educators, believe that we need to be able to tackle the problem of our students timely pertaining to 21st-century skills for quality education.

Education is not meant to be limited within the four walls of the classroom rather we should let it go beyond the formal setting. We should always think of the possible alternatives of the physical classroom for expanding the cognitive horizon of our students because teaching-learning can have good going with virtual mode as well. Thus, we are yet to analyse how online classes and resources could serve the purpose in the digitally savvy era of the 21st century to enhance the personal growth of the students and the professional development of the teachers. With the global call for social distancing resulting in the closure of educational institutions, there has been a discourse of how to best use the technology to deliver education in distance mode. The time has come and we have realised the essence of the virtual mode of delivery and it is not just to replace the traditional practice but to initiate the innovative global spectrum of education invited by technology and globalisation for the succinct enhancement of e/resources. The more we bring innovation in our teaching-learning process, the better our activities and learning becomes. Thus, teachers can utilise several social media platform to design and implement online classes for promoting contextually relevant resource materials. In this situation, the government has to initiate and research for the best choices to impart education via this virtual mode to tackle the situation created by COVID-19 pandemic such initiation can be a paramount option for the practice of online-based classes in the days to come in Nepal. In doing so, we teachers need to be supportive and updated.

Journeying for the 12 years, we have tried our best to screen our invaluable papers via the single-blinded peer review process. We have also initiated inviting one of the scholars from academia to share via the interview session. ELT Choutari has pertinently served to disseminate diverse local and global context replicating our ELT situation in Nepal and contextually relevant knowledge to reach into a global context and vice-versa to contribute to the wider readership. At Choutari, we explore the innovative practices made by teachers teaching at different levels on a thematic basis and provide a huge platform for the novice/expert practitioners to read, write and publish their papers to overcome the situation.

As you know, we always think, ink and link our innovative ideas and personal experiences into our classroom practice for the overall development of our students. In this April 2020 issue, we focus on COVID-19 pandemic pedagogy in general and some other relevant and strategic tips to enhance professionalism via ICT tools and digital asset in particular. We have included teachers’ reflections, online-based pedagogical practices, and experts’ perspectives and practices about the virtual classroom.

In this pandemic issue, Tikaram Poudel, Assistant Professor at, Kathmandu University reflects his experience of shifting his academic activities from face –to- face mode of delivery to a virtual one exemplifying some online-based tools to initiate online classes such as MOODLE Portal, Google Meet, etc.

In the second post, Ashok Sapkota, a faculty in the Department of English Education, Kirtipur, TU, depicts the need and awareness of ICT preparatory tools and their ways out for online-based teaching process in English language education.

In the third post, Jeevan Karki, a teacher trainer, researcher and writer hints some specific measures for professional development via teacher-led professional development (TLPD) in virtual route. Concerning his experience, the actual teachers who led such professional development activities are far better than the outside experts of TPD because these teachers know their students, content and context better.

Likewise, in another blog post, Puskar Chaudhary, an M. Phil practitioner at Kathmandu University, discusses digital literacy and its implementable assets. He also highlights the technocratic knowledge and expertise of a teacher to cope up with classroom challenges.

In another post, Dipak Prasad Mishra, an M. Phil practitioner at Kathmandu University, revisits his personal experiences and brings his lived learning experiences despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He also discusses the opportunities and challenges of the virtual mode of learning and teaching.

Likewise, in another post, Dhansingh Dhami, a master graduate at Kailai Multiple Campus, elucidates his nostalgia replicating Ramayana and its mythical social distancing and its closer lens to the current pandemic which is useful for brainstorming to foster our intuitive knowledge.

And last but not the least, we have also presented an exclusive interview with Dr Karna Rana, an academic coordinator at Open University, who provides insightful input for online classes, and resources to facilitate students and its possibilities at present and future in Nepal.

Here are the list of posts for you to explore:

  1. Teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic – A reflection of a university professor – Tikaram Poudel, PhD
  2. E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom – Karna Rana, PhD
    3. Teacher-led professional development in crisis and ever – Jeevan Karki
  3. Awareness of ICT tools: Micro-management and way forward – Ashok Sapkota
  4. Perceptions on digital literacies and implementation practices: Perspectives of English teachers – Puskar Chaudhary
    6. Lockdown, social distancing and isolation in Ramayan: An overview – Bhan Singh Dhami
    7. Unstoppable learning despite the COVID-19 lockdown – Dipak Prasad Mishra

Finally, I would like to thank ELT Choutari entire team in general and Dr Karna Rana, Jeevan Karki, Babita Sharma Chapagain, and Mohan Singh Saud in particular for their rigorous effort in reviewing and editing the blog pieces. We are excited to announce you about the expansion of our team of reviewers to further enhance the quality of content on Choutari. Join me to welcome Sagar Poudel, Ekraj Koirala, Nanibabu Ghimire, Jnanu Raj Poudel and Karuna Nepal, the energetic members with robust experiences in teaching-learning and reading-writing. Let me thank them for their support and rigorous review of the papers starting from this issue.

On behalf of ELT Choutari Team, I would like to offer this ‘Pandemic Pedagogy’ special issue and thank all the invaluable contributors of the issue. If you are thinking of writing and publishing, we are always open to create give you space here. Share your write-up with us at 2elt.choutari@gmail.com.
Thanking you once again for your continued readership, professional support, and volunteering enthusiasm to work with us collaboratively. If you enjoy reading the write-ups, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments too.

Happy Reading!

Ganesh Kumar Bastola
Lead editor of the issue

Teaching virtually in COVID-19 pandemic: A reflection of a university professor

Tikaram Poudel, PhD

Introduction

In this write-up, I reflect on my experience of shifting my academic activities from office to home, and from a face-to-face mode of delivery to a virtual one. When the Government of Nepal announced a complete lockdown on 23 March 2020 to prevent the people from the spread of Corona virus infection (Pradhan, 2020), all my academic activities came to a standstill. I am teaching three courses this semester; working as a member of the editorial board for Journal of Education and Research; supervising dissertations of Master of Philosophy students; and performing other administrative duties mostly related to the University Grants Commission, Nepal and my institution. A sudden change from free and independent being on the 23rd of March to a captive like one on the 24th of March with the inception of lockdown completely changed my physical as well as mental activities. Like all my fellow human beings across the globe, I also started living with unknown fear and anxiety.

We are locked down. The streets are deserted. Departmental stores are closed. A few corner shops are still open. People rush to these shops. Everyone has a long list to buy. People buy rice, pulses, flour, etc. Everyone standing there is not sure to get what he/she wants. Stocks are running out. It has been about a week since we had our vegetables. Everyone is masked. You do not recognize even your neighbour. People do not talk to each other. They have forgotten to smile. Everybody is in a hurry. Uncertainty is there. I remembered the medicines. I had to procure essential medicines. I rushed to the hospital pharmacy. I sanitized my hands. I showed the prescription to the pharmacist; he had a snap of it with the camera of his mobile phone. He showed me the amount in his calculator. I asked for the usual 10% discount on life-saving medicines. He looked at me as if I just arrived from the Mars.

Lockdown completely affected my daily activities. I began to wake up late. I changed the way of life. I gradually got adjusted to the lockdown style. I revived regular television watching after fifteen years. Watching television became my everyday routine. The harrowing news of Italy, Spain often terrified me. The focus gradually shifted to the USA, not because the situation in Italy and Spain were improving but because the conditions in the USA were getting worse with the 45000 + death tolls. I do not know much about this virus; I am not a medical professional. I am now familiar with COVID-19 Pandemic vocabulary like ‘social distancing’, ‘washing hands’, ‘flattening the curve’, ‘quarantine’ , ‘isolation’, etc. and many dos and don’ts. While writing this, many more people are being infected and more are dying. I do not know how many more will get infected and lose their life by the time I conclude this write up.

In a situation like this, along with my university colleagues, I decided to go for online classes. I am concerned with how we teachers are adjusting to new environment posed by this virus shifting our mode of delivery from face-to-face mode to ‘hopping online’ to use Tse’s term (Tse, 2020). This is the time we are passing through. Although lockdown was implemented from 24th of March 2020, regular university activities got affected from the third week of March. We stopped thumb signature and started signing attendance in a register. The canteen was almost empty. We already started getting terrifying news of deadly virus. The Government asked to close everything but essential services. Our university closed regular face-to-face classes. And the news from across the globe became scary the week before the lockdown. We sensed the situation would get worse. Some of my colleagues tested online classes and we shared our experience with each other in a virtual meeting through https://meet.google.com/_meet on Saturday afternoon. After sharing the experience of test classes, we decided to continue the classes online.

Moving from face-to-face to ‘hopping online’ delivery mode

Teaching online has not been completely new for me. My training as a linguist and, particularly using computer software for analyzing linguistic data, taught me handle the situations of teaching online with minimum of adjustment. I have been teaching students through both face-to-face and online and distance learning (ODL) modes for five years now. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, my university used the MOODLE portal for the delivery of ODL mode; the learning materials were uploaded and the students used the materials wherever they were. The MOODLE has limitations; mostly its activities are asynchronous i.e., the students do not meet the teacher in the same time. Teachers rarely have direct discussion with the students. In our context, the students who were delivered through MOODLE hardly completed the courses. All my courses were uploaded on the MOODLE portal but students rarely visited them. However, I was planning something different from the MOODLE. I had my first online class with Masters of English Language Teaching students. This semester I am teaching the course Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis. My usual face-to-face class begins with the presentation from one of the students. Each student is assigned a particular topic to present to the class on the very first day of session. We were still learning all the features of https://meet.google.com/_meet and my student presented her paper without sharing to everyone. However, she did well.

My experience of teaching students through ODL mode informed me that students are more expressive in online mode than in face-to-face mode. However, the challenge is to provide opportunity to speak to each student. Therefore, I tried to ensure everyone participate in the discussion as much as possible. For 22nd March 2020, I planned to teach Speech Event, a topic closely related to Speech Act Theory (Austin, 1962), the topic I took up previous week. The first thing that I had to do was to prepare my students to recapitulate what we discussed the week before. I shared the PowerPoint slides and asked them to concentrate on two sentences there:
I christen this ship the Joseph Stalin;
I now pronounce you man and wife.

I asked them to do two things with these sentences; first change the tense of the verb into past and change the subject from first person singular to second or third person. After that I asked each of them to observe the effect on semantics. Unmuting the microphone button in meet.google, my students shared that changing the verbs into past tense and replacing the subject with second or third person would have completely different effect. Recollecting the class previous week, they also shared that ‘christen’ acts as ‘naming’ and ‘pronounce’ acts as ‘giving the bride and groom the status of husband and wife’. I told them that verbs like ‘christen’ and ‘declare’ not only say something but also refer to certain kinds of acts and such verbs are called ‘performatives’ (Austin, 1962).
After sharing their first ever-online learning experience, I asked them to identify appropriate context for each of the sentences. After a while, they came up the ideas that the appropriate context for the sentence could be; the ship is manufactured and yet to make her maiden voyage, a respectable person like mayor of the city or owner of the company is giving the name to the ship in a special function.

The appropriate context for the second sentence is: a wedding ceremony is taking place in a church and, most probably, the priest declares the bride and the groom as man and wife. These contexts refer to speech events in which individual speech acts perform various functions. In this way, in our almost two-hour class, my students analyzed several conversations between a doctor and a patient in a hospital, between a waiter and a customer in a restaurant and between a host and a guest at dinner in former’s house. Finally, each of them reflected their experience on the first ever-online class. One of them said that she lost her internet connection for a while and lost some of strands of the discussion. Others expressed they were excited as they found it very much similar to face-to-face mode of delivery. On 31 March, I had second online class with these students and we all were more equipped than before.

