By Natalia Sofía Vindas Gutiérrez - School of Education Student
Without any doubt the covid-19 pandemic came to change our lifestyle. From our socialization patterns to the education system. Were we properly prepared? Most likely not, entire nations had to modify their school year by virtualizing everything in matter of weeks. With an increasing need to implement technology in education, it is crucial that, one year later, the educational system examines techniques to have a healthy balance between online education and gradually introduce presential lessons again. We must acknowledge how imperative is for younger students to have an integral process, one that they missed for an entire school year.
Among the challenges that this pandemic brought alone, in terms of education was not just the fact that everything was done virtually but the preparedness factor. If we take preschool kids and early elementary students, they are a generation born in technology. They know how to use all devices because they have been exposed to technology, they are fast learners. Teachers, on the other hand, needed to start by learning how to make a better use of technology, as well as learning to utilize specific tools.
One of the needs that were crucial, but not always meet, was making virtuality attractive for kids. Usually, they use tablets for playing or watching their favorite television shows, not for school. So, the teachers clearly needed more accompaniment and training as to more interactive platforms not just a “zoom” call where the teacher showed the students a puppet show with physical materials. Of course, it is a great resource in presential lessons but not so much in virtual lessons. So that learning curve has already passed, and teachers must innovate in the virtual setting and know that virtuality is a great tool in terms of accessibility, for emergencies, and for getting the students’ attention.
Along with virtuality, another big concern surfaced. What about development? In the early childhood and the first two years of elementary kids develop their gross and fine motor skills. Not to mention socialization is determinant in this stage of development. Therefore, all the kids that were in lockdown and receiving virtual lessons, meaning most kids all around the globe, they had inadequate stimulation in these areas. It is a big challenge for educators to inspect that their students are performing the exercises for motor skills, for one not always the kids had their camera on and not every kid had the materials needed. Or perhaps they tried but they were doing it wrong and there was no one to correct them.
In terms of interaction with peers, they were isolated with probably their parents and perhaps siblings. So those socialization skills when they play outside with their friends, start by stablishing friendships, sharing, learning about tolerance, were missed in the process. This is something that needs to most definitely be worked on after covid- 19, or else those kids will not know how to face the world, and their development will be undermined.
After the year that took education to the background completely and where even students felt like they learned very little in terms of content or to the point where they felt that they were teaching themselves. Every government and independent entities need to invest in education specially in early childhood. We cannot expect that they act like older elementary or high school students. They cannot teach themselves and, after having an experience where probably school was extremely tedious with an abnormal childhood period, we must invest in designing a curriculum that is attractive for them, so that they get motivated for the rest of their learning journey. Now more than ever we need to make up for all of that time that they did not received quality education.
In conclusion, at this point there is no way back, we are already extremely involved with virtuality. Undeniably we are now living a new normality where we need to make better choices about the methodology to benefit our students, and remember that school is not just about the content. At the same time, now that students have had a taste of virtuality is important to acknowledge that we must introduce face to face interaction gradually, so it is not a big shock that will bring negative consequences. On the other hand, we cannot just take technology away from them, at this point technology is already a habit. Using it in our lessons is going to be familiar and interactive, while also focusing in all that physical and social development deficit. To be able to successfully achieve these goals teachers need support in both training and economic aid. This cannot be another missing link in history. On the contrary, we need to fix the emotional, developmental, and academic issues that they develop the past year so they can have a better future.