Have teachers become redundant? TLF award winners discuss this existential poser at Techspectations Educate

A mobile or tab where online games are inaccessible and only education is possible, an automatic mechanism to check online student delinquency, a twinning system to introduce students and teachers to foreign education methods were some of the suggestions that came up at the interaction held with the winners of ManoramaOnline’s Thought Leader Fellowship (TLF) awards, which were announced at the Techspectations Educate 2021 digital summit on Saturday.

The topic was Online Education in 2021 and Beyond. There were six winners in three categories: undergraduate, graduate and teachers. Even a larger existential question was posed by one of the winners, the first runner up in the Graduate Category. “Are teachers even necessary in this world of Google,” Sonu asked in passing.

The winner in the Teachers’ Category, Nijoy P Jose of St Thomas HSS, Pala, conceded the profundity of the question. “It is as pertinent as asking whether a washing stone is relevant in the time of washing machines,” Nijoy said. “It is up to the teachers to create a situation where they are irreplaceable,” he said.

He suggested two ways for teachers to remain relevant. One, collaborative learning. He said twinning programmes should be organised with other schools, colleges and universities, preferably foreign. “It would be good to know how a Robert Frost poem or Shakespeare or even mathematics is taught in a school in Finland of Germany. That would open up the thinking of teachers, expand our worldview,” he said.

The other suggestion was for teachers to master special teaching apps. “There are hundreds of apps for teachers. If each teacher could learn at least five of them, they could make learning more fun and creative,” Nijoy said. The runner up in the Teachers’ Category, Favour Francis, also acknowledged the need for teachers to update themselves. “To guide children through this vast ocean of knowledge that technology has opened up, the teachers should first learn how to swim,” he said.

A major problem of online education identified by the student winners was the short attention span of students during class. Ahban P of Malappuram, the winner in the Undergraduate Category, said that students tend to use their smartphones to play online games like PubG. “We should have a device that would work only for education, and since this would not have many unnecessary features, it could also be provided to students at affordable cost,” Akhban said.

Rahmath Salima of GHSS Mezhathoor, Palakkad, who was the first runner up in the Undergraduate category said that devices for online classes should have an “extra updation” facility. She said certain students were prone to leave classes earlier than the allotted time and to avoid this, she wanted a notification to be automatically sent to the teacher if a child shuts off her camera before time and leaves the class.

Sonu C Jose, the runner up in the Graduates Category, suggested a ‘censor’ system that could switch on the computer automatically if the student moves a certain distance away from the online learning device during class.

There was a general feeling among both the students and teachers that online education was here to stay. Ektha Sandya of Symbiosis College Of Arts And Commerce, Pune, the Graduates’ Category winner, said that it was high time that the government and private played ramped up education content on television. She also wanted students to be provided affordable internet access.

Ektha also recommended a ‘Kindle’ model of learning, where books are provided online. “This way, environmental sanity will also be ensured,” she said.

All the four student winners had one request in common: make the internet accessible to all, affordably.


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