Corona Days – Changing Education

This month, Eylem Erkan Isler wrote for us about the changing education.  Eylem is an English teacher at METU Development Foundation Schools. Besides teaching, she has been actively designing and running international projects on technology use, ways of increasing motivation and cultural exchange. Her main interests are creating projects with her students and colleagues that develop critical thinking skills and her main teaching goal is to encourage and motivate her
students as they become more self-sufficient global citizens.

As in everything else, a change in education is also inevitable. The revolution in education has been dreamt by the scholars, the educators, and the learners throughout the ages. Especially with the opening of the first factory in 1790, the change came quickly. The changes in transportation, production and communication led people to move from villages to cities; from east to the west created a dramatic change in the society. The result of modernization in all aspects of life accelerated the change from an educational perspective.

In 1905 the idea of instructional technologies was established when the school museums opened. In these museums, visual media such as films, slides, and photographs were used to teach, which persuaded Thomas Edison to suggest, “Books will soon be obsolete in the schools… It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed in the next ten years” (cited in Saettler, 1968, p. 98).

The emergence of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has stimulated the delayed changes to accomplish his prediction worldwide. All the schools were closed temporarily but abruptly. On 16 May 2020 closure of schools were announced in Turkey like in many other countries. In response to this unpredictable interruption in education, the distance learning or in other words digital learning came under the spotlight. Technology has become a critical lifeline for teachers and students to access learning materials in multiple ways bypassing the constraints of time and place. This new way of schooling has encouraged teachers, learners, and parents to progress essential learning processes.

Imagine being all these four in this unexpected situation: A teacher, a student of MA, a mother of two and a wife. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience. As I am a technology lover, I have always hoped to experience digital teaching-learning. On one hand, I believed that, as a teacher, to have a computer or a laptop and limitless internet connection at home would work to my advantage as I could easily reach the free digital platforms to cater to my students’ needs. On the other hand, I was expecting that I would struggle to keep up with the requirements of the rapid change as I have had no training in the field of distance learning and also the insufficient bandwidth was worrying me.

The first week was a total disaster. Everybody in the house needed a silent corner to join the online classes. My students needed help to sort out the technical problems or to use the newly introduced sources while my children needed me to fix their microphone or the camera or to find the handout sent by the teacher. Screams of “HELP!” through each door. On top of that, “free” Zoom only allows reaching your students for 40 minutes. Building up, all these make you feel like running away. Many people claim working from home makes things easier as you do not have any distractors. I am sure those who say that do not take into account how all the family feels as if it is holiday time, yet must maintain the same productivity levels for work and school. In addition to these, you must learn how to convert traditional lesson plans and materials for online teaching.

The second week became easier as we gained some experience on how to manage the weak internet connection, the noise coming from our devices, the work-life balance, the help needed from the parents, the online feedback sessions,  and house chores like lunch and washing up.

To empower each other, we sat around the dinner table to adapt our routine to the new system. We all wrote down what we can do and what we expect from each another to help things flow smoothly around the house. It was great to see my 9-year-old giving me advice on how I should designate my workplace and why I need a break for myself and her. She simply said:

We can enjoy Corona schooling time. Now that we are home, we can play games together. You are not allowed to work all the time we saved from daily commuting.

To embrace the benefits of remote working and studying, we created a new schedule for myself and my daughters. Everybody starts the day by preparing the breakfast- family sharing time- and then everybody goes into her room. Lunch has become self-service and that created time for me to exercise and virtually socialize. Thanks to the new schedule, the whole family started to come together to prepare dinner. Most of the time we even managed to fit playtime after dinner. The piece of work that requires more concentration is left to the silence of the night; however, I do not complain about it at all because when I put my head on the pillow, I usually have a big smile on my face with the relief of managing to be a mom, a teacher and a student at the same time.

My daughter’s program.

Overall, after living like this for more than two months I believe that a hybrid of the long-established offline learning and the e-learning (i.e. blended learning) can create a more efficient and effective teaching-learning experience as it enables teachers to reach out to the individual students through private chat, video meeting and document sharing. In addition to this, many of my students – especially the very shy ones-  discovered the magic of being autonomous and the advantages offered by technology, like the freedom of sharing responses even if they may contain mistakes or silly ideas just with the teacher using the private chat. I, on the other hand, increased my self-confidence as I saw how much I could learn and apply in such a short time as a mother, a student, and a teacher. Moreover, our family bonds are becoming even stronger as we share more time together and being busy is not an excuse to spend quality time as a family. Covid-19 made a huge difference in my family, but at least, it was not all negative.

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