Education

15 Questions With Lina Ashar & Dr. Swati Popat Vats on Preschool eLearning

Apoorva Chakravarty
15 Questions With Lina Ashar & Dr. Swati Popat Vats on Preschool eLearning

On 7th April 2020, a webinar was hosted by ScooNews in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown and its impact on education, more specifically to address the effect it has on Early Childhood Education. We invited speakers Dr. Swati Popat Vats and Lina Ashar to discuss with us the issues faced by the pre-primary education system currently and the ways in which home-learning can be implemented to keep things smoother for the educators and the child in concern. The webinar was attended by more than 30,000 educationists from across India on Zoom, Facebook Live and YouTube Live.

Lina Ashar is an Indian Educationist, Entrepreneur, Writer, Founder of Kangaroo Kids International Preschool and Billabong International School.

Dr.Swati Popat Vats is the Founder/President of Early Childhood Association India, President Association Primary Education and Research, President Podar Education Network, Founder/Director Podar Jumbo Kids, National Representative World Forum Foundation, and Nursery Director Little Wonders UAE.

In the opening statement, Ms. Ashar talked about how technology is important and a necessity in the present and however much one is uncomfortable with the change it brings to the authentic teaching style, it is a requisite. We could either fear or take a leap forward toward this development. According to her, these are the times for collaboration and not competition.

On the other hand, Dr. Vats said she has a new meaning of IQ (intelligence quotient), where EQ+CQ +TQ+PQ = IQ.

She explained it by using the Early Childhood Care & Education or ECCE abbreviation and giving it a different meaning. EQ would stand for Emotional Quotient; CQ for Communicating/Change Quotient; TQ for Thinking Quotient and PQ for Play Quotient of the child. And together, these critical aspects form the IQ. Dr.Vats also added that though change is inconvenient, it is required of us to accept it in order to move forward.

Moving on to discussing some fairly important issues surrounding pre-school education, home-based learning, and helping the child focus on studies during the school closure, the two experts cleared the doubts popped by the educators listening to them Live. Excerpts below:

1. Simple ways to begin teaching online to the preschoolers for the first-time

Ms. Ashar:

  • Give a very simple framework of what happens through the day
  • Children need to feel connected
  • Advise parents on how to reach a child’s emotional health
  • Do not try to bring school at home rather it is home-based learning for the kids where the ideas are from school or educator
  • Use Zoom, kids get excited when they come together
  • The teacher goes through a period of interaction.
  • Kids ask questions

2. On the study material required for the child each day

Dr. Vats:

  • Do not overload kids with home-work. It must be formulated according to their age and capacity.
  • Pre-school/nursery can try avoiding sending work. Instead, choose to send fun activities.
  • For junior/senior classes, 1 worksheet a day is good enough
  • Send more life skill-based activities like home chores, gardening, etc.
  • It is more important to develop their language, motor, comprehension and cognitive skills than academic at this point

3. How to make online classes of pre-primary children interesting

Dr. Vats:

  • Go to Facebook Live with all the students joining with their parents
  • Have singing/rhyme sessions that they know
  • Take simple storytelling session
  • Once comfortable with the technical aspect, you could move on to apps like Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.
  • Once you list them the activities to do, discuss with them the next day so they know they have your attention
  • Do not forget to tell them you miss them and to stay safe

4. How to discipline children online

Ms. Ashar:

  • Do not take life so seriously right now
  • Approach everything with love
  • Do not tell kids they are wrong
  • Form a sense of connection when you come online
  • Emotional connection is more important than any content you could teach

5. On helping specially-abled children concentrate

Dr. Vats:

  • Remember concentration cannot be forced on any child
  • It comes with attachment and engagement
  • Understanding the child is important, it helps in setting the tuning between you and the child

Ms. Ashar:

  • One-on-one classes with special-needs children are better than teaching them with a group of kids
  • It’s been found that children focus more digitally than when in a classroom

6. On securing more admissions after the lockdown is over

Ms. Ashar:

  • Be empathetic of the circumstances
  • Follow-up calls may not be well accepted as parents are busy with multiple things these days, especially with their work from home.
  • Tell them it’s about contribution and collaboration and not capitalism
  • Send them inspirational activities to do with kids at home to stay connected

Dr. Vats:

  • This is not the time to push anyone for admissions or fees, take it slow
  • More important point is to connect with the families of your students
  • See a larger picture as educators which is - how to impact those already enrolled
  • Your focus should be on making a larger impact by your sincere efforts
  • If done properly, parents will see the difference and would want to join you in the future

7. On making digital classroom fun and creative for the preschoolers

Ms. Ashar:

  • Some days you can have dance classes, exercise session, or even a no-fire cooking class with them
  • Explore platforms like YouTube to see how educationists worldwide are reaching out to their students through creative activities

Dr. Vats:

  • Yoga is one of the best things that adults, as well as children, can practice, try it
  • ECA’s dance and exercise groups: FolkFitness & Swara Evening Sessions, become a member of these WhatsApp groups

