This week, I had the opportunity to interact with the faculty at Excel Public School. True to its core belief of being a school with a difference, the team at EPS is working to ensure that no matter what, learning doesn’t stop; it won’t even be paused or put in suspended animation. Here is an excerpt from my talk:
“The pandemic brought the world to a standstill and it took everyone through a cycle of:
- Denial – oh, it is just like influenza, it is only severe in foreign countries.
- Anger – Where the disappointment was vented out by blaming others or spreading false rumors.
- Introspection – How do I make the best of it? How can I leverage the opportunity?
It was Winston Churchill who said, “Crisis comes with opportunity”, though he meant it in a different sense, this crisis did bring out an opportunity for everyone to explore new normals, brought new perspectives, and even led to the discovery of new talents.
Technology came to the rescue in keeping people engaged and connected. It also helped businesses function and ensured that people earned their livelihood. To start with, like most universities, we plugged into the internet and started delivering online lectures, and then started sharing recorded lecture sessions too. However, with education in particular, mere video calls aren’t sufficient to ensure effective learning. It doesn’t create the learning environment that a classroom creates where teachers can establish eye contact with the students, understand body language, assess sentiments from facial expressions and thereby tweak the delivery. The teacher-student relationship and the attention each student deserved was lacking, which is in fact one of the core requisites for effective learning.
Reeling back a little, up until now, many saw technology as a nice-to-have. The community at large has mostly associated technology with ‘devices’ used in the classroom, not even wanting to know what went into making these devices work – software, content, experts, pedagogical method, processes, and the like. The devices like Smartboards, projectors, computer labs and so on have been the face of what education technology looks like, which made most be unprepared to deliver education remotely and effectively.
So, here was the challenge: Can technology help us do more?
The answer: Yes.
Excel Public School leveraged the technological expertise of Excelsoft and established a synergy to take the delivery of education at home beyond clicks and pixels. We worked towards increasing the student engagement in learning, and towards putting together a solid Education Continuity Plan.
Various tools were deployed, and fresh content was created to impart project-based learning through the first-of-its-kind online challenge – Armageddon. Armageddon used Excelsoft’s Project Maker tool which enabled students to work in teams, collaborate with peers from various schools from around the world, and seek mentorship from faculty seamlessly. Students worked on it for over 45 days, learning all about the history of viruses, the science of virology, the social and economic impacts, the narratives from around the world and the policies implemented by various governments, and even worked on numerous ideas concerning last mile delivery challenges, busting conspiracies, and more. This learning approach, which was spearheaded by the learning and design team at Excelsoft in collaboration with the learning experts at Excel Public School, has broken new ground.
Thanks to the collective efforts, we have demonstrated that technology can do more, and this is only the start. While this format did bring about an increase in engagement, it did not involve hands-on learning. Thanks to all of the teachers’ dedication and creativity, coupled with the tools developed by Excelsoft, we are working on rolling out ‘learning toolkits’ to children that they can use at their homes. This will not only increase the effectiveness of learning, it will also bring out the dependence on the computer screens.
We all understand that the virus will not vanish into thin air. While there are numerous efforts to contain the spread and to even find a cure, it is not yet on the horizon. However, I strongly believe that the ‘Will of all humans on the face of the earth put together is stronger than the virus’. It is necessary for us all to band together, collaborate together, and innovate to stay ahead. One year of such a crisis will put us back five years as far as human development is concerned. So we need to do more. We have to think together, learn together, be creative, innovate and collaborate for the better. And we will have to make sure it all comes into play soon.
Finally, I congratulate you all for all the hard work, meticulous thinking, and the effort in keeping it going. I’m very thankful to all of you.
Education is divine, and we will have divine blessings to make this sustainable.”