Of Digital Semi-Literates and Online Teaching

Mukhter Ahmad Farooqi
With the emergence of Covid-19 as pandemic, life literally came to grinding halt and educational institutions across the globe had to be shut for face to face classroom transaction. Education has been the emblem of contemporary cultural ,social and economic conditions of all times. These grim circumstances which resulted from this pandemic led to push for online education and virtual schooling so that students could be engaged in learning and loss of educational session may be minimized. Technology came to our rescue in this situation. For continuity of effective learning process, now millions of students are being educated through Zoom tutorials, Google Classroom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams etc. like meeting apps in synchronous (the teacher and the learner feel in a real world conventional classroom system as they are logged into classroom rather virtual in nature) manner but how effective are our digital semi-literate educators in using the online teaching tools. Digital semi-literate term has been used because they are able to use social media and some basic apps but lack prerequisite soft skills. They are actually digital natives. For any synchronous or asynchronous mode of online teaching, efficacy is directly proportional to the one’s knowledge/proficiency in using those teaching tools effectively. A virtual classroom is a teaching and learning environment where learners can communicate, interact, view(material), discuss and engage with learning resources in an online setting.
Technology enabled teaching has given new dimension to the teacher competency has reconceptualised what it really means to be a teacher in 21st century. Competencies are the skills and knowledge that enable a teacher to be successful. Earlier teacher competency was measured on the basis of instructional delivery, classroom management, hold on content, and ability to develop and use teaching aids but now digital competency (soft skills) is also part of the scale for measuring effectiveness in teaching. Traditionally, teacher was the sole owner of the content but his role has changed to facilitator because access to best quality content is just a Google search away. Moreover, digital competency helps educators to approach teaching process with flexible pedagogy.
Current pandemic has given us the opportunity to reflect on digital competence for effective remote teaching. Digital literacy is one such basic skill that educators of contemporary times need themselves to equip with.The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” It’s pertinent to understand that even digital natives who know how to send a text and post to social media are not considered “digitally literate” by any means. “Literacy” simply means the ability to read and write while digital literacy is achieving those goals using technology in the classroom.
Cornell University defines “digital literacy as the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet”. Thought of writing this write-up struck my mind when I recently attended some webinars wherein participants from different universities/colleges asked very insane questions related to the basic soft skills/teaching tools to experts and moderators which otherwise shouldn’t have been asked by them based on the positions they were holding in their respective institutions. From that I concluded that even though they were having expertise in their respective fields but lacked the basic competency to use various online teaching tools so as to become effective in online/virtual teaching.
Similarly, if educators at any level of teaching profession do not understand the basic tenets of any online teaching tool classic example of which is the person who teaches say using zoom app but does not know how to share content on screen or uses Google Classroom but does not know how to assign and evaluate assignments online. The efficacy of such educators would be causality.
Some of the transformative technology in the classroom skills required of the digitally literate are as under:
*Word Processing, Spread Sheet, electronic presentation,mail management and web navigation skills.
*Social Media: Although its usage continues to be controversial in education but right knowledge to use it properly is inevitable.
*Cloud Computing: All online quizzes or e-content is online accessible to students anywhere because of cloud computing, so basic understanding of its working is necessary.
*Digital Databases:Basic knowledge of databases like MS Excel etc. to create database of student’s information is vital.
*Digital Citizenship: Knowledge about the rights and responsibilities of digital citizens, such as: Cyberbullying, Legality of online material., Buying stuff online, Digital Footprints, Privacy and safety while traveling the digital world.
*Create annotated, interactive and engaging video content.
*Use blogs to create participatory space for students.
*Ability to curate and share content and resources.
*Create engaging visuals
Teachers in these trying times have adapted and put in remarkable efforts to teach and engage students despite lack of digital infrastructure and inept digital skills but the fact of the matter is that virtual teaching can only become effective and unlock the potential in every student if the educators themselves are well versed in using digital tools of teaching. Teachers need to equip themselves with the latest digital/soft skills because the future of teaching is going to be blended one or flipped in nature.