On 24th of March 2020, I met with third semester students of MPhil in English Language Education at five in the afternoon. I have been teaching a course on Contemporary Thoughts on English Language Education this semester. From my experience with master students, I understood that my presentation needs to be redesigned to fit in online mode of delivery. Unlike in face-to-face mode, each student is not seen on the screen, getting engaged throughout the class time is a big challenge in an online class. I redesigned my teaching items. As we competed the Module one that discussed the theoretical aspects of Post-Colonialism through face-to-face to mode, Module two was to apply the theoretical insights of Post-Colonialism to English studies. I started the class with three questions:
How many varieties of English can you think of? Can you name a few?
What particular variety of English do you speak?

What variety or varieties do you think should be considered “proper” and “correct”?
I asked them to ponder over five minutes; after five minutes I asked them to speak one minute each on any one of the questions. This made me assured that everyone is connected and participates in the discussion. I intended two major areas to cover that day: the spread of English over the ages and the concentric circles of Kacharu (Kacharu, 1985). When each of them spoke, I asked them to mute the microphone as the background noise caused disturbances. Then we discussed the spread of English in four phases: within the geographical region of present United Kingdom; America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where majority of people speak English as first language; in the third phase, after the 17th century onwards English speakers took English to their colonies where a large number of people speak English as an additional language; and , the fourth phase, English spread because of technology, globalization and education to the countries that English speaking people never colonized. Most of the interactions concentrated the discussion on the phase III and phase IV because these two phases had direct link to our discussion on Post-Colonialism. Students enthusiastically participated in the discussion on the impact of English in our education and socio-cultural life.

Majority of the students were aware of concentric circles of Kacharu. They initiated the discussion and I intervened only when there were digressions. When the fundamental concept of Kacharu’s notion was established, I gave them ten minutes to find out three advantages and disadvantages of Kacharu’s circles in the study of varieties of English like English in Nepal. In these ten minutes they googled, discussed with each other and came up with ideas to discuss with the class. Each of them got two minutes to talk share their ideas. In this way class ended.

I spent an entire week teaching the second module of the course Trends in Applied Linguistics to the students of MPhil in English Language Education doing through block mode. The lessons were redesigned to fit in two hour teaching/ discussion sessions and one hour student’s presentation.

Students’ response on ‘hopping online’ delivery mode

Students have mixed reactions on the online classes that I have been delivering so far. In an unanimous voice, my students take these online classes very useful considering the difficult situation that the Pandemic has created. Many of them are happy that shifting to ‘hopping online’ mode of delivery saves them maintain the academic calendar without losing the academic year. Some of them took the online classes as ‘exciting’ as they are getting familiarized with the technology and enhancing ‘the virtual communication skills’. These online classes keep them ‘in track’; provide opportunities for ‘uninterrupted learning’; they are ‘as effective as face-to-face classes’; and they are ‘wonderful’ and ‘energizing’.

On the other hand, these online classes also have other side of the coin. One frequent issue that students encounter is the intermittent internet connections. Many of them get lost because very often they get disconnected to the internet and lose the flow of discussion. One of the students felt that discussing something serious without feeling the presence of the interlocutor puts him in an awkward situation. Getting used to new mode of learning from face-to-face to complete online mode needs to make them accept psychologically. They are tuned to learning in front of teachers and peers in the physical classroom and sudden shift to ‘hopping online’ mode of delivery causes them to ‘get distracted’, and these distractions lead to ‘mess up assignment’ and online mode offers ‘limited opportunities for interaction’ i.e., online classes means ‘reduced interactions’. One of the greatest disadvantages of online classes is to miss the original charm of meeting teachers and peers, the process of socialization and feeling the physical presence of someone when we are engaged in academic discussion.

In spite of these issues, reflecting on their experience on online classes, they consider these online classes are best possible options for the current situation. They also believe that they will overcome the trauma, anxiety and unknown fear and psychological state will accept the condition leading to more active learning. One of my students says that he finds difficult to concentrate on the topic while attending online classes but he thinks as time passes his nerves will align with the tune of the situation.

Conclusion

These online classes taught me several things. The way I used to get prepared for a face-to-face class is not sufficient and many things of my face-to-face class are completely irrelevant in an online class. I prepared my online classes, tested several times and reached my students. I also realized that using videos or other forms of materials require to ensure whether the tool supports these materials. Shifting from one tool to another always creates a havoc and we end up in a mess. The usual way of going to the class with a reading material and make the students read and discuss simply does not work in an online class; teachers have no way to monitor the active participation of students in the activity. In this particular area, I would love to listen from the experience of colleagues.

In these two weeks of intensive online teaching, my interactions with my students made me realize that, as a teacher, I learnt from the collective conversation with my students. To be honest, I have learned more from my students than I have taught. The questions, comments, critiques and insights of my students reshaped and challenged my academic position and such activities contributed to knowledge building. This shift to online mode has almost killed these opportunities; it may have new offers but it is too early to realize.

I deeply distressed with the ideas of some paranoids that post-corona era is the era of the death of physical classrooms and an era of revolution in online classrooms. I do not expect such radical changes in our educational system because physical contact is equally important, not only for education, but also for living. At this difficult juncture of life, I went for online because I, as a teacher, have to facilitate my students to the maximum and I did not have any other better option than going online. In the present state, I agree with young lawyer of Anton Chekhov’s story ‘The Bet’ ‘It’s better to live somehow than not to live at all’(Chekhov, 2015).

[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

[To cite it: Poudel, T. (2020, April 20). Teaching virtually in COVID-19 pandemic: A reflection of a university professor. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teaching-virtually-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-a-reflection-of-a-university-professor-in-nepal/]

The Author: Educated in India, Nepal and Germany, Dr Tikaram Poudel currently teaches at the Department of Language Education, School of Education Kathmandu University, Nepal. Dr Poudel is well-known for his studies on morpho-syntax and semantics of case, tense, aspect and field linguistics of South Asian languages. His studies on the interface between ergativity and individual level predication, cumulative and separative morphology and affix suspension have been well received. Recently, Dr Poudel has been concentrating on the socio-cultural impact of English on contemporary Nepalese society. 

References
Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Chekhov, A. (2015). The bet and other stories. (S. Koteliansky, & J. M. Murry, Trans.) Boston: John W. Luce & Co.
Kacharu, B. B. (1985). Standards, codification, and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk, & H. Widdowson, English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and the literature (pp. 11-30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pradhan, T. R. (2020, March 23). Nepal goes under lockdown for a week starting 6 am Tuesday. Kathmandu. Retrieved April 7, 2020, from https://kathmandupost.com
Tse, J. (2020, March 19). Letter to students past and present. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/42264494: https://www.academia.edu

E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom – Dr. Rana

Karna Rana, PhD

Dr. Karna Rana is an Academic Coordinator [MPhil in English] at Open University Nepal and Lecturer of English at Gramin Adarsha Multiple Campus. Dr Rana facilitates teacher training for teachers and students in and about online classes and resources. He earned his PhD degree in ICT in Education at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He did an MA in Education (E-based learning; Inclusive education; Managing teaching and learning; Research Methodology), from the University of Bedfordshire, UK. He is one of the members of the editorial board of ELT Chourati. He has authored and co-authored several academic papers and research articles nationally and internationally. He has launched different online-based training and workshop to contribute to Nepal’s ICT enhancement procedure. His interest areas include ICT in education, digital literacy, research and education.

Our Choutari editor, Ganesh Kumar Bastola, has talked to Dr Rana about COVID-19, pandemic pedagogy and its impact in and around Nepal specifically in education and explored some useful strategies to enhance online classes and resources during pandemic. Now, here is the exclusive interview for you.

1. What can be the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in our education system?

Well, if we review the history of educational development and the impact of such crisis like World War I and II on social transformation, the rise of industrial education value dominated neo-classical education value and it gradually resulted in capitalism. Before these wars, work efficiency used to be valued more than what education qualification someone had. The current industrial education system that came out of British and American neoliberal ideologies seems to be outdated as it is eventually failing to fix issues of this crisis. If the pandemic continues throughout this year, the world will be in an economic and humanitarian crisis. Many schools and universities will be shut down. Nepal will also experience it if the situation lasts long.

2. Since the educational institutions are shut down and the ‘face-to-face’ mode is put to halt. What can be the alternatives to reach students, especially school students in this crisis?

Since the world is in lockdown, several universities and schools mostly in developed countries have switched their traditional physical classrooms to online classes or distance learning mode. Unfortunately, the majority of schools and universities might not be prepared for it. Let’s observe the context of Nepal. Except for Nepal Open University, an online university, all other universities are not fully prepared to go online. It is unlikely to move schools to online in this situation as the majority of people live outside the range of broadband internet. However, we can utilise a few potential technologies like television and radio to deliver limited courses and engage students in possible projects.

3. How can we ensure and track the learning of school students if we adopt alternatives to educate them?

Let me share how schools before 2028 BS used to educate children in villages. Even the government did not know the number of schools across Nepal but these schools had their own curriculum to meet individual as well as social needs. The majority of schools particularly primary ones were never connected with the national examination system but they were efficient to educate millions of children. It does not mean to revive the system but we can explore such efficient local schooling ideas to make schools resilient and self-efficient. That was the time when there were few literate members of the community, but now we have educated or at least literate family members who can be teachers of their children. We have municipalities to follow micro strategies to engage teachers and students from their home. Probably flexible curriculum may provide schools with opportunities for developing own learning programmes, learning materials and outcomes. Of course, national education policy can provide them guidelines to maintain the education standard. Municipalities can be a focal point to manage local resources like teacher trainers, experts, teachers, learning materials and other essential materials. The wise use of ICT in education may develop our schools and education for the growing generation. FM radios and local televisions can be utilised to reach out children and their parents can be engaged with them. In cities and towns, internet facilities can be more productive. There may be challenges for ICT illiterate teachers to gather digital content and materials for teaching and learning but they can be shortly trained through radio or television to use smart mobile or personal computer to explore online materials.

4. What are the differences between online teaching-learning materials and face-to-face teaching-learning materials? As the academic session is going to kick off soon, how can we use the existing materials and resources for teaching via online, radio, TV or so on?

Teachers can bring some laboratory works and concrete materials in the traditional physical classroom but digital learning materials can be animated or real videos, audios and audio-visual. For many learners, online materials can be more productive than what they can read in library books. Unfortunately, such online materials cannot be shared without the internet. As I said earlier, the Education Unit at municipalities can look for ICT experts across the country to train local teachers on how to use digital devices and digital materials in teaching and learning. At least local authorities can train few teachers to plan and deliver lessons on TV lively and even students can be allowed to talk to the teacher over phone. It can go live on the radio too. By listening to the radio, students can work with pen and paper. In cities and towns, teachers and students can be shortly trained to use free apps like Skype, Messenger and Viber, and to communicate through emails. Teachers can utilise these free apps and emails to share learning materials and go to live interaction. Teachers need to have minimum ICT skills to operate these technologies. Unfortunately for many teachers, these advanced technologies may be intimidating. In that case, local teachers can be allowed to choose local learning materials for students. It can develop local autonomy and students’ independent skills. Both students and teachers can use print materials as a source of content. School and local libraries can be developed as a learning hub.

