Virtual Classroom

Students Turn to Tech to Keep School Year Going

Virtual-Learning.One of the groups whose routine has been most disrupted by the outbreak of the coronavirus is young people. Just as they were beginning to count down the days until Spring Break, their semester was abruptly cut short, leaving them with a lot of questions and uncertainty.

Fortunately, this generation of students is the first to be equipped to get through a period like this and still earn class credit. Virtual learning is a concept that has been embraced by local school districts over the past several years. Traditionally, it has been used as a one-off on snow or inclement weather days, but with the prolonged closure of schools due to the ongoing pandemic, virtual learning has become a way of life for every student from elementary school all the way through college.

The school day begins with teachers uploading a lesson plan for their students. Students log on through any number of web-based programs (dependent on the school district and grade level) and can get reading assignments, writing assignments or watch an actual lesson that their teacher has recorded. For older students, this may include writing and emailing a term paper or other major project for their teacher to grade.

The technology has been a big boost to both students and teachers.

Virtual-learning-2“The technology and different platforms have allowed me to communicate directly with the students and much faster,” said Tucker Middle School math teacher Michael Ikuesan. “The kids are already tuned into technology and are prone to using it and I find the interactive lessons are super important for their learning. I have added an interactive curriculum called Flexbook and will be hosting two Zoom meetings a day. Some students need extra support and this way I can address questions live.

“At the end of the day, we all need human interaction to get us through this time. We still desire and yearn for human connection and if we can find ways to incorporate it in virtual learning then we are all better off.”

While virtual learning often doesn’t keep students engaged for the equivalent of a full school day, parents who are suddenly having to work from home see it as a gift.

“I know virtual learning wasn’t a choice for any of us, but I am so very thankful for our Midvale Elementary team. They are absolutely knocking it out of the park on virtual learning!” said Midvale mom Jennifer Lenac. “We have received daily videos with assignment explanations from our fourth-grade team and virtual interactions with our teachers and classmates. In addition, our principal posts a daily “Connections” video lesson (Art, Spanish, Technology or Music) and Mystery Reader story time from one of our amazing staff members.”

DeKalb County School District had a webpage dedicated to virtual learning even before the coronavirus outbreak. That page explains to parents how students can access their assignments, how grades will be assigned and how parents can contact teachers to schedule virtual conferences.

“While the school district may be closed for an undefined time, our students will continue to receive quality instruction by completing assignments that teachers will provide virtually,” the DeKalb County School District said in a release. “Our goal is to provide rigorous and meaningful instruction during the Digital Learning Days.”

Last month, the State of Georgia suspended Georgia Milestones and End-of-Course assessments, as well as certain requirements for teachers and student attendance. Testing dates for the SAT and ACT have also been postponed.

But thanks to technology and some forward-thinking, learning will continue for students of all ages as America waits out the outbreak.

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