“[My students] were chatting, they were talking to each other, it wasn’t about my class but they were communicating with each other and behaving like teenagers are supposed to behave and it was the first time I’ve seen that in months.” “The coolest, most amazing feeling was to tell people to stop talking,” Valerie Withers, advanced placement English teacher, said.
Usually, students talking in class is a problem, not a blessing. However, after months of isolation, seeing students socialize can be a glint of normality in what may seem like a foreign world. Before the shutdown, it was common to see students having side conversations. Months of being alone and even more where the social interaction is staring at a letter could make even the most extroverted people lose the tendency to chat with peers.
“…learning really takes place in a trusting environment, an environment where you feel your opinion has power and your statement is respected… you may have something you want to say but you don’t feel that you can because [Google meets] are not a safe environment for you yet,” Rosemary Ahonen, psychology teacher, said.
A good classroom is one in which students are involved with the learning. Discussion can lead to well-formed opinions. Small groups are so effective because a group of peers can correct each other’s mistakes and learn from each other, not just the teacher. Students are more connected than ever before, but the void created by the feeling of disconnect is too vast to be filled by our technology. However, learning through technology isn’t a new thing for everybody, some students in middle school were a part of “Blended Learning” in which online work was being done but students still came into class and were with their teacher face-to-face.
“I hated never having real group projects and losing socialization and the [lack of] interaction with the teachers…” Dylan Miller, junior and former blended student, said.
Blended Learning was a program where assignments were online lessons that did not require teacher input and were just instructional videos with tests afterwards. This led to little-to-no explanation of material that was not understood or peers working in small groups. This had many of the same problems seen today in our online learning environment. However, work is now graded by teachers that students know, they can ask questions in Meets and join breakout rooms so peers can work together.
“When you’re in a classroom environment it’s about discussions, it’s about connections, it’s about getting to know students, it’s about having that relationship that allows learning to take place and learning is really about trust.” Rosemary Ahonen, psychology teacher, said.
Education should be as effective as possible. Changes should be worked toward making it more enjoyable, effective and immersible for students and teachers alike. While school has changed due to a pandemic, many of the changes made are likely to stay in some capacity. Blended was a prerequisite for online school as we know it today. Since students have the option to return to or to continue working online, every learning experience has become both personalized and Blended.