Nigeria, Spain and Greece: your stories of learning in lockdown
#LearningConnects: Teachers and learners across the world share their stories of distance learning during the pandemic
Investing in life skills. Abdulazeez is a 33 year-old self-employed photocopier technician lives in Nasarawa State, Nigeria. The West African country, seeing the spread of coronavirus across Europe, instituted strict lockdown measures at the end of March that are only now beginning to be eased, with recorded cases of Covid-19 at 2,802 and deaths at 93.
With businesses, shops and markets closed for at least four weeks, Abdulazeez - who is married and has a daughter of 15 months - chose to see the lockdown as an opportunity for improving his skills in product service and sales with the leading brands of commercial copiers he works with.
"As the country is under lockdown for four weeks to combat coronavirus, I would love to use the opportunity to invest in life changing skills that accelerate growth in my field of work," he says.
Improving his skills in working with copier components, electrical circuit analysis and troubleshooting are top of his list. Although his family "are doing well, though with limited resources" he decided that "instead of living in fear, I have downloaded books on basic electronics, and circuit analysis to diversity and broaden the length and breadth of my individual economy."
A grain of sand. Marisa, a PhD student in education at the University of Seville, Spain, shares what she calls her "grain of sand" in helping show how people around the world are responding in new and creative ways to the challenge of education in these times.
Spain has been one of the worst hit countries during the pandemic - wit more than 219,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and over 25,600 deaths. Only recently have stringent stay-at-home orders been eased: last week children were allowed out to play for the first time in six weeks.
Noting that she is "among the lucky people who have access to the Internet and a PC [personal computer]" Marisa says she is using Drive and Dropbox for collaborative work; Grammarly as a spellchecker; Slack for communication and teamwork; Trello as a task organizer; Zoom for video communication; and her university platform too.
She counts the positive experiences of using online education tools as including "the possibility of accessing a multitude of online training and information tools and resources from a PC: databases, libraries, applications, software, etc" but stresses this has to take into account "the importance of having the correct digital media.
The fact that so many resources are currently free is a blessing, allowing access to "a great diversity of resources by areas of knowledge and interest." Online learning also greatly reduces risk at a time of the global pandemic, although the key drawback included "the synergies, the environment generated in face-to-face social situations, relations and mobility."
As for the future, in the post-pandemic world, Marisa says she will continue to us online tools "as long as this training is recognised for its value - for the general, specific and transversal competencies it develops."
Poetry in motion. Christina, an English teacher in Greece - one of the European countries that took early and comprehensive measures against coronavirus with just 2,632 confirmed cases and 146 deaths so far - shared her experience of going online via a short video she made, "Memoirs of a Greek English language teacher in the distance learning era".
Set to music and illustrated with images and graphics, Christina describes the "roller coaster of emotions" she experienced as initial frustration turned to competency as she mastered the new tools.
"In the beginning, before I became acquainted with the platforms for live teaching sessions and for my virtual classrooms, it was stressful, tiring and frustrating," she observes.
"I was disappointed when students didn’t connect or didn't submit assignments. But slowly things got better." By inviting students into her home and they into theirs, she says the "cold, mechanistic" technology was transmuted.
Her video concludes that she is "waiting to see" her students again, and feel "the sun" on her face - but remains grateful that the technology has kept her safe. That return is now soon, Christina told the ETF. "Here in Greece, secondary school teacher are going back to school to prepare for the return of students - seniors from the 11th of May, the rest on the 18th."
The time away has proven that "despite weaknesses in the school system, students communicated to us that they really miss school, their classmates and us teachers!". This shows that school is a "basic environment in which students develop social skills," she notes. Going online had begun very abruptly and with no preparation. Although it had enabled continuity, it had, she feels, been hard on students, particularly those without Internet connections or home computers who "had an intense feeling of being underprivileged."
However, although the physical school environment "cannot and should not be replaced," the experience had taught her "that there is a tremendous potential in the use of distance learning tools, which teachers can exploit to supplement learning in a way that is effective, fun and interactive."
In lockdown times, we are sharing stories on how education and training systems, businesses, schools, teachers, students and their families can adapt to the challenges of teaching and learning at a distance: online conversations that could inspire all of us.
Want to share yours? Contact us: www.etf.europa.eu/learningconnects