5. You have been facilitating the graduates at Open University, Nepal. What particular strategies do you employ for an online-based classroom to make the students engaged and make teaching-learning activities effective?

We have basic ICT infrastructure to plan and deliver lessons. We basically use MOODLE to share digital content with students, give feedback on students’ regular works and assess their works. Microsoft Teams connects students and teachers and they have a regular video conference on it. It is a dynamic tool to share screen and present works. I can create teams of any number and schedule meeting for the team. This application is highly advanced for online teaching and learning which allows us to share heavy contents like movies or large size videos and digital books. The whole class can be recorded and students can download it whenever they want to. Students from their home or comfortable place can join the class and share ideas. Actually, everyone works on their devices while they are in an online class with their teacher and friends. I teach a research course and it requires students to work on their area of research. I provide live feedback on their works and they actually work with my feedback. It is really effective, interactive and productive as we work while we discuss. I don’t go for a lecture.

6. As the pandemic hit us, we do not seem ‘prepared’ to deliver teaching-learning using alternative means. Firstly, the majority of teachers themselves do not seem to be well-equipped to employ alternative means. So, what skills should the teachers acquire to run alternative teaching-learning and how can we develop their capacity?

Yes, we may be immature to think about moving all schools online in this situation. As I explained earlier, the majority of schools don’t have ICT infrastructure and teachers may not have minimum ICT skills. We cannot expect students to have expensive internet and computers, particularly in rural remote villages. I have reported several challenges including a lack of ICT infrastructure, teachers’ ICT literacy and government preparedness in my research publications (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/KarnaRana). I wish the government would have enacted its educational policy in ICT and plan itself without relying on I/NGOs for the past two decades. If the government has a proper plan to equip teachers with ICT, the local governments can be involved in the project. In a cluster of many teachers at the local level, they can be trained to operate a computer and use internet facilities. Teachers basically need minimum computer skills, ICT literacy, information literacy, digital literacy, media literacy and communication literacy. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to train all the teachers across the country now. The educational crisis is apparently caused by unpredicted pandemic COVID-19 and such crisis may turn up time and again. Can we think a new way of schooling much more resilient than just internet-based school?

7. People also have started speculating that the online means can replace the face-to-face mode of teaching-learning in future. To what extent is there gravity in this speculation in terms of Nepal? And to what extent do we need online means?

I don’t think so. Internet can be used as a means but not as a replacement. There are predictable challenges like network crash, piracy and cyber-attack. Internet is based on the ideology of a few developed countries and they can hold the power of it. Let’s not imagine the worst but who knows if they destroy all the mechanisms of the majority of the countries. From my knowledge in this area, I would never suggest totally going to online. Of course, we can utilise internet facilities and develop the mechanism of e-learning to complement social learning strategies. Thinking about absolutely online school in Nepal may be an immature idea. The landscape of the country, weak national economic condition and expensive technology will be great barriers ahead. Poor people cannot afford such an expensive education. There are practical issues like how we can conduct actual laboratory works, how children learn to socialise and what kind of world we expect to be. I would rather think about how to develop the best practice that suits our local context.

Note: Now the floor is open for you. We encourage you to drop your comments in the box below after reading the interview. Your constructive feedback and questions inspire the interviewee. Thank you!

[To cite it: Rana, K. (2020, April 20). E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/e-learning-is-only-a-means-but-not-a-replacement-of-physical-classroom-dr-rana/]

Teacher-led professional development in crisis and ever

Jeevan Karki

“In addition to taking some MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on blended learning and teaching online, I’m virtually engaged to empower teachers around on how productively they can involve their students online.” –

Baman Ghimire, a high school teacher. (Ghimire. B., personal communication, 15 April, 2020)

“After the lockdown, I formed an online group of teachers and started sharing my ideas of running online classes in my district and beyond. Recently, I presented a session on Google Classroom to teachers in coordination with an English teachers’ association.” –

Bibas Jung Thapa, a lecturer (Thapa, B. J., personal communication, 14 April, 2020)

 

We are in isolation to fight COVID- 19, so our normal day-to-day activities are diverted in different ways and the classroom-based teaching-learning activities are halted. Amidst this circumstance, Baman and Bibas are not only engaged in their self-professional development but also in the professional development initiative of the fellow teachers using different routes i.e. virtual route. Whatever means has been adopted, the initiative to support fellow teachers is truly appreciable as the message is more important than the means, and the willingness to do is the most important thing. Moreover, this initiative will bring teachers closer during the isolation, which increases professional harmony and strengthens professionalism.

This initiative is an example of teacher-led professional development (TLPD). TLPD initiatives are led by teacher/s for the teachers. Professional development activities in our context are basically led by ‘outside experts’ and hence they are grounded on top-down approach. However TLPD initiative is bottom-up and customised (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004; Hills, 2017; Vangrieken, Meredith, Packer & Kyndt, 2017), aiming to empower teachers and enhance their knowledge and skills (Vangrieken, et al., 2017). The scope of TLPD is within the same schools and outside. For instance, a teacher (one or more teachers also can lead) from the same school can lead professional development activities for their colleagues or for the teachers beyond his/her schools (e.g. within their region, district, country or even out of the country). The example of Baman and Bibas fits for the second.

Why TLPD?

TLPD events emphasize on day-to-day teaching-learning issues of fellow teachers, which the facilitator deals based on his/her rich classroom experience. TLPD has been popular among teachers and school administrators for several reasons. For instance, Hills (2017) in her TLPD study explored that the fellow teachers enjoyed such initiatives for the diversified facilitators, neutral and non-threatening atmosphere and practical topics.

Wearers know where the shoe pinches. The teachers can better understand fellow teachers’ issues in teaching-learning and can respond accordingly. In the case of Baman and Bibas, as they have lived experiences of conducting day to day teaching learning with their students, they know what works and what does not work in a real classroom unlike the outside experts. I’m not undermining the role of the outside expert in professional development, they have their own value, which I will discuss later but there are certain things which these teacher leaders know better, deal better and do better. For instance, they can contextualise ideas to fit in the real classrooms based on the practices, which they have already tested. They can share their good practices of planning, preparation, teaching particular topics, assessment, remedial measures and so on. The participant teachers basically want the facilitators to offer hands-on solutions to deal with their pedagogical issues and the fellow teacher/s can do handle that better.

In addition, the TLPD reduces the gap and distance between facilitators and participants as they share the common ground, which results in increased openness, lively discussion and participation, and a joint effort for problem solving. In addition, TLPD are owned by teachers because they are customised, contextual, jointly developed by both facilitators and participants, and they emphasise on inquiry-based learning (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004). As a result, it can make teachers accountable.

Moreover, TLPD initiative can bridge the post training gap (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004). Generally, when an outside expert facilitates some training/workshop, there is scarce or no chance of follow up visit to provide on-site assistance to the teacher/s who is struggling to implement the newly learnt idea. Instead, when a teacher from the same school or neighbouring school/s leads the training/workshop or so on, they can be easily consulted as they share the same chiya pasal (tea shop) or same dhara (tap). They can even be asked to observe the classroom and assist the fellow teacher/s to implement the skills learnt in the training. Gradually, it leads to a better collaboration and a higher chance of training transfer in the classroom.

Teaching is not a competition with other fellow teachers but a competition with oneself, to create environment for children to learn themselves, not to teach! Every teacher is here to facilitate and support students to learn better and reach their full potential. So why competition? Instead teachers need a mutual collaboration with each other, a collaboration to share good practices and support each other to overcome the challenges associated with teaching and learning because the empowered teachers can empower students too. And the teacher-led professional development initiatives would do that because the future lies on the bottom-up approach but not on the top-down.

Roles of outside experts

At this point, question may arise, are all teachers capacitated enough to lead the professional development initiatives? Perhaps not, to give a quick answer. And now, here comes the role of the experts, trainers and teacher educator to strengthen their professional expertise to lead the cycle of TLPD. While leading the professional development events for adults, it is really important to be familiar with adult learning principles, key facilitation skills, converting contents into activities, interpersonal skills, latest research in the field and their implications, and so forth. Moreover, the teacher-leaders (the facilitators) also need support in school-based model of TLPD and its overall cycle, starting from planning and developing sessions to reflection and feedback collection. Therefore, the experts now need to groom school-based leaders to lead their professional development themselves and observe and study how it works.

How to start TLPD initiatives? 

The easy answer to this question is just start the way Baman and Bibas did. TLPD model seems to work better during this halt, where the outside experts are not easily reachable. Therefore, let’s start this with our colleagues, who are the nearest experts at the moment, just go through the Facebook friend list and make a team. Actually, I came to learn about the initiative of Baman and Bibas via Facebook. So, we can look for the teachers/colleagues teaching English (or related subject) in our friend list, create a group and start the conversation. Thereafter, we can only discuss on the issues we are facing while teaching our students and make notes of all the issues. The issues can be anything related to planning, methods, materials, assessment, teaching particular topics, and classroom management skills and other soft skills like communication, motivation or using technology in classroom. Then, the list can be shortened by removing repetition or the least important topics for the moment (through a common consensus). moving forward, we can ask each other to choose one or two topics, which we feel comfortable to lead the discussion/presentation. If all the topics are not covered, let’s not worry. We can always start with whatever we feel comfortable. Then, we can schedule the presentation and discussion using accessible and free Software like Messenger, Viber, Skype, Zoom or so on. Next, the session leader should take a good time to plan on his/her topic. Once the preparation is done, we can advertise a little via social media to invite other interested teachers to join the discussion. I’m sure we will find more than enough participants. Then, on the day of presentation, we can make some house rules to run it systematically, otherwise, it can go messy. After the presentation, we should entertain questions and open the discussion, which will help both the facilitator and fellow teachers to reflect upon the ideas shared and set direction future direction. And after we do it successfully, we can write our reflection and share, the way I’m doing here.

Before I leave

As the situation is getting worse day by day globally, we as educators can’t just keep quiet and stay at home. Baman says that the ongoing journey of professional development goes beyond the chains of any ‘lockdown’. So, we should start thinking proactively about the alternatives of educating or reaching our students. Such teacher-led professional initiatives can help us to explore multiple ideas of reaching them during this crisis.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

[To cite it: Karki, J. (2020, April 20). Teacher-led professional development in crisis and ever. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/teacher-led-professional-development-in-crisis-and-ever/]

The Author: Jeevan Karki is a freelance teacher trainer, researcher and writer. He serves as an expert in designing materials and developing training for literacy program at Room to Read. He has authored several op-eds and blogs including some national and international journal articles. He is also an editor of ELT Choutari and the Editor-in-Chief at MercoCreation (http://merocreation.com/).

References:

Diaz-Maggioli, G. (2004). Professional development today. Teacher-centered professional development. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104021/chapters/Professional-Development-Today.aspx

Hills, D., (2017). Teacher-Led Professional Development: A Proposal for a Bottom-Up Structure Approach. International Journal of Teacher Leadership. 8(1), 77- 91.

Vangrieken, K., Meredith, C., Packer, T., & Kyndt, E. (2017). Teacher communities as a context for professional development: A systematic review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 47-59.

Awareness of ICT preparatory tools: Micro management and way forward

Ashok Sapkota

Prologue

I discuss the use of technology in the educational practices in general and technology, pedagogy and content knowledge (TPACK) approach in particular in this paper. It is grounded on the author’s two-decade-long experience of using technological tools for learners’ engagement, problems in micromanagement and five major fault-lines in micro-management procedures. Moreover, it integrates various assets such as management of basic functions of electronic gadgets, blending content, context and technology, differentiating hardware and software tools, updating recent innovation and threats in technology and regulating micromanagement in using technology.

