Can online classes replace the physical schools?
There is a sci fi story by Issac Asimov named ” The Fun They Had”. It is about two children who lived in the year 2157. They found an old textbook and was looking at it eagerly as they have never seen anything like that before. Both the children are used to the digital textbook and seeing a printed book where the sentences and paragraphs don’t move is a strange phenomena for them. They also learn about real physical schools and human teachers as they are used to mechanical teacher and have never seen a school. For them school means the mechanical robot in their bedrooms and both the children long for the old physical schools where all the kids from a particular neighbourhood used to come, laughing and shouting,sitting together in schoolrooms, going home together at the end of the day. Both the children felt these schools were much better then their present school.
This is not the year 2157 but we are somewhat in a similiar situation. A pandemic is raging across the world and everybody is confined to their homes. And the worst sufferers are the small children who are about to start their schooling years or those who are already in school. For the last one and a half year they are confined to their homes and for them school means the laptop or desktop or the smartphones in which they take their online classes. No physical interaction with teachers or their classmates. No playing in school playgrounds. No drawing competitions or singing or poetry competitions. This leads to a monotonous study routine which children don’t enjoy. Learning does not mean only studying the textbooks and learning rote facts. It includes everything starting from learning about how to behave in a society, how to work as a team and learning how to deal with failures. Schools are the place where a child learns all these. It is where they meet people who are not family members and learn how to co exist with them. This interaction helps them in learning how to make relationships outside of the family. It is a known fact that practical knowledge combined with textbook knowledge don’t only make learning a fun process but also helps children in understanding the concepts quickly. In schools they get to learn the practical aspects of everything that they have learned in textbook through school trips, practicals, picnics etc. Other than studies they also participate in different co curricular activities which refreshes their mind and makes learning interesting. But in an online class or school all these things are not possible. Sitting in front of a computer for a long stretch of time has its own drawback. It makes children lazy and the blue light of the computer screen can be damaging to eyes. It makes them irritable and grumpy. It also leads to reduced concentration power. In a physical classroom there can be different type of inputs that allows children to learn a particular topic and keep it in mind, for example children can relate to teachers tone of voice, facial expression, illustrations on whiteboard etc but in an online classroom these are not possible. Impact of learning is also not optimum in online classes because as soon as the teacher signs off from class students starts surfing other things which distracts them often making them forget what they were taught. Online classes require a laptop or desktop and high speed internet connection which is a distant dream for many in our country. For such students physical classes are more convenient.
But in these difficult times where stepping out of the house is not a safe option online classes can act as an alternative to physical classes. It provides a safe environment for children to continue learning without wasting precious years. Teachers are also trying hard to make online classes a success and learning new technologies to make the same happen. Till everything returns to pre pandemic normal online teaching can serve the purpose. But in the long run physical classes are much better mode of learning.