By: Fazmina Samat
Writer & mom blogger @humblemommybear
Teachers and educators scrambled at the thought of how they were going to teach students and complete syllabus without physically been next to the children. The thought of reopening schools is still indefinite and teachers are certainly not willing to dwell on it.
Hence many schools and preschools have taken measures in giving out home based school activities purely by communicating via WhatsApp groups, emails and video calls. Sticking to a routine at home will help maintain their academic skills and aid in alleviate stress and anxiety that the children maybe experiencing.
Stepping out of the norm, is when educators implement on distance learning than simply sending out worksheets. Footsteps Preschool, located in the heart of Dehiwala has taken the initiative of virtual learning for young minds all below the ages of 5 years.
A daunting task, unlike with older children who are capable of handling it independently. Preschool teachers will need to rely on parents to ensure that the learning they are providing is accessible and flown through at home. In conversation with the Director of Footsteps Preschool, Fazra Irfan on the effectiveness and success of their method of distance learning with preschoolers, here’s what she had to say.
- As an education body, how are you responding to Covid-19?
We comprehend this is a challenging period for all education providers and educationalists at large. At this time of volatility, our response is more imperative than ever. Technology has marched into the breach, and will continue to play a vital part in educating future generations. Currently, we are delivering activities and programs online. We are proud to express that Footsteps Preschool was one of the first’s Early Years educational providers in doing so. Our framework includes group sessions as well as one to one sessions for students that require special attention.
- How does this effect for the future of learning?
The current predicament is an opportunity to review the education system from Nursery to University. At the core of any calamity is an opportunity. It is time to set up a committee of educational specialists to reflect a ‘new normal’ for education in Sri Lanka.
Distance learning and online education is not new. This method has been in place for over two decades amongst undergraduate & postgraduate levels. In some countries, web related education has been inculcated in the syllabus at Nursery levels. Screen based activities has been a hallmark at Footsteps Preschool too.
Moving forward, blended education comprising online and offline methods will be paramount to maintain an equilibrium in life and studies. At the mercy of sending their kids to school, Parents will wish for recuperation and peace at home.
- What do you see as the challenges of online learning?
Affordability & Accessibility is key. Not all have the capacity to access a device and internet in Sri Lanka. This is a grave concern on equality to all. Bandwidth is an area where internet service providers in Sri Lanka must consider.
Adaptability, Technical savviness, Computer literacy, Discipline & Time Management are key challenges to online learning for both- Educationalists & Students.
Over use of screens can have adverse impacts on young brains, so it’s essential in these special circumstances to be extra careful when it comes to the little ones.
- Is it as effective as classroom learning?
Converting from conventional method to a virtual method entails a completely different experience for students. While learning & activities are conducted in a classroom and outdoors, virtual classrooms demand immediate action and is limited to confinement. Students with a “conventional” mind set may find it hard to adjust. Nevertheless, students need to be trained the new learning frontier. Considering the benefits of online learning and discussing the Pros & Cons with the Parents, is bound to change their mindset and better prepare kids for virtual experiences. However, a virtual classroom will never replace the love, the laughs and the interaction with adults and other children. Social, emotional and physical development is vital for individualistic growth which also cannot be replaced virtually.
- What activities do you accomplish online?
Our online learning approach was carefully planned, considering the time frame and the age groups of the students. All activities are differentiated, and delivered in the most interactive methods. This includes rhythm, movement, literacy, early numeracy, fine motor, sensory, storytelling, cooking, show and tell and arts and crafts activities. Our lesson plans are tailored to cover all developmental areas as per the curriculum. We also provided students with a tool kit including all essential resources to be used during live lessons. This eased the parents burden to look for resources during this lockdown period.
- Take us back to the first day of online teaching, how was the experience seeing the kids and vice versa? Was it a successful attempt?
There is no better feeling to see the kids. We are missing them and awaiting for their return to break the silence. They were excited to see us too. It was also a very blissful moment for the teachers and the parents to meet online. The parents’ engagement are vital to our growth, thus we sincerely
appreciate their understanding and support during these trying times. I also wish to highlight the service we provided for delivering the resource packs to every child in our admission. All these contributions made the first online session a success. The experience for both- teachers & students were overwhelming. We have conducted many sessions thereafter and will continue until the preschool re-opens officially as per the government regulations.
- What tips and tricks do you carry out to keep the momentum during distance learning?
At Nursery level, it is to make it exciting and interactive as possible and encouraging them in adapting to this method sooner than later. Parents involvement is key. It’s rare for parents and children to have this much time together, so turn it into an opportunity for bonding. Have a surprise ready for students, this is a great way to have them look forward for the next session.
Here are few testimonies from parents of the kids enrolled at Footsteps Preschool.
“The distance learning sessions conducted by Footsteps has been a god-sent in this pandemic. It helps us parents maintain some structure to our little one’s routines and gives our little ones something to look forward to every other day. I admire how well planned the sessions are. We even get an activity pack in line with the study plan for the month which is super convenient as we don’t need to keep running around looking for craft materials. I was skeptical at first but it goes to show that learning can be done from anywhere provided we give children the correct learning environment. I absolutely love this venture and I look forward to it been a permanent feature of the school.”
– Tahini De Andrado George (Blogger @lankanmama)
“We really appreciate the effort and support given by Footsteps Preschool to make the kids occupied during curfew days. Thenu really likes the singing session and activities. We do them after lessons as well. He was doing some colouring while I was in the meeting. I am so glad I chose the best place for Thenu. My friends are surprised to hear that there are online sessions for 3 year olds.”
– Dhanushi Warnakulasuriya- IT Delivery Lead
“Thank you to all the AMAZING teachers at footsteps for going the extra mile for our kids during these trying times. I never thought my girls would enjoy virtual learning and actually sit through the whole lesson but you all make it so fun and intuitive, they both look forward to the sessions and I love that this process eases them and us back into their preschool routine. We appreciate all the effort taken to keep our kids on track during these times.”
– Aaliyah Mansoor (Mum of 2 and Entrepreneur (Cuppacreme)
“I would like to convey a big thank to the team of Footsteps for their professionalism in designing and implementing the “online toddler learning program” which is a great initiative for our little ones to support their learning. All activities are planned to boost their development and creativity in a comfortable environment with their classmates. It is a highly successful approach during this uncertain times under the guidance Mrs. Razana and Mrs. Fazra.”
– Rekha Gamage (Mum and Business Development Consultant)
“We are incredibly blessed to have our little daughter Fathima attending Footsteps Preschool and with all this calamity around us, Footsteps Preschool is doing a great job by keeping our kids occupied with their online teaching program. Our daughter enjoys completing the fun, learning experiences and activities that are scheduled for her each day and looks forward to attend to her next class eagerly. Footsteps is a wonderful preschool with very personable, dedicated and caring teachers I recommend Footsteps Preschool in the highest of terms.”
– Zilmiya Nasri (Mum and home baker.)