Teaching in the new nor­mal

Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion - RHODERICK ABELLANOSA

WHETHER on­line learn­ing is ef­fec­tive or oth­er­wise is some­thing we will only truly know from ex­pe­ri­ence. For now, all things are plain spec­u­la­tion or ex­pres­sions of hope. But it would be good for both teach­ers and stu­dents to be re­minded that the rea­son why we opt for on­line learn­ing is that there is no other safer op­tion. “Freez­ing” the aca­demic year at the ex­pense of man­power pre­pared­ness can­not be an op­tion.

As we move closer to the open­ing of classes, we must brace our­selves and ex­pect chal­lenges. We need to man­age our ex­pec­ta­tions and be open to ad­just­ments. Part of this is set­ting aside our ide­alisms as we try to grap­ple with many things that are ei­ther fully or partly un­known to us. In the mid­dle of this pan­demic, we should know when to say “should have been” or “should be.” See­ing and un­der­stand­ing things in con­text is im­por­tant. This way we would live in the “here and now” and thus avoid un­nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ences of an­guish.

The chal­lenges to teaching in the new nor­mal are both im­me­di­ate and long-term; ei­ther for­mal or sub­stan­tive. Within our plain view, con­nec­tiv­ity is the im­me­di­ate con­cern. Ap­par­ently, this is a chal­lenge but ac­tu­ally not the only. In fact, it is a tech­ni­cal con­cern that should have a tech­ni­cal so­lu­tion. This is not to say that such a chal­lenge is not real, but once one would get to have the “means” to af­ford the ser­vice of an in­ter­net provider, the prob­lem ends there.

The greater chal­lenges are ac­tu­ally found in the need for ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to ad­just to the chang­ing re­al­i­ties around them. This is where long-term plan­ning and more se­ri­ous re­flec­tions and dis­cus­sions are needed. What shall be­come of ed­u­ca­tion in the years to come? And what kind of ed­u­cated peo­ple will the fu­ture need? This ques­tion is nei­ther dystopian nor utopian but a prac­ti­cal one. It is a ques­tion that must be asked if we are to gen­uinely live our lives as re­flec­tive hu­man per­sons in the new nor­mal. Es­sen­tially, this is not just a tech­ni­cal ques­tion but one that pushes us to search and fo­cus on the more en­dur­ing as­pects of our lives. There is no one shot an­swer to it, and, in fact, the an­swer may have to be dis­cerned and re-dis­cerned in the process.

The ques­tions, for ex­am­ple, on what is rel­e­vant to teach these days is noth­ing but se­ri­ous. Af­ter all, if ed­u­ca­tion is the process of birthing knowl­edge, we are, in more ways than one, at an age where peo­ple ask “what do we truly know?” Thus, when pre­par­ing per­for­mance tasks they have to be planned and de­signed in light of the up­dates, ad­vances and chal­lenges of the new nor­mal. To what ex­tent will our ques­tions en­able our stu­dents to con­nect to a world that is eco­nom­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally volatile, am­bigu­ous and uncer­tain? Do our prin­ci­ples still hold valid? Is the here and now a con­nec­tion to hu­man his­tory and if so what is this cur­rent ex­pe­ri­ence telling us of who we are as a peo­ple and the in­sti­tu­tions that we cre­ate?

Then there is the is­sue of com­pe­ten­cies or skills. While it is true that there are many skills that are en­dur­ing and shall for­ever be part of the needs of the marker (e.g. com­mu­ni­ca­tion) but ba­si­cally we can­not but be part of the evo­lu­tion in which the mode and man­ner of the trans­mis­sion and ap­pli­ca­tion of skills would surely change. This means that teach­ers too should be up­skilled and reskilled for one can­not give what one doesn't have. An ex­am­ple would be re­search. Given all the lock­downs and stric­tures, how will we pro­ceed with data col­lec­tion? Now is the time for learn­ers to “ac­tu­ally do” re­search us­ing avail­able and ex­ist­ing on­line data. Cer­tainly, this will have many im­pli­ca­tions to the chang­ing land­scape of aca­demic ethics given its closer in­ter­face with tech­nol­ogy es­pe­cially Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI).

There are a lot of things that teach­ers should re­flect on these days. At first the re­sump­tion of classes would ini­tially feel like “busi­ness as usual.” But as things move one we shall feel the changes, and we have to be ready for them. In words of Klaus Sch­wab, founder of the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, the pan­demic gives us an op­por­tu­nity to “re­flect, reimag­ine and re­set our world.”

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