Wearing masks, social distancing, work from home, using hand sanitizers and attending online classes have become the “new normal”. Students are now sitting in their own living rooms and attending classes while being in front of their laptop screens while teachers are no more talking to students in their classrooms but rather to the empty screen.
A time none of us could ever have imagined has come. The world is battling a pandemic with hands held together. People have been forced to get used to the “new normal” which refers to attending classes online, working from home, refraining from going to social events and going out only when necessary. It has already been four months since we have begun to adapt to this way of life. Words like quarantine, lockdown, Corona Virus, COVID-19, isolation, self-isolation have made their way into our daily vocabulary effortlessly.
What was normal in the beginning of the year has become absurd now. Going out to eat or watch a movie with friends and family just to spend quality time has come to be seen as being an unnecessary need. Now people scramble for gloves, masks and sanitizers while just five months ago we had the luxury of being careless about sanitation. The worst blow that the pandemic has handed us definitely has to be not being able to meet and interact with people as freely as we could earlier. Humans are social beings and therefore social contact and interactions are as important as the air we breathe.
However, in a time of need such as this, technology has come to the rescue with the facilities of video calling, phone calling, zoom meetings and of course the most important of all – online class. Online classes ensured that the academic year of 2020-21 wouldn’t go to waste. Various platforms like Google Meet and Zoom made possible interactions between teachers and students that hoped to recreate the classroom settings. However this was a first for the country as a whole, where children spent their time at home but attended school/college at the same time. Gradually, attending online classes, working from home, wearing masks, social distancing have all come to be accepted under the umbrella called “new normal.”
Each side of the coin – Everything they say is at the tips of our fingers but there are a few exceptions they said, like the knowledge shared by a teacher in a classroom. And the home quarantine period has bought the classroom into a students living room. It is a blessing that technology has grown so far that it could make this possible but this can also mean that students lose the importance for face to face communication. One can find that with the choice of unmuting one’s audio and blocking their video, sitting on their chair, many just woken up , in their pyjamas, while they eat breakfast, students can choose to simply be virtually present in class but physically elsewhere, be it on other social media platforms or doing other activities. This is not possible when a teacher is physically present in class before them.
In an environment of a classroom, students tend to be with their peers sharing ideas and interacting with the world. This creates a chance for them to make many memories that they will cherish. For an online class though , without this physical interaction be it student-teacher or between peers, students miss out on the college or school going experience.
Teachers who were for far too long used to using chalk and the blackboard and teaching students who are right in front of them, suddenly feel like they are talking to themselves. Many have to learn how to use softwares like Google classroom, zoom and Google Meet. Here, getting used to teaching and learning solely with the medium of technology, can seem cumbersome.
Many students and teachers may be stationed at places where internet connectivity is low and thus may miss out on achieving proper utilisation of the classes and may end up wasting their time and whatever internet they get.
We find a way – Despite many challenges, these testing times of COVID- 19 and quarantine have taught us to value time, the people around us, technology and health. Over the many months that we have all been stuck at home, we have all started getting accustomed to new ways of living, learning and teaching. And eventually, society finds a way to keep going even when many things have come to a standstill.