Introduction

Are we really prepared to use ICT tools? This question often triggers my mind while discussing ICT tools. Recently, I shared my knowledge and key issues in Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) approach to educators around different parts of the country using zoom software. It was a wonderful sharing with them using the common tool in the lockdown period. If we relate the classroom scenario, we are shifting heavily to the use of alternatives in technology tools (Williamson & Redish, 2009) to present and to instruct different lessons in almost all the levels. Even some schools, particularly in the urban area, both developing and under developing countries, take multimedia power-point presentation as a basic tool to deliver the content practices. Few of them make the mandatory code of conduct that 50% of the classes need to conduct using power-point and other applications. In this juncture, it is essential to take the perception of students regarding the use of such a tool. Having an experience of using Microsoft tools and other tech tools nearly about one and a half-decade, I have found the mixed versions in using it. The basic applications behind shifting to the use of online applications is the way we use it. If we use the applications as a form of supposing or imitating practices or we are forced to use, the output may not be satisfactory. The awareness we need to have is on how to make it interactive, informative and engaging. The interactive helps to make it lively, blend content, context and experience to the discussion (Schrum & Levin, 2009). The contents need to be well prepared, discussed rather than simply reading the lines or flipping the slides. It is crucial to share that powerpoint presentation is not a slideshow rather it needs to be interactive and based on the time we are allocated to discuss. This article primarily focuses on five major issues or faultlines: managing basic electronic gadgets, blending content, context and technology,  differentiating software and hardware tools,  updating recent innovations and threats in technology, regulating in micromanagement in using technology.

Problems of micro-management and flipped classroom

Using the wide range of technological tools in the classroom makes less sense when the content is not well delivered and the students are not happy in using them. As one of the psychologists, David Hurlock believes that the learners’ psychology matters more in learning, the environment of the classroom depends on what we teach and how we deliver. In few cases, the content to share might be interesting but the way we deliver, the lessons bring change in the classroom (Maddux & Johnson, 2006). Here, by the term ‘the way’, I mean the strategies we adopt along the technological knowledge in the classroom. This management can be specific and creative in nature which can be called micro-management. The use of technology is not great deal than to know we can manage further continuously for the proper applications. I have seen my colleagues using the applications time often within certain period but they fail to continue and make the classroom lively in using it. This situation means we are lagged behind the micro-management and could not address the multiple layers or changes within the single classroom to make learning effective over period of time which we call flipped classroom.

Major dimensions in managing technology

This article centers with the five major faultliness based on my experiential learning in using technology. I also discuss the misconceptions I had to overcome. My focus remains mostly on three assets i.e. tech tools in professional life, classroom discussions and off classroom environment. It is not as difficult as it shared in educational forums about the use of technology if we simply manage the basic aspects of it. In doing so, I begin my sharing with managing basic functions in the upcoming section:

Managing basic functions in electronic gadgets: It is essential to know the basic software and hardware knowledge about the device we use.  No matter it could be a desktop/laptop or a mobile phone or a tab. Having proper knowledge, functions and configurations about the device develops more confidence in working it. In few stances, we work the day, shut down the computer and when we try to open it the next day or in the evening, it does not work.  This situation creates unnecessary pressure because of having less or no knowledge about the hardware of our own device. Having a computer but having no knowledge about hardware often increases unnecessary stress than having real problems. Operating a computer is not only to open and shut down the computer or to use few programmes like word, pdf or excel file. In addition, it is to know about the hardware, programming, hard drive, C file (system file) and other files. It is essential to know about  basic operating functions, such as; Better not  to work or save any files in the desktop as it consists of system files. It has higher chances to lose documents if any system problems occur in the computer. In few incidents, the files might be transformed into temporary files and be destroyed. When the problem occurs, we take it to the technician. They solve it within few minutes and regard it as a common problem. The basic understanding about the hard disk, RAM, software installed in computer, desktop management, file sharing and saving makes us in the comfort zone than taking unnecessary stress.

Blending content, context and technology: Technological knowledge is easier when we have basic idea in using it than copying the ideas or files from others. Many people often get distracted because they could not blend content, context and technology. It does not mean that we need to use every tool in the classroom. It is worthy to identify the level of knowledge of our students, technological infrastructure, managing time to use and operate it (Dudney, 2000). For example, if I try to use moodle or Microsoft team in my institution, where there is no fixing of computer in the classroom and teacher had to manage everything; from IT support to content delivery. In this context, moodle may not be an appropriate tool to use it. We can think of the alternative resource, such as the learners have mobile phones or smart phones with limited internet access. So, the applications like closed Facebook group discussion or blogging might be useful tools. Therefore, context and the skills we select shapes way forward. Despite having low resources, we can think of the alternative resources or application to manage use of the technology to the learners and teach them to use it. It is better to be practical rather than overgeneralising the condition of the students.

Differentiating software and hardware tools: It is beneficial to differentiate between the software and hardware tools in order to manage electronic devices well-functioning. People believe that having a computer has all the same functions within it, however, it consists of both software and hardware. Being more specific, the hardware and software varies based on the purpose, field of study and use. If you are working indesign programme, you might need more features like graphics, more RAM functions, specific display, large capacity of harddisk and other software skills like graphic card, advanced adobe programming, C++ programming and other essential programming. If you are an English teacher working with research, you might need the referencing software like Zotero or if you are a Mathematics teacher, you might need a software called Geozebra. Therefore, the technological device, like laptop, can be modulated differently based on the purpose and the profession we need to function further.

Updating recent innovations and threats in technology: Having updated knowledge regarding the use of technology and its updated version helps us in the comfort zone. No doubt we are accustomed to the version we install in the computer. When we install the new version, we might have some problems in the beginning. However, after using for a couple of months, we are used to it. We find many friends using the latest version of Microsoft office 2019 but some are still in windows XP or Windows 7. This shows the variation of the use of programming. It is essential to update the software in our device as per to the global changes and disciplinary changes. For this, we can explore the new resources, ask friends, for search in the open resources in the Internet search. Time and again, I hear saying that I have found in the Internet or in the Google. We might have less awareness that the Internet is not a source but a tool to explore and Google is not a book but simply a window to look in or a browse to search things.

Regulating micromanagement in using technology: Micromanagement is far forward to sharpen and develop organising skills in using technology. Having a knowledge to manage files in a computer or in a folder or in a Google drive properly can be called here as micromanagement of ICT resources. It is easier to use a tool for the first time as a trial. However, to use effectively to engage learners in the classroom within the limited resources can be a huddle for teacher educators. Therefore, I would suggest to have more in-depth knowledge in having the micro functions of any of the tools we explore to such as managing the files in the laptop, knowledge of iPods, managing files in Google drive or maintain external drive. It is not essential to use all the tools in the classroom just because others friends have used them. But, it is us that need to know the proper function as a user and the ones to whom can be used.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, we know that having knowledge about the technology and tools is always advantageous. However, we fail to sharpen our skills in managing those tools and it creates more stress in our professional life. Having the basic knowledge to operate both software and hardware tools might bring maturity in using them. So, it is better to know yourself, best use available resources, engaging students and ourselves in micromanagement of tech tools.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

[To cite it: Sapkota, A. (2020, April 20). Awareness of ICT tools: Micro-management and way forward. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/awareness-of-ict-preparatory-tools-micro-management-and-way-forward/]

 

The Author: Ashok Sapkota is a faculty in the Department of English Education, Kirtipur, TU, and Global College of Management. He has worked in several applications in using diverse forms of technology. Having experienced of using a moodle and Microsoft team for a decade, he is one of Microsoft certified teacher trainers. He is treasurer of NELTA Centre and worked as a teacher trainer of different organisations like: Ministry of education, British council, NELTA, Global Action Nepal and other organisations. For more please explore http://assapkota.blogspot.com/

 

References

Dudeney, G. (2000). The Internet and the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Maddux, C.D. & Johnson, D.L. (eds.) (2006). Type II Users of technology in education: Projexts, case studies, and software applications. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc.

Schrum, L. & Levin, B.B. (2009). Leading 21st century skills Schools.  California: Corwin

Williamson, J. & Redish, T. (2009).  Technology facilitation and leadership standards.  Oregon: International Society for Technology in Education.

 

Perceptions on digital literacies and implementation practices: Perspectives of English teachers

Puskar Chaudhary

Abstract

This study explored the English language teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies, and how and why these skills need to be integrated into English language instruction. Case study was the research method and the data were gathered through semi-structured interviews, from six non-native English language teachers who were in teaching different educational levels: basic education level and secondary education level. The results indicated that teachers were aware that they needed to become digitally literate by developing the collection of skills and mindsets about digital tools and technologies.

Keywords: English language teachers, Digital literacies, English language instruction, 21st-century skills, case study

Introduction

In the 21st century, fast-evolving technologies have transformed everyday communication and literacy practices for many young children and teachers as they find themselves immersed in multiple digital media. The digital media have also offered tremendous benefits to all of us. They have provided the platforms that allow us to connect and collaborate by opening up opportunities to learn about new and important issues, and have empowered innovation in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Moreover, it has transfigured the definition of literacy and is always changing, and now more than ever, the definition is shifting to include the ability to have contemporary skills that help to find, access and use information digitally (Nacy, 2017), which is extremely relevant in the lives of all adults, including English language learners (ELLs). Law et al. (2018) further conveyed that literacy is about the uses people make of it as a means of communication and expression, through a variety of media. Similarly, International Literacy Association (2018) states that literacy is the ability to understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines or variety of the context. Therefore, there is a shift in the meaning of literacy which is not limited to just being able to read and write. Today, digital tools have gone hand-in-hand with the growth of English and are changing the way in which we communicate. It’s the time that being digital literate by using digital tools and technologies is essential for teachers and students in the 21st century.

Regarding digital literacy, scholars have used various terms and definitions. Dudeney et al. (2013) stated digital literacy is the creation of any digital materials and sharing it online with having creative, cultural knowledge and social appropriacy skills. The European Commission (2006) stated digital competence is the competency which involves the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. In this regard, it is inevitable that today people should acquire digital media literacy as one of the major competencies, and the 21st-century teachers are challenged to integrate digital literacy in the teaching-learning process. The drastic technological and digitally enhanced teaching-learning change have consequences for the development of early literacy and the ways in which parents and educators are able to equip today’s young learners for getting knowledge digitally. It has attracted a lot of researchers, educators and practitioners to conduct various studies including the evaluation of students‟ digital literacy (Zhang & Zhu, 2016) as well as the use of digital tools in remotely or online (Hobbs, 2013; Park & Burford, 2013; Nowell, 2014; Young, 2008). Thus, digital literacy has become the part of learning in the present era for teachers, parents and students to conform to ourselves building a community of teaching digitally and using them in the time of emergency or during the time of the global pandemic. More specifically, Hatlevik and Christophersen (2013) define digital competence as the skill to use digital tools or technologies to gain, manage and evaluate information, create and share information by using digital tools. The success of digital literacy in classroom settings is often related to teachers‟ key role as a facilitator in the teaching-learning process. Young (2008) states that teachers, students, and overall technology use rely on how a teacher utilizes the technology in the classroom, so the lack of teacher competence becomes a major obstacle in technological device application in the teaching-learning process. In addition, Williams (2012) who studied perceptions of digital immigrant teachers toward their digital native students‟ use of social media showed that even though they had positive perceptions on social media use in terms of collaboration, teacher-student relations, and communication, at the same time they gave negative perception in terms of improperness of formal writing, interpersonal communication skill, and too much drama. In this regard, such drawbacks of social media can result in alterations of students‟ affective and cognitive behaviour. Besides, as for teachers, this negative perception might reduce their awareness of the primacy of technology in the classroom. Meanwhile, Eshet-Alkalai (2004) concludes that digital literacy is a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills that may be used as a measure of the quality of the students` work in a digital environment. Bachlin and Wild (2015) proposed three frameworks which are addressing the past, developing in the present, and broadening perspectives in the future that aimed at helping teacher trainees in developing the appropriate skills to apply technology in the classroom in an ever-changing digital environment. From this context, the teacher’s digital literacy is the ability to operate and use digital tools efficiently in the teaching and learning process. Siddike (2010) proposed that the digital competences which are foundation digital literacy competencies, basic digital competences, intermediate digital literacy competence, advanced digital literacy competence, technical digital competences, and digital literacy proficiency.

