East teachers reflect on the online learning system

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Alexa Atlas ('22)

East teachers share their thoughts on the new learning system.

After an hour-long class, the bell finally rings. It is time to walk down the hall and up the stairs to your next period class. This means, more learning goals to record, more notes to jot down and more lessons to be heard.

All East students and teachers followed a daily school routine, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this routine has completely changed. No more waking up at six o’clock in the morning to attend in-person classes. No more asking your teachers quick questions in class. No more face to face conversations with teachers and classmates. Life as we all knew it is over (for now).

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is no longer an option to attend school. A life with no school is crazy to think about, but the Cherry Hill School District has come up with an alternative to this upsetting situation, online school. Thanks to Google Classroom, this alternative has been pretty successful. Every week, teachers post two assignments on Google Classroom. One assignment is due Wednesday and the other assignment is due Friday.

Every teacher posts something completely different than the next. Some teachers post pre-recorded lessons with a worksheet, others give reading assignments and some assign Flipgrid videos. All East teachers have dealt with this new learning system in a different way and each have their own perspectives on the way it is working.

Many East teachers seem to agree that this new system has many pros. One of these pros being, freedom. Students can complete their work at any time of the day. They can also do it at their own pace, in the comfort of their own home.

Mrs. Leanne Shine, a business teacher at East, said, “Students can get more sleep and start their classes at 10. [They can also] chunk their own learning. Students can work in segments and take breaks as they need to.”

Students have the privilege of completing their work at their own speed and desire. Students are not required to follow a set schedule. This new system is especially beneficial for students with good time management skills.

Mr. Daniel Duffield, a science teacher at East, said, “[This system] benefits students who are already good at managing their time and prioritizing their tasks. Those students can likely plan out their day, and get their work done relatively quickly,”

Another benefit of this learning system are the endless online resources. There are countless websites and apps at hand that teachers can use to help educate their students.

Mrs. Holly Sassinsky, an East science teacher, thinks that all the online resources have made the abrupt change a lot easier. She said, “[There are a] variety of resources that are available for online learning. I have been challenging myself to become better and more proficient with Google Classroom, screencasts, EdPuzzle and ActivelyLearn.”

There are many positives to this learning system. However, teachers do have a few concerns. The major concern with this learning system is that there is no face to face communication.

If I were going to suggest an improvement to ameliorate [the few problems], I would try to do live class broadcasts. I think those could be run similarly to a normal class. Communication might still be a little stunted, but at least we could discuss things in real time.”

— Mr. Daniel Duffield

“The biggest challenge of my day is communication. It’s very hard to gauge students’ understanding and explain difficult concepts without being face to face,” said Mr. Tyler Brake, an english teacher at East.

Face to face communication is essential for students’ learning. If there is no face to face communication, students cannot ask all the questions that pop into their head.

Duffield said, “The biggest weakness is the increased possibility for miscommunication. There are probably a million little questions that are floating around in the students’ heads that might be asked in the classroom setting, because it might just take 10 seconds to answer, but wouldn’t be asked online.”

Other teachers agree with Duffield. They think that students have many unanswered questions that will later affect their understanding of the material. Not understanding one topic, can lead to many problems in the long term.

Sassinsky said, “It’s harder when students are working on an assignment and they have a question but they can’t ask a question and get an answer immediately.”

Not only are students unable to get immediate replies to their questions, but they can no longer have back and forth conversations with their classmates. Believe it or not, working with others helps expand students’ knowledge.

Ms. Deena Freedman, a math teacher at East, said, “I think students benefit from working together and learning from each other in a classroom setting.”

If students cannot work with their classmates, they will not be learning as much as they can. It is very beneficial for students to work in groups and collaborate with each other. Students work best when they can talk everything out with their classmates.

Shine seconds this idea. She said, “The reality is that learning is social. When we have discussions in class it helps students learn the material in a deeper way and it helps more students.”

I would like to have mandatory live classes at least once a week.”

— Mrs. Leanne Shine

Clearly, there are issues with this new learning system. However, all the teachers agree that the best way to solve these problems are live classes. This would allow teachers to teach everything they need face to face. It would also allow students to ask as many questions as they need. There would be a lot less miscommunication.

Duffield said, “If I were going to suggest an improvement to ameliorate [the few problems], I would try to do live class broadcasts. I think those could be run similarly to a normal class. Communication might still be a little stunted, but at least we could discuss things in real time.”

Shine agrees, as she said, “I would like to have mandatory live classes at least once a week.”

However, in the meantime, teachers are doing the best they can to help their students through Google Classroom. Every teacher posts assignments that they think will benefit their classes. Teachers still do their best to educate their students despite the unfortunate situation. They post pre-recorded lessons, they leave comments on their students’ work, they post answer keys and they offer office hours.

Freedman said, “I do check my students’ work and I try to give individual feedback for each assignment . I have offered office hours at different times of day to accommodate the new sleep schedules.”

Brake also tries his best to check all his students’ work in order to ensure that they are still learning. He said, “I read my students’ work each night in order to measure learning. It’s not the same as having an opportunity for students to ask questions face to face, but I am able to see who is struggling and leave individualized feedback.”

It is still every teacher’s number one priority to make sure their students are receiving a good education. For this reason, every teacher does their best to educate their students despite the circumstances. Although online school is not the ideal situation, the teachers agree that this system is the best short term solution.

Shine said, “I think online teaching is fine in the short term…It is a great solution if we are not able to come into school. It [helps keep] students on track.”

Teachers really miss all their students and want nothing more than to come back to school. However, in the meantime, this learning system is a great alternative.

What do you think of online classes?

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