Okay, I’m nosy. I don’t know too much about online learning, but I want to be literate enough to converse, and better yet, even participate myself because learning is my passion. How better to learn than to ask an elementary student and a teacher to explain it and give me an honest appraisal of what’s going on? Here’s the Q and A for the student and then the teacher.
Fourth Grade Student, MSW.
Q: What do you think of online learning?
A: It’s honestly okay, but there are a couple of bugs. It’s like regular school, but there are problems with some programs.
Q: What do you mean, by “problems with some programs?”
A: Well, I took a math quiz, answered correctly and it said I was wrong. There were 3 or 4 math mistakes, but I found out the mistakes were the publisher’s problem and they missed the errors.
Q: What can you do about this problem?
A: I think they were rushed when they made the program, but there are a lot of complaints, so they’ll fix them.
Q: What kind of Reading Assignments do you have?
A: There’s not a lot of reading because Reading is combined with Social Studies and some are really easy.
Q: Can you give me an example?
A: Sure. We had to read two myths and they were three pages long. The quiz was 20 questions.
Q: What kinds of questions were asked?
A: Oh, they were about story elements, setting, theme and characters.
Q: Those were easy?
Q: What suggestions would you improve online learning?
A: Elementary assignments are due every Monday, which is stressful. They could add more assignments and add time so we’d have three weeks or a month to do them. We could call our friends and study and work together. The problem with that is one student might tell the answers to the other one.
Q: Can you do assignments ahead of time?
A: Yes, but it’s nice to have a break, like take Wednesday off.
Q: So, you could read books of your choice then?
A: Or just play. Every kid is stressed about online learning. Some kids don’t finish until the deadline, which is Monday morning. I like to plan my assignments and work on them for a week. There are 5-6 assignments a day with breaks every 2 or 3 hours. I work every day for two hours straight.
Q: Did you have experience with Canvas before COVID-19 ended learning in your school? Did you learn Canvas in Technology classes?
A: Yes, we used Canvas in regular school once a week in Tech class, so that was easy. The hard part was getting used to online school.
Q: Do you have PE, Music and Art assignments?
A: Yes, but they’re not challenging.
Q: Where do you work on your assignments?
A: I like my workspace to be comfortable. The hard part is that sometimes I have a question, and because my dad is working from home and has a lot of virtual meetings, he can’t help me until much later.
Q: Would you choose to have your workspace in your bedroom? Why or why not?
A: No, because it distracts me when there’s a lot of stuff around.
Q: Have you read any great books during this unique learning adventure? What do you do with your free time?
A: Do games and stuff; swim.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for other elementary students on how to be organized? And how do you discipline yourself to get all your work done?
A: Make a planner, follow it, and just do it.
Q: Did you know that over 97% of the students have logged on to do their virtual learning from home? Does that number surprise you?
A: Yes, I thought there’d be less.
The next Q and A hosts a CCPS teacher, “RL” and her experience with online teaching. I have nothing but admiration and pride for our teachers and their perseverance, as you will read.
Q: What type of training did you have before the implementation of online teaching/learning/meetings?
A: All CCPS teachers were required to participate in the online Canvas Basics Course.
Q: At what level of difficulty was the training and is there ongoing support for what you need to do?
A: I would describe the level as quite extensive, especially for Elementary Teachers who were not familiar with the Canvas platform. It was very time consuming, and there were facets of the training that did not apply to us. To the contrary, there was little, if any, training on Webex, which is something we are now using every day for virtual meetings. Those working in technology at the administration center, including the help desk, were overwhelmed with requests for assistance and troubleshooting. Most teachers worked collaboratively and tirelessly with their teams to figure everything out.
Fortunately, ongoing support is now available. However, teachers are very busy with students and fully engaged in e-learning. Most of us do not have time in our instructional day for additional training.
Q: How are students or teachers responding to the amount and quality of online learning or meetings?
A: Teachers are being reminded that these are unprecedented times. Expectations must be adjusted to reflect the situation that we are in. The quantity, as well as the quality of each’s student work, is dependent on so many different variables. I believe the vast majority of students are doing the best they can. We are learning that the level of support varies greatly among students and families. For example, some families have several children currently enrolled in CCPS schools and all are using the same device. In addition, many of our parents are still working outside of the home and as a result, support is limited during the day. Sadly, some are even dealing with COVID-19 within their own families.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face?
A: One of the biggest challenges for me is ensuring that all students, especially those enrolled in our special programs, are being provided the support they need to still access and benefit from their grade level curriculum. Many of these students—such as those enrolled in Exceptional Student Education and English Language Learner programs—have very specific learning needs and require accommodations and strategies that are not easy to implement through e-learning. Another challenge is addressing the social-emotional needs of our students and families. These are very uncertain times for all of us. It is difficult for children to communicate how and what they are feeling. They just know that things are different and that can be scary. Teachers are working incredibly hard to develop innovative ways to engage with their students in hopes of maintaining as much normalcy as possible. It is very difficult to reach every student every day.
Q: In hindsight, what would you suggest as a better way to continue educating our students and communicating with teachers/parents/administration?
A: We are now heading into our sixth week of e-learning. Finally, teachers are feeling more comfortable with Canvas. I would not suggest changing anything at this point, or even adding additional training. Teachers just need the support of their principal to finish out the year strong and the confidence to know they did the best they could during this very difficult time.