The essential elements of digital literacies

There are quite a lot of skills or things involved in digital literacies. It is not just to create the word document, technical skill is one thing but there are more difficult skills involved in it like cultural knowledge, social appropriacy, collaboration and redesigning etc. Therefore, several educationists or groups have given different frameworks or models of digital literacies: Dudeney et al. (2013), Belshaw (2014), European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) (2015), Digital Capability Framework (Jisc) (2016). DigComp (2015) frames digital literacies into five areas: information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety, and problem-solving. Whereas Digital Capability Framework (Jisc) (2016) opined that there are six major elements – information data and media literacies, digital creation, problem solving and innovation, ICT proficiency, digital learning and development, digital communication, collaboration and participation and digital identity and wellbeing.  Belshaw’s (2014) digital literacy model has eight elements which are cognitive, constructive, communicative, civic, critical, creative, and confident and culture. These components are meaningful signify that it’s not only one skill that makes us digitally literate but needs to have those all skill sets. There are many digital literacy models or frameworks which all focus on having digital skills, helping people to develop attributes, skills and attitudes.

Although there is no single model or framework to measure the digital literacies, a framework of digital literacies created by Dudeney et al. ( 2013) was taken as the reference for the current study. This framework was designed to guide teachers of English and other languages in preparing their students to engage effectively with the communicative, collaborative and creative demands and opportunities of the 21st-century era, the framework was being used to inform a number of European language learning initiatives. It suggests a set of four overlapping skill sets corresponding to four main areas i.e. focus on language, information, connections or collaboration and (re-)design.

The first area focus on language which includes the following literacies:

texting literacy: the ability to read and gather information from the text and be able to communicate either synchronously or asynchronously taking part in real-time online text chat conversations

hypertext literacy: the ability to use the hyperlinks and navigate the information

multimodal literacy: the ability to understand images, text or different media for getting the information

technological literacy: knowledge about digital tools

code literacy: a basic understanding of coding for logical thinking and programming

The second area focus on information: fundamental skills that help us navigate the flood of digital information provided by the internet. These include:

search literacy’ (the ability to get information online),

tagging literacy (labelling or tagging online information),

information literacy (being able to evaluate sources information),

filtering literacy (knowing how to manage useful or useless  information),

attention literacy (Being mindful when to switch off as well as on).

The third area focus on connection or collaboration includes the skills of:

personal literacy ( knowing how to manage our online identities, being aware of personal data)

network literacy ( being able to leverage information online  and becoming a global citizen)

Participatory literacy (being able to involve in the professional group and being able to create and produce digital content)

Cultural/intercultural literacy (being able to communicate well with the group of people of other cultures)

The final area focus on (re) design consist primarily of:

critical literacy (being able to observe new trends with digital technologies, thinking on e-waste and digital tools)

remix literacy (being able to mix the information and making something new digitally)

As can be seen, the framework of digital literacies created by Dudeney et al. (2013) definitely makes us clear that digital literacies are essential skills that both English language teachers and students to need to acquire for full participation in the world beyond  or inside the classroom. It does not only entail the safe and critical use of computers to obtain, evaluate, store, produce present and exchange information and to communicate and participate in collaborative online networks but well trained, digitally literate teachers can give schools a competitive edge by making learning relevant, motivating students and helping them develop valuable life skills alongside language skills.

The purpose of the study

The study explores models for thinking about digital literacies and examines benefits and challenges associated with systematically addressing a selection of digital literacies in ELT settings. Finally, it reviews adaptable activities designed to help English Language Learners (ELLs) develop the 21st-century skills that will serve them in the classroom and beyond. Hence, the study investigated the English language teachers` perceptions of digital literacies and their practices of incorporating them in English language instructions. The first, technology usage is growing fast so that the English teachers should be aware of the technology changes and literate in the digital tools. The next, digital literacy is needed so that the technologies put in place can be maintained or adapted to be used effectively in EFL teaching. The last, it is an essential thing for the English teachers to provide the new digital tools in teaching and learning processes.

Significance of the study

By evaluating the English language teachers` perceptions of digital literacies and practices it can give some significance. The first, theoretically, the teachers need to know or clarify about the digital literacies and their digital literacy competences in order to support the teaching English in digital era. In addition, they would be aware of how and why these skills can be integrated into English language instruction. The second, practically, digital literacy is needed for English teacher in order to examine the benefits and challenges associated with systematically addressing a selection of digital literacies in ELT settings. The last, pedagogically, digital literacy competencies can help the English teacher to be more digitally literate in the digital teaching era. Besides that, English language teachers will be able to help their and English Language Learners (ELLs) develop the 21st-century skills that serve them in the classroom and beyond.

Research methodology

To find out a group of English language teachers’ perceptions upon digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instructions, this qualitative study made use of multiple descriptive case study design, and collected data through semi-structured, one to one interviews. The interview questions were created collaboratively by the researcher to examine the issues under investigation.

Sampling

The current study used purposeful sampling which is one of the sampling techniques commonly used in qualitative research (Palinkas et al., 2013). Having a very close tie to the research objectives, this type of sampling signifies a series of choices about whom, where, and how the research is done (Palys, 2008). Keeping this in mind, the group of teachers participating in the study was purposefully chosen since they were aware of digital literacies and incorporating them in the English language instructions in various ways. They were also motivated and open to communicate their experiences and opinions in a reflective manner. Therefore, it was thought that taking a snapshot of their perceptions regarding digital literacies and implementation practices might bring rich data. To preserve anonymity, the participants were assigned numbers from T1 to T6.

Table 1 Teacher characteristics

Participant Gender Level of teaching Digital competences Teaching experiences
T 1

T 2

T 3

T 4

T 5

T 6

Male

Female

Female

Female

Female

Female

Secondary

Secondary

Basic

Basic

Basic

Basic

Advance

Basic

Basic

Basic

Basic

Novice

7 years

11 years

8 years

4 years

3 years

2 years

 

As can been seen; only one of the six teachers was male, who had the advance digital skills or competency. Four of the teachers had basic digital skills competency whereas one of the teachers had just the general knowledge of digital skills. The teachers were teaching at different levels from Basic Education Level (BEL) to Secondary level and had been practicing digital literacies having varied years of experiences.

Data collection and analysis

As previously mentioned, the data were gathered through one-on-one, semi-structured interviews which were audio-recorded and supported by field notes. After the initial transcriptions, the researchers continuously and recursively worked on the transcriptions and looked for words and phrases reflecting emerging ideas about the teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instruction. Keywords and phrases that seemed to refer to digital literacies and skills were also picked. The emergent themes which were thought to refer to the same broad idea were put into the same category and labelled.        

Findings and discussion

This study aimed to find out six English language teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instruction. Therefore, the findings gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections; perceptions of digital literacies and perceptions of implementation practices of digital literacies in the English language instruction. The details pertaining to each section are presented and discussed below in Table no 2.

Perceptions of digital literacies

In the interviews, teachers were firstly asked to define what digital literacies are. The analysis of the data yielded different responses which were put under two main categories and presented in the table.

Table 2 Themes

Digital literacies perceptions Themes
1. Having Digital Skills/ competences

 

 

 

 

 

2. Having additional digital Skills/competences

The Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Ability to use the internet access

Accessing videos on YouTube

Creating any digital contents and Sharing learning materials in the Internet

Communicating digital content

Creativity, Cultural knowledge, Social Appropriacy, Participate in internet or  (sub) culture

 

As it demonstrated in the table, definitions for digital literacies were categorized having basic digital skills or competencies and having additional digital skills or competences. Digital literacies were perceived as the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), ability to use the internet access, accessing videos on YouTube, creating any digital contents and sharing learning materials in the internet, communicating digital content. The teachers were aware of using ICT to deliver the lesson in the English language classroom. They were also enabled to use the internet either to provide the teaching materials from the internet and share their own lesson through emails or online mode.

The second category of perceptions of digital literacies, having additional digital Skills/competences, included creativity, cultural knowledge, social appropriacy, participate in the internet or  (sub) culture skills. They opined that they need to understand different online contents and how to interact appropriately in them. They had the skill that helped them to navigate the information from the internet or search effectively and tag them and evaluate them critically. They knew how to use technology to increase civic engagement and social action.

Perceptions of  how and why to implement Digital Literacies in the English language instructions

Table 3 Reasons for implementing digital literacies

Digital literacies practices perceptions Themes
1. Attending webinars and online classes

2. Learning basic and advanced computer courses

3. Connecting classroom teaching digitally

4. Collaborating with colleagues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking online courses –webinars, MOOCs from Cousera, Canva, British council, American Embassy

Learning MS – words , Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, And graphic designers, Internet connections

 

Using computer/laptop, projector to deliver the lessons

Engaging in email/video chat and social media for exchanging the information

Utilizing storytelling media to allow students to create and publish stories

Setting up a blog site/ Facebook Page  or Edmodo or periodical post

Engaging students in discussions about the impact of mobile phones/technologies in the 21st century

 

Sharing knowledge and experience

Receiving peer feedback

As table no. 3 shows, the findings of the this questions yielded several responses which were categories as attending webinars and online classes, learning basic and advance computer courses, connecting classroom teaching digitally and collaborating with colleagues.

For the first category, the basic practices were taking online courses –webinars, Massive open online course (MOOCS) from different online learning platforms like Coursera, Canva, British council, American Embassy etc. Whereas, for the second category, learning basic and advanced computer courses, learning MS – words, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, And graphic designers, Internet connections were the main perceptions. On the other, hands, for the third category, using computer/laptop, projector to deliver the lesson, engaging in email/video chat and social media for exchanging the information, utilizing storytelling media to allow students to create and publish stories, setting up a blog site/ Facebook Page or Edmodo or periodical post and engaging students in discussions about the impact of mobile phones/technologies in the 21st century were the basic practices. The last category was labelled as collaborating with colleagues which included sharing knowledge and experience and receiving peer feedback.

In sum, the finding shows that the teachers are aware of digital literacies in the 21st century so that they could make their learners digitally literate and they have been practicing in different ways to express their ideas in digital media not to just teach the core elements of the language but also the create the position globally.

Conclusion

This paper investigated a group of English Language Teachers to explore the perceptions of English language teachers on digital literacies and how and why they are incorporating them in the English language classroom. Being digitally literate helps teachers to present text in a very highly structured way and pace the introduction of new concepts and skills depending on the progress of the students. It also helps to provide aural feedback to the pupil in a timely fashion and work patiently for as long as the pupil is prepared to keep trying.

