Neuroscientists have made considerable progress in understanding how the human brain works and how we learn in recent years. However, only a small portion of that knowledge has been implemented in the actual world to improve learning and the way teachers educate.

The Indian educational system is one of the world's largest. It serves a student population of about 250 million. During the epidemic, however, the country set a new record: it had one of the world's longest school closures. In 2020, almost 1.5 million of its schools, which employ about 95 lakh instructors, were almost totally shuttered. Only eight of the 29 states and seven Union Territories have launched some classes this year.

While the difficulties students encounter in studying outside of direct classrooms are often addressed, the efforts made by instructors to maintain some sense of continuity in education are usually overlooked. Despite wage cuts and job insecurity, teachers have risen to the challenge to guarantee that their pupils are not left behind.

Understanding digital tools

It is true that they had faced a tough time understanding digital tools, the only available means to reach content to the students amid school closures, during the initial months of the pandemic in 2019. But today there are hardly any teaching staff in the country who do not know how to use digital technology for engaging with students either in synchronous or asynchronous mode.

Most teachers know how to capture their lectures digitally and share them in audio and video formats using digital channels - web, email or mobile.

They even set up online tests and evaluate the learning performances of students. In recent months, they have also become adept at creating virtual classrooms, schedules and delivery of classes in specialized learning platforms that come with added security features. Coping with work-life imbalances, they answer queries of students via online chat or over the phone with video support, beyond the routine school hours.

However, addressing disruptions in education is one thing, and enhancing the quality of education is another. Even when normalcy returns, it will not be the case of business as usual. It is fairly clear now that the future of education will be based on hybrid classrooms - an optimized blend of direct classroom and online education. Teachers would need to gear themselves up for a few realities:

1. From lecturing to curating:

There has been an explosion of educational content online. Students will have ready access to lectures, quizzes, mock tests, question banks, exercises, books, articles, and reference materials, and so on. They will have access to world-class content. In this context, the job of teachers will be more of curating the best content apart from just delivering it. This shift calls for a new, and accommodative mindset.

2. Facilitator of discussions:

Face time in direct classrooms will be meant for discussions. Having learned the subject in advance via online sources, what the students would want indirect classrooms are doubt clarifications. The 'new normal' classrooms will have one teacher facilitating discussion among students, not lecturing to them. Besides clarifying doubts, teachers will be required to set an agenda, make opening remarks, give context and facilitate group thinking and discussions.

3. AI Partnership:

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will continue to make inroads into the territory of teachers. Technology will have a growing ability to deliver personalized teaching to students. Therefore, by partnering with technology (using different apps), teachers can make their jobs easy -for instance, teachers can prepare question papers in a fraction of a second, make visuals or do many things with the help of different apps and software.

The role of teachers will continue to evolve but the significance of their contributions to a student's knowledge acquisition and character development will never diminish. Their careful eyes, compassionate heart and sharp intellect are more than what a student can ask for.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in India Today. The original article can be found at https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/featurephilia/story/new-age-teacher-driven-by-tech-powered-by-compassion-1849173-2021-09-04)