Internship is the most important part of any teacher education program. It gives pupil-teachers hands- on experience to be acquainted with total school practice including teaching, evaluation, administration, clerical works, community involvement, handling student issues, student support services and the like. Can it be arranged virtually? If it is so, why? It can be answered in two ways: at first it can be arranged during adverse situations where it is totally impossible for organizing school internship in actual mode. We are now in COVID 19 situation where the total school is declared to be remained closed but in different schools teaching-learning practice has been continuing virtually. If teaching-learning is possible in alternative mode, why not school internship? Secondly, virtual internship can be taken into consideration when we try to instil techno-pedagogical skills among student-teachers. As per the current trend, student-teachers should have the techno-pedagogical expertise for imparting education in technology based environment like online teaching.
Fundamental aspects which are considered vital at the time of school internship are highlighted here in the perspective of virtual internship.
- Permission Issue: The Teacher Education Institution (TEI) can tie up with any school for encouraging this type of innovative teaching-learning encounter. Virtual internship can also be planned at the time of emergency like the period of COVID-19. The cooperation of guardian is another vital factor for scheduling it for their children. Participants can also be taken globally where the online teaching-learning culture is very much popular.
- Learning design: Preparation of learning design at pre-teaching phase is a vital tool of trainee-teachers. Virtual internship calls for techno-pedagogy based learning design where due importance is given to TPAK (i.e. Technological Knowledge, Content Knowledge and Pedagogical Knowledge) on which the learning design for teaching is to be prepared.
- Teaching: There are various apps and web based platforms like ZOOM Cloud Meeting, Google Hangouts, Webex Meet, Skype Meetings etc on which a virtual classroom can be made for imparting education. Thus teachers teach and the students learn in real-time, face to face but via web based technology devices.
- Use of T-L-M: Delivering lesson through teaching-learning-materials is inevitable part of teaching. Here, trainee-teachers can switch on share screen option for displaying power point, videos, photographs, diagram, pictures, sketches etc to students in respect to the given topic.
- Evaluation: Online test can be planned for the students in respect of examining their learning outcome. Learning tasks can be scheduled for them and evaluation can be done virtually. Students can also express their learning outcome in creativity based productive forms like painting, collage making, singing, reciting, video production and the like.
- Supervision: Classroom teaching given by trainee-teachers must be supervised by teacher-educators. Here, any teacher-educator can enter in the classroom through web link which is to be notified to him/her at earlier. In the same way, the Head Teacher or Subject Teachers of schools can join in the classroom for supervising their teaching practice.
- Action Research: Action research, a tool of practitioner develops the professional competence of interns. Trainee-teachers as interns can also practice this virtually. For instance, the education and schooling of a child having mild visual impairment can be investigated virtually. Student-teachers can meet the child at online platform, make a discussion with him, observe his behaviour, and take an interview of his parents & teachers. In this way, a case study based action research can be prepared.
- Other Activities: Student-teachers can arrange a parent –teachers meeting virtually. When they require attending a meeting with head teacher and other teachers, it can be scheduled here easily. Video conferencing can be used for sharing knowledge of senior and experienced teachers in respect of creating more effective classroom teaching. The web pages of different schools can be searched for gathering more knowledge on daily practice of school.
Student and parental supports are two imminent factors for materializing virtual internship practice in reality. Students are always eager to accept new things. But the financial supports, technology supports, internet supports, encouragement are required from parents. A parent-school-TEI meeting can be organized for boosting up them towards accepting innovation for the academic welfare of their children.
Now, the question is how you should implement this in curriculum. Teacher education programs are run under the strict guidelines of a controlling authority NCTE which does not recommend this type of virtual internship programme till today. What should you do? Obviously, it is the only alternative weapon at the time of adverse situations like COVID-19 where we have to maintain lockdown strictly. So, it can be used at trial basis for few days. Besides, it can easily be included at the practicum part of the course Information and Communication Technology in Education (Critical Understanding of ICT). For this, it may be practiced for few days during long vacation of school for instilling techno-pedagogical skills among student-teachers. So let’s think of virtual internship for incorporating in teacher education program.
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