Digital technologies are impacting the lives and learning of teachers and the young children; and experiences of using digital resources can serve as the foundation for present and future development. It also explored the diversity of teachers’ and students’ literacy skills, practices and expertise across digital tools, technologies and media, in English language instructions. The results revealed that digital technologies have influenced English language teachers and digital teaching learning resources have transfigured not only teachers and but also students’ digital and multimodal literacy practices. The English language teachers who are digitally literate are able to help the students acquire not only the language skills needed for the academic achievements but also some digital skills that they inevitably also need in the 21st-century education. Therefore, the English Language teachers are being digitally literate by educating themselves and gaining digital skills and knowledge through massive of online classes, webinars, reproducing teaching materials digitally and sharing them with the learners and colleagues.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

[To cite it: Chaudhary, P. (2020, April 20). Perceptions on digital literacies and implementation practices: Perspectives of English teachers. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/perceptions-on-digital-literacies-and-implementation-practices-a-perspective-of-english-language-teachers/]

The Author: Puskar Chaudhary is currently teaching and researching at Triyog High School where he also coordinates as Triyog Friend of Zoo (FOZ) Head with the collaboration of The National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC). He is pursuing MPhil in English Language Education from Kathmandu University. His professional memberships include NELTA, TESOL, Toastmasters International and IATEFL. He has taken professional and pedagogical training from online classes and MOOCS. His interest and research include teaching English to Young Learners, critical thinking skills and digital literacies.

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Lockdown, physical distancing and isolation in Ramayana: An overview

Bhansingh Dhami

Introduction

Most of the nations in the world have gone lockdown due to the worldwide spread of Corona Virus pandemic. Human beings are in the danger of deaths from an invisible fatal virus which is threatening for the entire mankind. According to World Health Organization (WHO), Corona Virus Disease (COVID) first outbroke in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. So, WHO named it COVID-19 virus. According to the report published by WHO, about one hundred thousand people have been killed till the mid of April 2020 due to this deadly disease throughout the world. Not only the underdeveloped and the developing countries but also the developed countries have been kneeling down in front of this unseen killer. Travelling is blocked, visiting is restricted, sports are halted and the world has become silent as if it is time for worldwide curfew. People are confined at home. Police have been presented in each and every street as if it indicates as government-imposed curfew in the cities and towns, but it isn’t so. Lockdown is essential to save people from the deadliest virus. World leaders are participating in video conferences and are exchanging their ideas and intentions to control this global pandemic. China has controlled in many extents, but the virus is rapidly spreading in other nations of Asia, Europe, America and Africa respectively. According to WHO, the medicine hasn’t been discovered to cure the COVID-19 infected patients yet. In Nepal, the government has used lockdown to keep Nepalese people safe from the pandemic. Before declaring lockdown, the government has closed the universities, colleges and schools. Due to lockdown, the educational sector of Nepal has been badly affected. In fact, lockdown is the act of confining the people to their own places during the time of great crisis. Due to lockdown, the movement of people from one place to another is restricted so that community spread would not take place. The doctors suggest people to maintain physical distancing and isolation which prevent the community spread of the virus.

Physical distancing and isolation are essential during the time of lockdown. Physical distancing can be taken as the opposite state of social gathering. It can also be referred to maintain distance with all people of the society including family members. It maintains the physical distance among the people. Likewise, isolation can be taken as the act of keeping a person alone. In other words, it is a state of being isolated from other people. It is obligatory to protect people from COVID-19 at present. COVID-19 virus transmits from one person to another through droplets. When the infected person sneezes or spits carelessly, the others are affected if they come into the close contact of the droplets. The systems of this virus are seen in the person after two weeks of being infected. Doctors suggest that physical exercise and vitamin C contained meal are essential to increase immunity power.

Chinese doctors had already informed the people of the world about the precautions of this global pandemic virus. The countries of the world have been locked, are being locked and are going to be locked. Socialisation has conversed and isolation has been maintained as if Stone Age is going to be restarted. In the Stone Age, human beings used to live in dens and caves because the sense of socialisation was not developed till that time. They had the feeling of fear from others such as strange wild animals and other humans who would be strangers. At present, in the same way, no one is allowed to come in the streets; shake hands and go to temples, stupas, churches, mosques and other social gatherings. If there is the presence of an infected person from COVID-19 in such gathering, the people who are with him or her can be easily infected by it. It is sure that the infected people return back to their home and the whole family members will be infected soon. To stop the transmission and infection of the virus, it is essential to maintain physical distancing. That is why, during the period of lockdown, physical distancing and isolation should be strictly maintained. Due to lockdown, people stay safe at their home so that they couldn’t be infected from the pandemic virus. Instead of walking on the streets, they have been passing time by watching the news and some evergreen movies such as Ramayana and Mahabharata which have been broadcasting from Doordarshan National and Doordarshan Bharati (TV channels of India) respectively. In this crisis of pandemic, individuals are frequently listening to the words and word phrases like lockdown, isolation, physical distancing, self-quarantine, stay safe, stay at home and so on.

Isolation is the process of keeping self away from others so that the isolated person couldn’t be infected from the virus. It is the condition in which people are advised to be isolated whether the symptoms of the virus are seen or not. Now I want to discuss the movie Ramayana in which some important scenes are relevant to reveal the context of physical distancing and isolation. I watched the movie Ramayana in Hindi presented and directed by Ramanand Sagar. The protagonist Ram Chandra is a central character whose role is crucial from beginning to the end of the film. Though the story of Ramayana belongs to Hindu mythology, its essence is above the religion. According to the story presented in the movie, there was the widespread expansion of murders, criminal activities and tyranny of violent kings in the world. So, the world was at risk. The supreme Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva compelled to think about how to save the world from the sinners? The God, Vishnu, decided to take evolution in the form of human being and other minor gods decided to take evolution in the form of monkeys. The aim behind their evolution was to get victory over demons and to save mankind from the cruel tyrannical demons who were misusing their power, prestige, spiritual and material properties. The powerless were victims and praying the God to bless from the dangerous and injurious demons. Some major events that reveal contexts of lockdown, self-quarantine, physical distancing and isolation found in Ramayana movie are discussed by connecting to the present context of lockdown in the following different headings.

Ram Chandra and his brothers in isolation for learning archery

Dashratha, the King of Ayodhya, had three queens namely Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, however, no queen got a baby. So, Dasharath was worried about his future dynasty. One day he organised Yagnya (a ritual organized for getting what is expected). The Rhisi (saint) gave the prasad (an edible substance to be blessed) to the queens and Kausalya and Kaikeyi gave one halves of prasad to Sumitra which they, three, ate happily, interestingly and eagerly. Happiness resided and extended in the palace when Kausalya gave birth to Ram Chandra, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharat and Sumitra gave birth to Laxman and Shatrughan. The king became very happy. Later, when the children were grown up, the King sent them with the Rishi to learn life skills in his Kuti (hermitage). The Kuti is the symbol of isolation where the saint or hermit lives alone. Ram and his brothers were also isolated from the palace and stayed with the saint to learn archery, war strategies and so on. When they were in isolation, they learned how to handle the bow, how to throw the arrow and how to meet the target. In this isolation period, Ram and his brothers became perfect in archery and learned war strategies. They fully utilised the time and learned various life lessons. They didn’t feel isolated even though they were sent in the Kuti. If people properly handle the isolation, it seems to be meaningful in this present lockdown context of Nepal as well. Though it is a chance for conducting virtual classes for the conduction of the regular formal classes for campus and university level students, it is challenging for the continuation of classes for the school level students. Because of the lockdown in Nepal, the movement of people is restricted throughout the country. In this condition, for the school level students, the teachers can utilise social media to teach their students. As Ram Chandra and his brothers maintained isolation staying away from home, they obeyed their father’s suggestion. In the same way, following the suggestions of the government, Nepalese people can also play the role to win the Corona Virus pandemic by keeping themselves in isolation.

Fourteen-year-long banishment as physical distancing

Due to the old age, Dasharath wanted to hand over the rule in the hand of Ram Chandra. But, Kaikeyi, the second Queen demanded two boons from Dasharath. The two boons were the banishment of Ram Chandra for fourteen years and enthronement of Bharat. So, Ram Chandra heartily accepted the banishment and went to forest along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman. If they didn’t go to the forest, the people of Ayodhya would raise the question against the dignity of the trustworthy King Dasharath. To save the dignity and the prestige of his father, Ramchandra decided to leave Ayodhya. They spent fourteen years in the forest. This fourteen-years long banishment can be taken as the period of physical distancing. Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman maintained the distance from Ayodhya and other people. They kept themselves in isolation for fourteen years. After fourteen years, they returned back to Ayodhya. So, in the context of lockdown in Nepal due to COVID-19, it is compulsory to maintain physical distancing to win the global pandemic virus. So, Nepalese people should follow the guidelines of lockdown to save self and others from the fatal disease. In the case of learners, they should also stay at home and focus on self-study. By doing so, the learners can utilise the time of lockdown maintaining physical distancing.

Crossing the Laxman rekha as violation of lockdown

Unfortunately, one day, Surpanakha, the devil sister of Ravan, came into the cottage where Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman used to live. She proposed Ram for marriage. Then, Ram Chandra laughed and informed her that he was a married person. Then, she talked to Laxman and proposed him for marriage. He ignored her and she threatened them that she would kill Sita. With the help of a knife, Laxman cut her nose at once. By weeping and crying, she went back to Lanka where his brothers used to live. She informed Ravan that Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman had lived in Chitrakut Mountain. Then, Ravan planned to kidnap Sita. So, he went in Marich’s hermitage and forced Marich to be a golden deer so that Sita could be attracted to the deer. When Sita saw that deer, she requested Ramchandra to catch or kill the deer. Ram Chandra ran after the deer and reached far. When Ram Chandra left the arrow, the golden deer appeared in the form of a human being. He was Marich and shouted in the voice of Ram Chandra loudly. Sita heard the voice and asked Laxman to go for searching Ram Chandra forcefully. Then, Laxman drew the line around the cottage. Before leaving for searching Ram Chandra, Laxman requested Sita not to cross the line until he returned back. Later on, Laxman left the cottage and immediately Ravan came to the cottage in the form of a hermit. As Sita crossed the Laxman Rekha (the divine line drawn by Laxman to protect Sita from the danger of outside), Ravan caught Sita and took her Lanka in his Pushpabiman (a type of plane belonging to Ravan).

Due to the violation of lockdown, Sita was kidnapped by Ravan. So, this event of the Ramayana movie can also be connected with the present lockdown context of Nepal. As Sita violated the lockdown drawn by Laxman, the problem appeared in front of Ram Chandra. That is why people of Nepal should also be aware of the possible harms that can be created due to the violation of lockdown. The learners including school children should welcome the lockdown in this critical period of COVID-19 so that they cannot be infected from the deadly virus. The learners can protect themselves and others by staying at home. They can read books at their own home to utilise the time.

The devil King of Lanka as a symbol of Corona virus

Ravan was a very powerful demon king of Lanka and was blessed by Lord Shiva. He could lift the Kailash Mountain in his hands. After being blessed by Lord Shiva, he became proud and tyrannical with gods and goddesses along with human creatures. All gods and people were afraid of Ravan. So, Ram Chandra was born as a human and killed Raval. The blessing given to Ravan by lord Shiva was for doing good deeds on the earth, but he misused Shiva’s blessing. Ravan created situations of terror and horror in the world. Ram Chandra killed him because he kidnapped Sita. Symbolically, he was the chief coronavirus of Treta Yug (the second era according to Hindu mythology). As COVID-19 has been spread all over the world, people should be aware of this global pandemic virus. To control the spread of the pandemic, the government of Nepal has declared total lockdown. In this critical situation, all people should maintain physical distancing and isolation to keep them safe from the deadly virus. Lockdown is not imposed, but it is used to keep the people safe from the infection of the invisible deadly disease. It will be defeated as Ravan was defeated in Treta Yug. The country will surely win the virus if people follow the rules of lockdown.

