Embracing Technology To Combat COVID Learning
By Lyndon Taylor
[NEW YORK] – Educators globally have been impacted by the pandemic and are being challenged in the COVID era to find creative ways to provide instruction to students. The manner in which teachers traditionally lead has been disrupted as they educate the next generation.
However, one of the positive outcomes which emerged is the opportunity to reimagine education and embrace technology to enhance learning.
Virtual Education Exchange
This has given birth to the Virtual Education Exchange, a partnership between the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning in New York City and Meadowbrook Preparatory School in Jamaica set to take place on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.
The brainchild of Fahim Chowdhury, a fourth grade Science and Social Studies teacher, he would find a willing partner in Cordelia Folkes, a sixth grade teacher of the Kingston based institution, on the recommendation of his colleague Karlene Buckle.
With the United States and Jamaica holding elections in 2020, both teachers agreed to adjust their Social Studies curriculum and teach the unit focused on government first. The objective was to cultivate genuine interest in the government and facilitate a better understanding of the government. “The students of both schools were informed that they would teach their buddy students across the sea about what they had learned on January 27. As part of the exchange, students will share music, poetry, art, and dance performances representative of their respective cultures during the event,” Chowdhury noted.
As a result of the partnership, both teachers wanted to give their respective students a rich social and cultural experience through the use of technology, given the social restrictions that they were living through due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Ms. Folkes, her students are excited about the virtual exchange and have been preparing for the day by reading the assigned textbook which contains information on our system of government. “They have also been engaged in online research, watching videos, and eliciting information from these videos, pertinent to the subject. Parents have also contributed to the preparation, by sharing their knowledge of our form of government with their children. Discussion among teacher and students also plays an integral role in their preparation,” Folkes stressed. She pointed out that both schools also exchanged information about their country’s system of government and out of that, a Kahoot game was created for reinforcement, as well as for fun.
Virtual Interactive Learning and Social Exchange
Both institutions have received the blessing of their respective principals and the day of virtual interactive learning and social exchange will kick off with Bronx Charter School for Better Learning principal, Mr. Shubert Jacobs and Meadowbrook Preparatory principal, Ms. Gloria Francis making introductory remarks and sharing about the event.
Students from both schools will then break out into smaller groups where they will get to know each other and ask questions. This session will be followed by a pre-recorded presentation of song and dance and then, another breakout session where students will discuss art collages made prior to the event. Following a lunch break, the students will exchange presentations on the structure of government and lessons learned from the elections of their respective countries.
Mr. Chowdhury believes the pandemic has provided educational institutions an opportunity to rethink how digital technologies can be used to support teaching and learning in schools. “I was eager to give my students a rich and exciting social and educational experience by having them present their findings to students in another country so that the project could be an authentic “educational exchange.”
Ms. Folkes welcomes the partnership which she believes have helped her students learn about both systems of government and enhanced their learning in practical ways. “I have also generated Language Arts Performance Tasks in which they are required to compare, and contrast, both systems of government. These are forms of reinforcement for what they will be required to do in the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) in April of this year. This exchange program has also improved the students’ level of competence in presenting information using Google slides.”
Ms. Folkes admits that the exchange fostered a spirit of collaboration and students were happy to share their knowledge with each other, especially as it relates to the technology. “It is interesting to note that preparation for this presentation has brought to the fore the students’ creativity, which includes making their own videos and editing existing videos to be used in the presentation. Most importantly, this virtual exchange has been a confidence booster for some students who preferred to stay in the shadows,” Folkes highlighted.
It’s hoped that the partnership will be ongoing and that the virtual education exchange will expand to include other subjects. Mr. Chowdhury envisions the possibility of a mentorship relationship moving forward while Ms. Folkes believes this is the start of something great, adding that they will do everything to nurture the relationship.
The joint experiences of Bronx Charter School for Better Learning in New York City and Meadowbrook Preparatory School in Jamaica offer an insight into how schools can think strategically and creatively about what “digital education” might look like in the future and how technology can be used to support both teaching and learning.