CHENNAI: As uncertainty looms over the reopening of schools and colleges, students rue lack of peer learning with regard to online classes. Interaction with contemporaries, which enhances one’s own learning, has been one of major setbacks of education going fully digital.
“I was very happy when my daughter made friends at school. I even invited them home for desserts and goodies over the weekends. Now, I am getting paranoid over her speaking to friends only over the phone. She had just started using a mobile phone, and now she is creating WhatsApp groups with classmates,” said N Nridya, mother of a class 6 student.
Many parents share similar concerns and worry about threats of cyber harassment, addiction and befriending risky company. While such concerns are pertinent, the absence of peer learning may have the most effect on the child’s development. Peer learning is an learning pedagogy in which students interact with other students to attain educational goals.
M Rani, a Montessori kindergarten teacher from Chennai told Express that peer learning is crucial as children develop when they compete and they find it easier to compete with each other. “For example, when a child sees an adult doing something, he or she does not try to repeat the act. But when they see other children do it, they will have a small achievable challenge to beat,” she said. “This extends to other kinds of learning too. Kids often learn things by repetition.
They aimlessly repeat the names of birds or animals they know. They pick it up when their friends bring up a new animal or a shape or a colour,” she added. Kantha Shri, mother of a toddler, says that her son developed stuttering and speech impediment during the first few weeks of the lockdown and she could not point to any particular hurdle that had led to it. “Then I realised that we did not spend enough time talking to him. So we risked it and arranged game days with kids in the neighbourhood. While he has not stopped stammering, his speech has begun to improve,” she said.
While talking in classrooms is often seen as a nuisance, Dr Debmitta Dutta, a parenting consultant and founder of ‘What Parents Ask’ website told Express that children use humour as a great tool to learn. “Humour reinforces their learning. Pointing at political correctness, laughing at friends’ silly errors and cracking jokes with friends about subjects, helps them remember it better,” she said.
She added that schools should dedicate a time slot even it’s online to facilitate conversations between students. “Teachers should also consider giving more group assignments that students can work on together. Choice and freedom are the biggest motivators of learning and peer learning comprises of both,” she said adding that parents can also initiate such activities for kids.
Humour as a tool
While talking in classrooms is often seen as a nuisance, Dr Debmitta Dutta, a parenting consultant said that children use humour as a tool to learn. “Humour reinforces their learning. Pointing at political correctness, laughing at friends’ silly errors and cracking jokes with friends about subjects, helps them remember it better,” she said.