Connecting in times of Social Distance
For all of you who are gearing up to teach online, you must be wondering how technology is going to address the need for the personal relationship connect which is at the heart of teaching and learning. You hit the nail on the head!! That is the key aspect of teaching that all good teachers work at and all good teaching succeeds at establishing. It is the axis on which student attention is recruited, their expressions are read by teachers, and epistemic nodes are latched onto between minds, for concepts to develop and ideas to form and express themselves.
Teachers who are using various online teaching tools, like zoom, google hangouts, are already experiencing the limits of this medium in engaging students and their own ability to gauge and respond. They have already discovered that more needs to happen than just content delivery!! The thing that works in the online medium is interactivity. It can create engagement and give teachers those ‘all important clues’ into what their students are thinking; in turn it gives students the all important feedback they need from teachers and peers which they normally get through nods, expressions, and gestures.
Pace your teaching with questions and points for reflection. Require students to interact with each other and post their ideas and responses. Give them tasks to investigate and come back with their experiences. And when they write and post, respond, every-time. That way they feel your attention, and you can still build and work on the personal relationship which is at the heart of the teaching learning process. It is hard work because, in the online classroom, you’ll be building this for each of the students in your class. And yes, it is more work!!
Professor of Education
Chairperson, Centre for Education, Innovation and Action Research
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, INDIA