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How a pandemic changed education

KARACHI:

To promote the English language and encourage teachers’ training, the Society of Pakistan English Language Teachers (SPELT) arranged its 37th edition this year. The two-day conference was in virtual format in 2021, consisting of the keynote presentation, panel discussions, and plenary sessions.
This year’s idea was to discuss and learn from the experiences teachers have gained in the last two years during a pandemic as the education sector remained the most affected by the virus. The conference’s first day ended with a keynote presentation from Dr Deborah Healey, a former president of TESOL International Association in the USA.
Dr Healey, in her presentation, shared four different ways to share stories in her lecture ‘Telling our stories’. “We can give several names to the stories, but a few basics ways can be by setting the stage, inspiration, and action,” she said while sharing her presentation during a zoom conference on which more than 150 participants were present.
Talking to participants from different backgrounds and schools of thought, she shared how teachers need to be aware of the diversity of their students. “It is very important to be aware of how our learners are doing as the background of each One is different and it can leave an overall impact on them,” she said.
Dr Healey said this while sharing different story types and comparing a teacher’s journey to that of a hero’s. “Covid time feels like a hero’s journey for teachers as they stepped into the cycle as an adventure,” she said.
She explained how each aspect has a different impact on the teachers themselves. Dr Healey also shared different ways to interact and help students learn how social media can be used, how comics can help in teaching to formulate stories or how to simplify complex stories through scaffolding.
The conference also hosted a panel discussion to set up the stage and help teachers understand many ways that can help in the time of the pandemic. Seven speakers from all across the world, who are associated with different English language teachers associations, shared their experiences at the panel discussion titled ‘Crossing Boundaries, Building Bridges: A Pandemic Opportunity’.
Fauzia Shamim moderated the panel whereas the speakers were from Canada, Bangladesh, Qatar, Korea, Japan, the USA, and Nepal. Every panelist shared steps they have taken to learn more on teaching techniques during a pandemic.
“We weren’t ready for this change, but now, when we have shifted to webinars and online learning, we should continue the same even if the situation gets normal,” said Dr Kilryoung Lee. Another panelist Dr Madhu Neupane was of the view that pandemic has re-invested education for the world and somehow the pandemic has been a game-changer for the education system. “Even countries which were not so good with technology also had to adapt to this change and this can help in the future of education in the world.”
The other panelists included Dr James Papple, Dr Rubina Khan, Dr Dawn Jin Lucovich, Dr Aymen Elsheikh, and Dr Gabriel Maggioli.
SPELT, in their previous editions, had always set up a bigger conference. Due to the pandemic, however, it was cut short to a few discussions and limited access. Regardless, the conference continued the efforts towards teacher training, research and educational development. They also continued to share different programmes and extend teachers association conference memberships during the virtual conference. Through the platform, teachers from Pakistan could join other countries’ associations and learn from them.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2021.

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