Breaking Borders – Communication and collaboration in an online setting
Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.
- Helen Keller
A talented singer can sing a solo on any stage, provided they possess the confidence and the passion to communicate their thoughts in the form of a song. For the same singer to do the same in a choir may not be as simple. Every person in that setting would possess a different thought, a different perspective to the same lyrics. It is when these perspectives combine that harmony arises. And just imagine how beautiful that would sound!
In the same way, when thought is shared in the form of an art piece, creative writing or even during an everyday conversation between people, varied perspectives arise. This motivates questioning, an essential aspect for the bettering any idea.
From a very young age, we are thought of the importance of interaction with our fellow beings. Humans have been created with that need for symbiosis. And this interaction is facilitated through the blessing of communication. In fact, the need for communication has become so significant that people resort to acquiring the skill of learning new languages.
When I introduce any QShala class for the very first time, I find children from different cities and backgrounds. When asked whether they would like to answer the questions and partake in activities as a team or individually, there is the unanimous response of - “We want to be in Teams”. What is more interesting is finding out how creative they can be and how quickly they find answers to questions through a process of trial and error and connecting the clues when they work together in harmony.
One must, however, ask yourselves Is it easy to work in teams?
Babe Ruth, the popular 90s baseball star states quote “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”
Some may say that teamwork expands thought processes and communicating differences helps enhance the boundaries of thought. But truth be told this understanding is easier said than done. Most students find it difficult to share a project or open up to the idea of questioning or criticism of their thoughts. We always prefer to stick to groups that they are comfortable with. With whom we have similarities, interacted with and adjusted to overtime.
Children from QShala learn how to handle differences and direct those differences to out of the world ideas.
For example: Here you see a team of six 2nd grade students from Rashtriya Vidyalaya Public School. When asked to create a motorcycle as part of a live-action activity, they ran into the issue of being unable to accommodate all the team members in the same, they decided to add a sidecar as a solution.
Children, at such a young age, learn the importance of being accommodating, and to see them come up with such creative ideas at such an age is a mind-blowing experience for a QShala facilitator.
This is when the question of why restrict the interaction and collaboration of individuals to close family and friends arises. Why not let them collaborate with children and adults across the globe?
In the past, physical presence was required to interact with fellow beings. Eventually, the postal system reduced the burden of having to travel so far to do so. Today with the advancement of technology, communication has become so simple that you can access connections with any individual or group with just the click of a button. From emails to video calls, communicating for official and unofficial purposes has become a hassle-free activity.
QShala also resorted to the expansion of boundaries to enable the interaction of students with other students from various backgrounds, cultures and interests. Conducted on the online video calling application -Zoom, students battle it out in teams to answer questions and showcase exciting activities created by the content designers to suit an online platform.
The online programs at QShala include Level 1,2 and 3, Active learning and Sub-junior. Each more advanced level than the previous one. Staring off with sub-junior for Grades 1,2 and 3 into the three levels of developing quizzing and life skills between Grade 4 and 8 into the Active learning programme after, we ensure that the child gets a thorough experience where they grow with us from Grade 1 up until Grade 10.
These sessions involve kids in various questions and activities online with a QShala facilitator to guide them through it. They are aimed at giving the children an opportunity to develop 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, learning techniques, observation and listening skills as well as the ability to think out of the box.
An interesting add on to online classes is the freedom the students have to share their interests, findings, thoughts and experiences without fearing judgement. QShala provides an open forum for their ideas and enables them to see things from a different perspective.
Some kids share their collections, artwork, written pieces etc with the class which helps them understand how an audience react to their creativity.
Speaking of an online setting, you might be wondering how it enables children to interact with their teams separately!
Zoom provides a feature known as breakout rooms. These are smaller classrooms connected to the main video call where students are sent to along with their teams to discuss and get back with an answer or an idea. The novelty of being able to connect with other students online just like in a normal classroom setting
excites the children.
Breakout rooms enable a quiet setting where the children are enabled to focus on the activity given or the question posed to them without distractions from the other teams. Their judgements and opinions are not influenced by what goes on around them. And this feature is quite simple and is used for online classes conducted for student aged between 6 and 14 years.
There may be a concern about whether the children get to share their opinions and engage in discussions like those in an offline setting. Most online classes are conducted for not more than 8 children at a time. We understand the importance of creating an environment where the students are free to express their opinions and share interesting ideas or trivia that they are aware of so as to expose other children to the same. Every child is given a chance to speak during the class. The idea of teams further enhances this experience.
The idea of being exposed to a community of people whose children have not interacted with in real life might sound scary. To be able to express ideas, opinions, thoughts etc in front of a new audience is not always easy. This is where the online platform is of immense help. This video calling app comes with the feature of video, audio and chat. The students may start off with typing out answers and opinions on chat, which the facilitator shares with the class.
Eventually, you observe a change where they come up on their own and request to be allowed to share their though or answer through audio. By the 6th session, what we have observed is certain confidence by which the children state their opinions and welcome feedback for the same and sometimes engage in debates with the facilitator or teacher in a search for the most logical or rational answer or opinion.
The whole world is moving online. And the convenience of home cannot be replaced by any other. This should not restrict our access to the world around us. Networking and collaborating as well as finding diverse opinions has become an integral part of every engagement, every entity, be it corporates, institutions, formal or informal. This skill has now become a necessity in this technologically advanced world. What is next is our move – to adopt these skills at an early age, a gift every child would adore or wait for them to find it on their own in the later stages of life.