When educational institutions around the world are closed as a precaution against the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Bangladesh also had to take the same decision. Although the government has found a way of teaching students of government schools (class VI to X)-broadcasting lessons on a state-run television channel, what about the other institutions including a large number of private schools? In this crisis, if teachers were previously introduced to some online educational tools, they could have helped the students quarantined at home.
It has been discussed many times why technology is so crucial for us today. If we look around and observe our students, trust me, for sure, they know technology better than us. Nowadays, at every bit of time, our students are surrounded by it. They want technology and, maybe, we try to ignore it. They love technology and, perhaps, we try to avoid it at many points. They have been growing up using it while we have just started. Indeed, this is the era of technology. So, we cannot engage them in learning entirely and make them feel more interested in their lessons unless we add suitable educational technologies to our teaching curriculum. This is why teachers need to know educational technologies for the betterment of their students. Moreover, students will also be benefited at the same time if teachers are used to it.
I work in a private school in Dhaka, which also been closed since the government sent the notice. But we are continuing education through online resources, including our website and official Facebook page. Let me share how we are continuing lessons for our students. We, teachers, are connected using various social media tools like messenger and zoom for discussion and meetings. Opening a folder in "Google Drive" and sharing it with everyone through their emails, we are working on worksheets, and other necessary documents. In this system, the advantage is, everyone can work on the same document sitting anywhere, and they can even see while everyone is typing. This is a very handy way to give quick feedback to the team that people work with.
Parents and students are requested to follow the school website and the official Facebook page, where notices, instructions, and homeworks are uploaded from time to time. Students also have an option to send their homework to the school email address for checking. Besides these, students are being instructed to follow an online work plan where the instructional videos for morning exercise, background music for the national anthem, and homework for academic subjects are being shared weekly. Many resources, including different links related to the academic subjects, are also being shared to keep them engaged in learning. For entertainment, they are being suggested some educational movies, novels, and even relaxing music for morning exercises. Moreover, they are given a complete work plan for the whole week, which is enough to make them feel that they are in school.
Apart from all these, there is another way of running educational institutions in this crucial time, and that is "Google Classroom". It is a learning management system that allows everyone to create and manage a platform digitally as well as provide feedback to the people it is designed for. Google Classroom is a suite of Google Apps for Education, Productivity Tools (Drive, Docs, Gmail etc.) that teachers can use at their schools, or while they are outside the school-and in a crucial time like this. To run education with this system, teachers need to open a classroom using a Gmail account where they can upload all the necessary documents like routine, classwork, homework, notice, quiz; and even can take the examination online. Students and colleagues can be added to the class by merely sending a link.
I saw this Google Classroom working successfully while I was attending the Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) Programme at Montana State University, USA, in 2018. While I was studying "Educational Technology" there, most of the lessons were conducted through Google Classroom, which was not only very easy and exciting but also very useful for me.
As a part of this programme, I was appointed at Chief Joseph Middle School in Bozeman as a guest teacher for a short time, where I enjoyed the functionality of Google Classroom once again. Students are given some works in the virtual classroom, and they complete them with the school notepad sitting at the school, or even at home. How fascinating! While visiting Bozeman High School and Sacajawea Middle School at Bozeman, also, Skyview High School, and St. Charles Mission School at Billing, I found the same.
I understand that it is not possible to conduct the Google Classroom very successfully here in Bangladesh as we are not technologically fit yet; also, we don't have enough equipment and facilities, but still, we can try as much as possible. Internet access in Bangladesh is not inadequate nowadays, especially in the towns; most families have either computers or smartphones at home. In this circumstance, the Google Classroom can be used very smoothly if the government inspires all the city schools, at least.
However, if any of these does not work, there are mobile apps to run school classrooms from home. Creating these apps is easy if the ICT Ministry takes the initiative. Students of Computer Science and Programming from any university can also make apps for the government voluntarily. Additionally, if we search on YouTube, we will surely get a lot of channels where guidelines for educational technologies are available.
No matter whether it is Google Drive, Google Classroom, or even Mobile Apps-if any initiative is taken by the authority-and the teachers get basic training, I believe that something will be matched with our system to run education in this time of crisis. Also, if we start working on this right now, maybe something better will come out from our educational think-tanks. So, this is high time to think about this.
Hasan Al-Mahmud was a Fulbright TEA Fellow, Montana State University, USA. He writes on contemporary issues, education, and literature.