Personal reflection on physical distancing and isolation

After watching the Ramayana movie, I felt that the exercises of lockdown, physical distancing, isolation and self-quarantine were in existence in the Ramayana era. So, the study and application of eastern philosophy, as well as its publicity, seems to be quite essential in the present-day overpopulated world. As Ram Chandra maintained physical distancing and isolation to overcome from the possible harms and dangers, the people of the present era should also maintain it properly. We should also learn lessons from Sita’s violation of Laxman Rekha which ultimately brought problems in her life. Not only Sita but also Ram Chandra and Laxman took a great risk due to the violation of lockdown. To be safe and secured, people need to follow the procedures of lockdown such as washing hands frequently, staying at home, avoiding social gatherings and so on. Should we live following the moral, social and humanitarian behaviours of the protagonist? Should we leave the brutal behaviours of the antagonist? Isn’t the antagonist as a symbol of Corona for mankind? These questions remain unanswered if we don’t follow the lockdown by maintaining proper physical distancing and isolation. Humans should have only one religion i.e. humanity which leads them towards humbleness. Indeed, humbleness reveals the height of spiritual culture in each deed done by an individual. It also directs each person into the direction of progressive human civilisation. Humiliation never creates humanisation so that progress can be felt. The feeling of overpower leads towards destruction which is ultimately very painful and sorrowful. We can perceive isolation as a miniature of socialisation so it should be maintained properly. Socialisation seems to be a miniature of globalisation. So socialisation should also be maintained to restrict unnecessary social gatherings. In this global era, everything is being globalised whether the thing is good or not.

Some pedagogical implications of physical distancing and isolation

Using the means of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) available at home, the teaching and learning of any subject in general and English language, in particular, can also be conducted. The reading materials related to the English language are widely available on the Internet. Virtual classes can also be conducted to continue teaching during the time of the lockdown period. Being an autonomous learner, the lockdown period can be utilised by the learners within their home. In the case of English language teaching and learning, the teachers and learners may use social media for teaching and learning. Learners can surf the Internet at the time of lockdown to expand the horizon of their knowledge. Teachers can conduct exams through the Internet which helps to maintain physical distancing and isolation. Teachers can send reading materials through email. Learners can take an exam through the Internet when teachers send questions related to free writing.

Conclusion
Corona Virus pandemic has taught us a great lesson regarding lockdown, physical distancing and isolation. By maintaining physical distancing and isolation, we can be safe from possible harms and hazards. As physical distancing and isolation maintained by Ram Chandra in Ramayana movie, it can be a source to know about the lockdown, and physical distancing. Isolation can also be useful for brainstorming which helps to foster our intuitive knowledge by which the learners investigate the various possible solutions of the personal problem. It is essential to be safe in the time of a great crisis. Teachers and learners can utilise ICT for teaching and learning English during the period of lockdown. The COVID-19 can be defeated by only maintaining physical distancing and isolation. People should become alert to tackle the possible challenges of other sorts of pandemics as well.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

[To cite it: Dhami, B.S. (2020, April 20). Lockdown, social distancing and isolation in Ramayan: An overview. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/lockdown-physical-distancing-and-isolation-in-ramayana-an-overview/]

The Author: Mr Dhami is doing a Masters in English at Kailali Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is a secondary English teacher and has been teaching at Holyland Secondary School Attariya, Kailali since 2006 AD.

Unstoppable learning despite the COVID-19 lockdown

Dipak Prasad Mishra

Some told, untold, and retold incidents bring exclusive experiences in life. So has COVID 2019 brought experiences in our life. We are bound to lock ourselves inside our house to avoid spreading the virus. Like globally, Nepal has also declared lockdown leading to an isolated life, resulting in psychological suffering and monotonous lifestyle. While writing this piece, I’m in Kathmandu struggling to manage foodstuffs and my study. My university shifted the regular classes into online mode. However, I didn’t have a stable and reliable internet in my place. Therefore, I requested my house owner to manage internet access for the same and he provided too. Then, I was hopeful to accelerate my study through the virtual class. This new mode of study has given me some exciting experiences and challenges, which I will share in this piece of writing.

On the very first day of lockdown, I woke up only around 7. Oh my god! I was late to complete a review of an assignment and I hopped on that immediately. After that I went through the emails from my professor, which asked me to read some resources. Then, I downloaded books and articles, and read some research to explore the focus of the articles, the researcher’s objectives, and findings with future directions. Reading the research of others was deepening my own insights into research, which was helping me to write about research and prepare for the same.

In another mail from my university, my professor wrote about virtual class, plan of the university to shift towards it, and its process. I was extremely delighted to learn that the university was going to run the classes virtually even during the pandemic. The first day went on setting up the things and learning to handle the technology. The second day of the virtual class went much better. We talked about the previous class and the plan of the day. Basically, two of our classmates presented their research proposal. Their sharing gave me many ideas for mine. After that, we talked about our assignment and comments which were given on it. We were also oriented to work on Google docs, which was a new concept for me. It was interesting that one could see another’s writing, read, and give feedback easily without exchanging emails and attachments. In the next class, our teacher assigned one of our classmates to present English continuity and counter-discourse and then in the second session, he delivered his presentation about World Englishes, the variety of Englishes.

Benefits of virtual classes

The virtual class was a new taste for me. From my experience, I came to know that online classes/learning is also one of the crucial modes of teaching and learning in difficult circumstances and it can be taught and learnt in the corner of the world at any time. It is also a good alternative for those who cannot attend face-to-face classes. The online class has developed a habit of listening carefully to others and takes notes. I have been collecting adequate ideas through virtual class, virtual conferences, and seminar. These conferences and seminars have taught to get connected, share, and learn in any situation. The online class has also offered me opportunities to collaborate in assignments with my peers across Nepal, which has saved my time too.

Challenges and limitation of virtual classes

It is true that virtual class doesn’t give the flavour of a real classroom while engaging in discussions with teachers and classmates. I also faced some problems while participating on it. On the very first day of the online class, while my professor was presenting about research, my internet went out of coverage. After ten minutes, I managed it but again there was a problem in my audio and video. The issue ruled the whole day went and I couldn’t fully participate and share my opinions in the classes. I just watched the screen of my professor but I couldn’t participate actively, like face to face classroom. At that moment, I felt truly isolated. In addition, later I was not able to fully concentrate during the presentations and talks because the movement of my family members and sounds in the room and I would also move around the kitchen to eat something unknowingly, missing some bits of class sometimes. Likewise, my neighbour and street dogs would equally distract me during our class. Similarly, staying long in front of the screen was also painful for me. In addition, I soon realized that my teachers wouldn’t able to truly assess my learning as I could surf the questions asked by teachers online and read out that.

Conclusion
The online classes during this isolation have kept me connected with my university and study allowing me to be familiar with new technological tools. It brings my teachers and mates at my home, while I’m sitting comfortably in my chair or on the bed, watching and listening to them with the flexibility to attend and study the resources. The online class sometimes makes us comfortable and confident enough to express ourselves without any worry as nobody would be gazing at us. Saving my time and money to travel to the university is another benefit for me. Therefore, even after the lockdown, my study is going on as I’m locking myself inside and devoting more time in reading and writing. The piece you are reading is an example of that.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

[To cite it: Mishra, D.P. (2020, April 20). Unstoppable learning despite the COVID-19 lockdown. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/unstoppable-learning-despite-the-covid-19-lockdown/]

 

The author: Dipak Prasad Mishra is currently pursuing MPhil from Kathmandu University. His areas of interest include English as a Medium of Instruction, Teacher Professional Development and Critical Pedagogy.  

11th Anniversary Issue of ELT Choutari: Special Coverage on Resources & Materials #Vol 12, Issue 94

Resources and materials for more engaging and comprehensible learning

Welcome to the 11th anniversary issue of ELT Choutari and the first quarterly (January- March) issue of 2020.

On the completion of its glorious 11 years and moving forward for the 12th year, the current editorial team would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all our founding members, past editors, contributors, well-wishers and most importantly you, as our reader! ELT Choutari has primarily served to promote local scholarship and a resource bank for ELT practitioners. The 11th resourceful years of Choutari has produced 11 volumes and 93 issues with hundreds of resourceful articles. Besides, we also have created a resource bank of ELT Blogs, Discussions and ELT Journals to bring the ELT resources at a single venue for our readers. Our ongoing effort of developing Choutari as a resource bank has further encouraged us to dedicate the theme of this issue on production of ELT resources and materials and their use in ELT context of Nepal to generate a focused discourse on this area.

Resources and materials add value in teaching learning as music adds value in a celebration. They are means and tools for making our teaching-learning more engaging, interesting and thus making activities more learnable and understandable to students. Actually, resources are not only for their day-to-day teaching learning but also for the professional development of teachers. Therefore, the use of resources and materials plays a tremendous role in shaping the professional skills of an English language teacher.

The essence of teaching approach or technique largely depends on the resources and materials teachers choose. Because they help teachers in offering students an amazing variety of routes for learning and discovery (Harmer, 2007). So, the classroom that uses resources and materials makes learning more meaningful by engaging learners and allowing them to learn through self-discovery. The resources and materials also support to address multiple learning styles of children through differentiated instruction. Teachers can design the diverse learning activities to address diversified classroom based on them.

The availability and access to the ELT teaching resources and materials both in physical and online formats have been huge than ever. The online resources stand out more in this era due to its menu like ready-made availability. Such resources can also be accessed through simple android phones even in the rural parts of the world. However, a teacher should be able to customise and contextualise the resources as per the need of curriculum and children.

In the context of Nepal, the production of ELT textbooks and supplementary materials is increasing. And there have been some efforts on publishing ELT journals, audio-visuals, digital magazine like ELT Choutari to contribute to the professional development of teachers. Yet, the resources and materials to address the needs of both students (in the classroom) and teachers (for professional development) are insufficient. Likewise, the quality and innovation on the available resources and materials are also far behind the standard. In this backdrop, this quarterly issue of ELT Choutari is presenting you the six blog posts and one bonus resourceful article to create a focused discourse on these issues.

The blog posts offer you good practices of teachers in using locally available resources, teachers’ reflections on using students’ feedback as a resource for shaping their teaching skills, practices of using Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) for professional development and interview with an expert on the resources and materials to the fullest. Moreover, on the occasion of our anniversary, we also present you a special package of reflections- reflections from our founders, editors, ELT experts and readers. Last but not the least, we also present you a super special resourceful article about ELT resources from TESOL blog, which unpacks many other resources once you get into it (so don’t hesitate to unfold the package).

Here you go:

  1. Reflections: Hearing from founders, editors, ELT experts and readers
  2. Quality scrutiny in materials isn’t merely a formalization process: Ganga Ram Gautam, PhD
  3. Teaching English using locally made/available materials: by Rishi Ram Paudel
  4. Open online courses for teachers’ professional development: by Bibas Thapa
  5. How to convert reading into pleasure from pressure?: by Ghanashyam Raj Kafle
  6. Collecting students’ feedback for enhancing my teaching skills: by Somy Paudyal
  7. The Best 2019 Resources for Teachers of ELs: by Judie Hayness

While releasing this issue, we take the pleasure of welcoming and introducing Mohan Singh Saud in our editorial team. Mr. Saud is a PhD candidate at Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He has been teaching English at Kailali Multiple Campus, Dhangadhi, Nepal since 2004. He has also authored some books including school level English series and some journal articles. Currently, he is working on Grade 11 compulsory English textbook under Curriculum Development Centre, Nepal.

