by Valerie Mascarenhas for BISMumbai

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that ensued, the last 04 months at St Dominic Savio High School has seen a necessitated and drastic shift in pedagogy. Our journey has been laced with eager learning, extensive work and sprinkled with moments of confusion and anxiety. Here is a summary of our digital escapade thus far. Learning from global trends and other educational boards, we started our research and digital infrastructural setup in March 2020.

Pilot classes and surveys from April through May helped us gauge ground reality. It is important to realize here that besides setting up a suitable learning management system (LMS), Google Classrooms in our case, having teachers well equipped for this mammoth shift into digital education was extremely important. Our teachers are fantastic at what they do but they have always taught face-to-face. We had shifted from chalk- n-talk to e-learning; activity-based learning a while ago, but this was different. One could see the palpable anxiety in many of these wonderful teachers when the LMS was first introduced to them early May. They earnestly wanted to be able to present to their children classes of caliber. This prompted us to take on a series of 12 teacher trainings in a variety of Ed-Tech Tools through May. The teachers were great learners. They worked hard at learning afresh, prepared demo lessons and built up their banks of plans. They also took up certificate courses with other organizations.

Now that teachers were on their way, it was time to work on feasible timetables, communications with parents, prepare video tutorials to help parents/students get onto the LMS and yes, train a team of 70 parent volunteers to assist the school in helping those who still had technical challenges. Management provided tablet devices, together with a distribution policy prevented economically challenged students from falling into the cracks of a newly created digital divide.

With God’s grace and the efforts by all we began school on the 15 June 2020. It’s been 04 weeks since then, we’ve had successes and challenges. We have celebrated and reviewed both, with regular meetings and feedback from staff, student and parent. We have had academic classes, co-curricular classes and the feast day Eucharistic service and celebration online. We now look forward to putting in place policies relevant to this digital platform.

There are several takeaways for us from this binary walk, key ones being: learning with an open mind; together we can overcome all challenges; there is no dearth of digital resources out there if you are willing to look and learn; some of these resources are great for extended learning and making the classroom fun.

Nothing can take the place of a face-to-face schooling experience, where children greet each other, scuffle, play together and grow and we eagerly look forward to that day. However, for now, we choose to savour each moment we have journeyed from chalk-n-talk to the binary walk, leaving an indelible mark on the way we teach in St Dominic Savio High School.