The truth about virtual learning

Mackenzie Vigh, Staff Writer

The time has come where virtual learning has yet again taken over our district. Many may find this to be a blessing and others find it to be a burden. There are many ways to look at it. Personally, I appreciate our health and safety being the main concern of our superintendent and principals. They are in a nearly impossible situation and are under a lot of pressure to try and do what’s best for their students while meeting certain accommodations. With all of that being said, I have several suggestions on how to make this school year more successful for both the students and the teachers.

Sitting in front of a computer for seven hours a day, four days a week is absolutely excruciating. Classes seem to be twice as long and concentration is becoming harder and harder. Students’ eyes are left sore and red from the bright screens and heads are left pounding. The amount of screentime each individual is receiving is unhealthy. Studies have shown that children ages 8-18 should only be receiving about two hours of screen time a day. Each day, just on virtual learning alone, we are tripling that number. Let’s not forget that students also spend time using their devices to do things such as homework, watch videos, play games, text, etc. all outside of school. While giving students an opportunity to meet with teachers is beneficial, it would be better for them to only have two to three days online and then do the remainder of the days asynchronously, similarly to what we did when we were in school, but with the full capacity of students online. This way, students and teachers would feel less drained. While students spend their asynchronous days doing homework, teachers could catch up on grading and could also set up office hours to meet with students who are struggling. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Another way to spice up virtual learning would be to enhance the engagement levels. There have been countless times when I’m sitting in front of my computer screen listening to a lecture and I slowly feel my eyes getting heavier and heavier. I’m sure that I’m not alone.  Concentration and engagement aren’t something that comes as easy for students in this setting. A suggestion for the teachers is to bring a little bit of fun back to the “classroom” during these unique circumstances. Group projects or break-out rooms would give students a chance to escape the lectures and socialize with one another. It is always a refreshment to see familiar faces, even if it’s through a computer screen. Teachers could also coordinate fun ways to learn with their students by playing a class game on Kahoot. This way, students will be able to test their knowledge but in an entertaining and engaging way.  One teacher who has been doing a great job with incorporating interactive activities into her lessons is Emma Flynn, the AP Psychology teacher at Milford High School. When asked what she does to make her lessons more engaging she replied, ”I incorporate consistent routines such as daily warm-up activities and a neat running schedule so students have a clear understanding of what to expect as soon as class begins. Being an AP Class, we have a lot of content to cover at a fast pace but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun learning about the material.” She described, “During class, I mix it up and make it more personal whenever I can with quick topic-related hands-on activities, polls, short interesting video clips, or even just animation, memes, fun facts, and/or pictures within my slides that I think students will enjoy. Throughout my lectures, I usually ask questions to be answered in the Google Meet chat to check for prior knowledge, have students make predictions, or check for understanding after we have covered a topic.” Flynn also has outstanding suggestions on how to cope with virtual learning in a more positive way. She stated, “Focusing only on what you cannot control in a situation is not going to make the situation much better. Instead, I try to encourage students and even myself to remember to also focus on what we can control, which is working together to make the most of virtual learning so it is a successful experience for all.” She added, “On Fridays, I give students a little time at the beginning of class to spread some positivity; this could be a personal reflection from the week, challenge(s) they’ve overcome, inspirational quotes, etc. I would have never predicted something so simple to have such an influential role in positively shaping the mood of our class on Fridays but this is a routine that I look forward to each week.” Many students unanimously appreciate Ms. Flynn’s efforts and positive outlook during these circumstances.

This is a time like no other and people are doing what they can to make the best out of the situation. The teachers are still figuring out new ways to teach their classes, students are still learning how to learn in their classes, and the administration is trying their hardest to do what’s best for our district. Everyone is under a lot of pressure and now is a great time to try new things and see what works best. Overall, I thank everyone for all of their hard work and propose these suggestions in hope of a successful school year.