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Without the heart, it is just a machine

By: Alicia Philip

In Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), educators are encouraged to integrate technological tools into their teaching and learning and develop meaningful connections with their students. Therefore, UNITEN has prescribed various technological learning tools that encourage active and collaborative learning, such as interactive Learning Management systems – UNITEN Brighten, Padlet, Mentimeter, Kahoot, Canva and many other learning tools.

As an educator at UNITEN, I use these tools to create a better learning engagement and connection with my students. For example, at the beginning of the semester, I utilise Padlet as my platform to create connections and build relationships with my prospective students. Before the start of the first class, I request students to post their introductions with pictures of themselves, so I get to know who my students are. To encourage students to participate in this activity, I start the post in Padlet by introducing myself, and when my students start posting their introductions, I comment on their posts. What I did is only to emulate the social media concept in teaching. This is a simple way to begin building connections with my students and an excellent way to build first impressions from my students and shows that I care about them.

Another way I build connections with my students is to scaffold their learning, particularly on complex assignment topics. First, I provide the basics and foundations for them to understand and answer questions by guiding them with the assignments. Then, I allow ample time for students to search for relevant information to complete the assignment themselves. This way, learning is made more effective, purposeful, and humanistic.

In addition, I become a more empathetic educator considering my students’ learning needs because each student is built uniquely special, facing different challenges in learning; this is pertinent, mainly when virtual learning was enforced due to the pandemic. Understandably, some students may face issues of accessibility to an internet connection, while others may face affordability issues such as the lack of a conducive learning environment. All these challenges may lead to students giving up learning altogether, a situation I want to avoid. Thus, as an educator, I harness my potential as a human being, using my heart, empathising and understanding my students’ predicament by providing an alternative learning platform that is accessible to them, such as Telegram, to ensure that none of my students is left out in their learning journey but develop resilience in learning. Why? Because they know there is a person that cares and supports their learning.

Therefore, if we as educators are reluctant to change and remain traditionalist educators or choose to focus solely on technology without building a connection with our students, we serve our students with a pointless blend of buzzword-friendly education word salad that only remains bland. The call to humanise education is not an excuse to delay integrating technological tools into our lessons but to suggest that educators are still relevant regardless of how technologically advanced our world becomes.

With these being said, I would like to reiterate that educators are irreplaceable in the classroom because they can humanise the learning experience while students reap the benefits of technology through better learning engagement. Therefore, besides creativity and excellent teaching methodology, the heart is also a core tool for an educator. As Southwest Airlines’ tagline goes – without the heart, it is just a machine. So, let us begin to connect, communicate with our students and create meaningful relationships with our students in the classroom.

The author is a Lecturer with the College of Continuing Education, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), and may be reached at alicia@uniten.edu.my

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