Blended education new learning curve for students, teachers

Muscat: For the first time, students and teachers went into a new mode of teaching and learning in Oman as the new academic year began with the use of online platforms except for 12th grade.

Many parents chose to stay back on Sunday to ease the transition back to school in a digital world due to the pandemic and it seemed to have made a difference.

According to Lamia Juma al Sinani, trainer for teachers of English language, South Al Sharqiyah, Ministry of Education, for some children there was difficulty, but for students who had parents’ support the first day was easier.

“It was a new experience and some children were struggling in the smaller grades but others accessed easily. As for the 12th graders, they went to school and some schools were so well prepared that students knew their designated classes the day before. Other schools informed the students this morning and informed them whether they are in this week’s batch or next week, and the books were handed over today,” explained Lamia.

These were the two main challenges students faced on the first day, “The main challenge was the Internet coverage in some areas. The second challenge was students being confused about accessing and getting their passwords although the Ministry of Education had sent videos earlier on how to access classrooms, some children struggled to access.”Teacher trainers at the Ministry of Education had been busy with preparing teachers to work on the new platform – Google Classroom and other applications since the beginning of October. Lamia and her colleagues have been conducting training sessions and she herself trained 128 teachers on using the new format for grade 5 to 12.
“The teachers have been trained on how to access, how to use the Google classroom, how to create classes online, planning their classwork online, how to make the homework, how to use the different applications that support teachers to conduct classes online, as well as electronic assessment, grading and registering marks,” she explained.

An interesting observation she had while training was this: “I had the opportunity to train the teachers who have been doing so for a while as well as new teachers. The teachers who have been teaching in the traditional classrooms had a bit of difficulty, but new teachers were catching up fast and learning easily as they were used to some of the format in their universities. The fact is it all depends on how knowledgeable the teacher is in dealing with technology. It basically depends on how traditional the teacher is, how ready he/she is to learn the new technology and apply it.”

The new platform is easy and all it needs is for teachers to get used to it, said the teacher trainer. Each teacher has gone through five-day training with two sessions per day – 10 sessions in total. As for the teachers who needed help, they were given special classes in the evening online as extra support.

This is what the teacher trainer has as advice. “Technology is coming whether we want it or not and it is not difficult as it is a matter of getting used to the new methods. Online teaching is a must if not today then tomorrow. This is a new curve in teaching because for years we have been teaching face to face and now we are teaching online. It is a bit challenging for teachers but it is not impossible. It is a learning point for them. And they have to keep practising it and then it becomes easier.”

And these are the tips for the students, “My advice for students is to have a clear outline on when to study and what to study. Focus on how to get the information easily. They have to learn and search for their information on their own and have to apply critical thinking, skills and self-education as well. So they should be eager to learn more as there would be no spoon-feeding and they have to run after information and knowledge.”