8.  On managing the screen-time and dealing with its dependency after the traditional classrooms will reinstate

Ms. Ashar:

  • The key is to use technology in a way that it empowers as an educator, parent, and student
  • It is our duty to show kids to use technology in the right way and not be dependent on it by equally focusing on other off-screen physical activities

Dr. Vats:

  • Schools should add technology/digital literacy to the curriculum
  • Do’s and Don'ts of usage of technology should be taught to children from a young age
  • Do watch a video by BBC on Positive Impact of Screentime

9. On the right time to conduct online learning classes

Dr. Vats:

  • When the child has slept well and had a full stomach and isn't cranky 
  • Be flexible
  • Keep recorded sessions for children to watch later
  • Take your call with the best judgement

Ms. Ashar:

  • Do not make them come online as early as the school timings
  • One can start at 11 am so the kids are fresh and can focus better

10. On ensuring if the parents are doing their best in home-schooling

Dr. Vats:

  • Parent involvement is a must since it is ‘homeschooling’
  • But regardless of that, we must understand how overwhelming this all could be for them 
  • Do not make them overwork
  • Assure them that anything done now during this lockdown period will be visited again by the teachers when the schools reopen
  • Flexibility is the mantra

11. Assigning homework-based learning

Dr. Vats:

  • Please do not give ‘homework’ while homeschooling
  • Quality learning of preschoolers is more important 

Ms. Ashar:

  • Prioritize the child’s emotional and mental health than his/her academics right now
  • To help children stay emotionally stable, it is important for educators and parents to be emotionally stable themselves. Help them achieve that state.
  • Be flexible 
  • Learning the impact of children doing chores is more important

12. On maintaining the classroom environment for teachers while taking online classes

Dr Vats:

  • Print out quotes and pictures in your backgrounds
  • Use different backgrounds to have a change of scene
  • Bring some diversity in the way the children see you
  • Remind them of the happy times and memories of their school/classroom 

Ms. Ashar:

  • It is important for kids to realise how real you are
  • Showing them your home, your smiling face will make a lot of difference

13. Addressing internet connectivity difficulties

Ms. Ashar: 

  • If there is a bandwidth issue, you could record sessions and send
  • We have sent out instructional designs at Kangaroo Kids about an app that allows readers to check out the MI-based activities
  • Allow kids to play with the learning app when the internet is not working properly or the parents are busy
  • Priorly secure the links to the videos or powerpoints that you need as resources

Dr. Vats:

  • At Podar Jumbo Kids, a mix of live sessions and links were already sent to the teachers 
  • Everything is uploaded on the portal that connects us with the parents
  • Be ready with your Plan B in case the internet doesn’t work or the teacher in command is not available

14. Suggestions on the online courses/books/articles for teachers to go through

Ms. Ashar:

  • It is important to take time to brush up your skills as educators and also recognize your personal interests
  • There are a lot of online courses available and due to the lockdown, a majority of them have been rendered free of charge

Dr. Vats:

  • Subscribe to educational magazines like ScooNews, they come up with excellent articles
  • I also write frequently for Education World and BrainFeed Magazine, check them out sometime
  • Books like Totto-Chan are available for no-charge these days, read them
  • Divasvapna by Gijubhai is one of the must-reads for all teachers
  • Early Childhood Association have online courses available to enhance your knowledge in the field
  • Podar International is also starting 2 courses, Nature Kindergarten & A Leadership Program. Join them!

15. On developing the connection with the Nursery kids if they have never seen the teacher before

Ms. Ashar:

  • It is actually the perfect time to connect with them one-to-one
  • Kids are feeling more at ease and hence, the connection will happen rather quickly and effortlessly
  • Since the child does not have to settle in a new environment and have no separation anxiety, making them comfortable with the educator's face right now is a good idea

Dr. Vats:

  • It is a transition of the child from parents to teachers
  • Send something for parents to tell their kids about the educator
  • Basic information with a few personal touches like a favourite colour or flower can truly help
  • Parents can help introduce the educators with the child and explain to the child how the school will come to home via the online screen

At the end of the session, both the pioneering educationists shared a word of motivation for the thousands of educators listening to them.

Ms. Ashar:

  •  If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. But if you want to touch and impact the future of the world, connect with a child.

Dr. Vats:

  • When I see teachers struggling, I tell them the story of Thomas The Engine
  • There is a phrase that says “I can, I can, I can.” Keep it close to your heart.
  • Childhood stories are a great source of inspiration. Some of my favourites are Snoopy, Garfield, Winnie The Pooh
  • It is important to learn the art of self-motivation

If you could not catch our webinar Live, find the recorded feed on our Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/scoonews/videos/601918420667127/

For those who want to join the Watsapp groups mentioned, it is suggested to go on Early Childhood Association India website and click on ‘Contact Us’ to ask your queries.

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