Before leaving, I would like to thank all the contributors to this issue. Likewise, I would like to offer special thanks to Babita Sharma Chapagain, Karna Rana, Ganesh Bastola, Praveen Kumar Yadav and Mohan Singh Saud for reading and reviewing the blogs rigorously.

Finally, you are requested to drop your comments for the blog posts you read, share anything you like in your network, and consider writing your own blog post for April- June issue.

Thank you!

Jeevan Karki,
Lead editor of the issue

Reflections: Hearing from founders, editors, ELT experts and readers

On our eleventh anniversary, the Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki has collected the reflections from our founders, editors, ELT experts and readers. Their reflections remind the readers our journey, our contribution (contribution in education in general and ELT in particular), contents and readers perspectives on them, its sustainability, some valuable suggestions. It’s indeed very interesting to hear from them and we believe you will certainly enjoy these excerpts and know more about Choutari.   

The way forward: Interactivity

Bal Krishna Sharma, PhD

Before I wrote this piece, I quickly skimmed through the blog posts published in 2019 and stopped at the one written by Sreejana Chamling on the topic of how listening to the radio made her a good language user and a teacher eventually. She writes “I enjoyed the English-speaking style of the RJs. I especially liked their pronunciation, speaking styles, confidence etc. Then I started dreaming of being able to speak like them and started tuning English programs even if I did not fully understand what they were talking about.” Fascinating! Then as I finished reading it, I wanted to see how the post has been responded to by the readers. None! This is just a representative case. When the founding team envisioned the goal and mode of this online forum, a few keywords came to our mind: interaction, dialogicality, discussion, and so on. The idea of publishing a reflective material in an interactive blog is to generate a response in its readers. Interactivity is exactly the feature that makes Choutari different from traditional journal articles or other web-materials.

What is the way forward? For the last few years, I have been following another interactive blog Language on the Move. Like ours, it publishes articles on a regular basis, from contributors around the world. As an example, the blog published an entry on ‘language shaming’ written by an Australian professor Ingrid Piller, and the post drew several details of content from my article on language ideology published in the journal Language, Discourse and Context. The blog post generated 19 comments, both long and short. Meanwhile the writer contacted me to see if I could write a response to the post, and I did. I was impressed by the degree of interest that readers had on the topic and the content of the article.

The way forward for ELT Choutari is to take stock of what we have achieved so far and learn from other similar forums like Language on the Move. Happy New Year 2020!

Collaborations with institutions for forward

Laxman Gnawali, PhD

As the first webzine launched by the Nepali ELT professionals, Choutari actually established the idea that this type of publication is viable to run a sustainable way. It was launched at a time when Nepali ELT professionals were looking for reading materials which were Nepal specific and freely available. Choutari was an apt response to the expectation. Though the pioneers had no concrete experience of running a professional webzine, with their relevant academic background giving Choutari a professional shape, in a short span of time, it became a familiar platform for the ELT professionals particularly for the young scholars. Looking from the professional development point of view, those who were not getting space in the print journals, saw their work published and read by colleagues from around the world.

The selection of write-ups of Choutari is impressive. The issues include an array of contributions: anecdotes, opinion articles, classroom tips, research papers and book reviews which allow professionals and scholars of varying stages to contribute their experiences and insights as well as research outcomes. In addition, occasional interviews and bytes create space for the seasoned and senior professionals to share their views and positions on pertinent issues. Though the editors seem to be cautious about the quality, in some issues some minor errors act as red herrings which, if avoided, will make this webzine a truly professional one. Everything has a room to improve.

Choutari issues are commendable and have a good readership from home and abroad. Even then, this webzine has a potential to have a wider impact. For this, I propose a few strategies. Firstly, if the contributions undergo a peer review, though not necessarily blind, the oversights can be detected, and unintended red herrings can be avoided. This will also allow some thinking time for the editors as the review can be done by professionals who are not in the team. Secondly, if each issue includes one editor from a different university/college, that particular issue will see contributions from that institution. Once the professionals from that institution see their write-ups published, they become regular readers for the upcoming issues. The selection of the guest editors needs to be done institutionally i.e. Choutari team need to approach to the institutions to nominate someone from their respective departments. This becomes a true collaboration between Choutari and the institution. An understanding can be made that the collaborating institution members contribute at least 50% of the selections in the issue. Thirdly, if each issue has two sections a) regular features and b) specific theme-based contributions, regular readers will find something to read as they always have. Other readers who may be interested in specific theme will access a given issue. This will create a niche of the readers maintaining a variety for the ELT community.

Recognition opportunities for sustainability

Uttam Gaulee, PhD

ELT Choutari is an adventurous journey by a few pioneers who inspired a generation of ELT experts in Nepal and beyond. The contents on it included a wide variety of resources, reflections, and research, the contribution of which is tremendous in the Nepali society.

Choutari is a wonderful platform and should therefore continue to reach out to young writers and help them express their ideas by providing trainings on writing. Some competitions, incentives and professional development opportunities tied to the contribution would go a long way toward sustainability. Recognition opportunities such as the “contributor of the month” or author spotlight would help young writer build up confidence.

Some reflections from behind the scene

Babita Sharma Chapagain

ELT Choutari is a digital ELT magazine in Nepal, initiated by ELT scholars in Nepal. This forum has been grooming the new members to take over the responsibilities to run it and thus offering them an opportunity to gain new experiences and grow professionally. ELT Choutari earned good popularity in the field of English language teaching and networking. I understand it as a great platform where authors from home and abroad exchange their ideas, share about their innovative practices and where ELT professionals can network and grow. One year ago, when I was offered to join the ELT Choutari team, I was quite excited as it was my first experience working as an editor of an online journal. It has really been a great pleasure becoming a part of this vibrant and enthusiastic team of six editorial board members. Since I joined this team, my role is to support my co-editors to find articles focused on and complementing the particular theme for that quarterly edition. Additionally, I would also review articles. This year, I got an opportunity to work as a lead editor of the fourth quarterly edition (October-December, 2019) of ELT Choutari, under the theme of ‘EFL/ESL Teachers’ New Teaching Ideas/ Methods and Best Practices on Integrated Approach to Teaching English’.

During this process of releasing that edition, I realized how challenging it is to find authors to write and share their ideas. Actually, we were trying to bring into the new contributors to share their experiences. We encountered some enthusiastic people, who were willing to share their experiences but lacked confidence to produce a readable reflection or blog post. So, it gave us an insight that we need to support such people in scale to build their confidence in writing their reflections.

The best part of my time here was our team work. My team members gave their valuable time to provide me with technical support and help me with editing the articles until all the articles were finally released. I would like to thank all the editors of Choutari for their for their immense support and encouragement. Finally, I am very thankful to the valuable contributors who shared their experiences of various practices in the field of English language teaching.

Editor’s perspectives

Ganesh Kumar Bastola

Choutari was a very familiar forum for me before I joint it as an editor as I had already published a couple of my own articles. Later, when I was offered a place as an editor, I felt elated. I was overwhelmed in the very beginning. Later, I had to lead one issue myself (of course with the support from team members). As we received the articles and we started reviewing them, I encountered some challenges.

During the review of the articles, firstly, I confined my focus on cohesion and coherence of the write-up. I made cursory reading of some of peer reviewed journal and their articles. Apart from reading across those different articles, I concentrated on the structural aspects as well. The most challenging part of reviewer is to envisage the positive as well as the negative aspects of paper. During the process of refining the write ups, I learnt many things myself, which are discussed below:

  1. Organization of the contents: We know every write-up has its own style, lay out and structure. The papers I reviewed had varied structures. Of course, no two articles have similar heading and sub-heading. However, it is essential that any article should maintain the diction appropriate to its style, for instance, the reflective article is written in narrative form, which doesn’t match with other research articles.
  2. Recapitulating the contribution of the paper: As an editor and writer, one should question themselves, “What’s the contribution of the write-up to its field?” I also realized that an article having practical pedagogy for day-to-day classroom is more preferred by teachers than the articles on theoretical perspectives. However, having both theoretical perspectives and practical application in the classroom can make the article even better.
  3. Aligning with the theme of the issue: Sometimes Choutari announces the thematic issue aiming to generate the focused discoursed on a particular theme. As an editor and writer, one should bear this in mind while editing and writing any article.

Reviewing and editing not only helps to make articles publishable and readable, but also offers many benefits for editors. While reviewing and editing articles, I get to read and re-read diverse write ups from wider scholars in home and abroad, which not only expands my academic horizon but also develops the professional skills like editing and reviewing. After publishing the articles with the series of revision and editing, I feel that editing gives an academic shape for an article keeping a contributor’s voice intact, tacit and embodiment.

Readers’ perspectives

Nabina Roka

I’m glad to know that ELT Choutari is welcoming valuable feedback from its reader.

I had subscribed this magazine quite a while before, I published my article on it. It was my thesis supervisor (Dr. Prem Phyak), who encouraged me to write reflection on the Masters’ Research (2018), for ELT Choutari. Then, I made up my mind not to miss that opportunity. I was glad as well as worried whether I could produce a publishable writing or not. Then, I went through some of the articles, which motivated me for reading the recent trends and practices in English language teaching and also gave me some ideas on shaping my own article. Some articles like ‘Teacher as Reader’, ‘Good Writing is All about Practicing and Knowing its Reader’, ‘Enhancing Project Work in EFL Class’, ‘Critical Thinking Strategies for Resolving Challenges in ELT’, issues of EMI in Multilingual Context, etc. are some of the remarkable writing which inspired me to keep reading this magazine. Not only that I often read the reflection by various ELT practitioners and equally got insights from their experiences, day to day practices, stress, frustration, opportunity, etc. The success stories and motivational reflection published on the digital magazine are highly commendable.

It supports and inspires the people like us to revive our hopes to try something new in our field. Moreover, in this age, digital magazine provides the opportunity for the readers to interact with the contents and authors.

However, ELT Choutari has yet to work on the reaching the larger audience. Despite the amazing contents on it, the number of readers seem less. Therefore, it should work on bringing the large number of students and teachers on this forum to read and also share their experiences and reflections. I hope ELT Choutari will be recognized as one of widely used magazines throughout the country and the world to bring the unheard voices of the ELT practitioners.

Finally, I would like to suggest Choutari team to bring in the contents in the areas of eco-pedagogy and English, narratives on inclusion in ELT, narratives of disabled teachers/learners’ of English, creative and critical writing, and photography as a means to teach language.

Insights on diverse themes: Bam Shah

I’m one of the regular readers of Choutari since I’ve heard about it. I began to study regularly when I got information from my respected teachers in the university. I regularly read the articles published on it, which are very interesting. Choutari has energized me to read and explore more. It has provided insights on the diverse themes in ELT. Today I’m very happy to know about the eleventh anniversary of ELT Choutari. I hope that it will provide readers with more valuable research articles in the days to come.

Now, we open the floor for you. Please share your reflections or comments for ELT choutari in the comment box below.

[To cite this: ELT Choutari. (2020, January 25). Reflections: Hearing from founders, editors, ELT experts and readers [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/reflections-hearing-from-founders-editors-elt-experts-and-readers/]