Teaching in the Time of the Pandemic: Online-Learning and the Return to School

(Courtesy of the Montgomery Advertiser)

(Courtesy of the Montgomery Advertiser)

Returning to school after a year of digital learning has left an impact on the classroom with many teachers replacing stationery with computers, though some still cling to paper-and-pencil learning.

During quarantine 2020, schools shut down in-person learning and went digital. A year of digital-learning has changed education, especially with students transitioning back into the classroom. Technology became essential during quarantine and that shows no sign of stopping.

Ms. Emilie Bush is one of the teachers who adapted to online learning, abandoning paper-pencil learning completely.  When asked about her decision to switch she said, “Online-learning encompasses a lot of things, and digital classrooms, the related, is different. I can have 30 in-person students, and that would not be online-learning, but I would have a completely digital classroom if I use no paper. And that’s kind of my focus moving towards a completely digital classroom.

“The best paying jobs of the 21st century will go to those who learn how to learn quickly and independently. I hope that going with a digital classroom helps students to discover how to solve problems.”

Even so, technology is not new. Projectors and SMARTboards occupy walls in classrooms, computer carts sit in the back, students sneak glances at their devices when they think no one is looking–technology is everywhere. But after a year inside, students have become accustomed to online-learning and the flow of in-person school is tough to get back to. 

However, not all teachers have adopted online-learning. Math teacher, Mrs. Caroline Barrs, continues to use paper-pencil in her classroom. “I used eClass for multiple choice and Google Classroom for students to turn in free response items last year. In some ways I feel like I couldn’t give as much feedback through Google Classroom, but at the same time I took a lot of time writing more than I would in person.”

Many students found digital-learning tortuous due to a detachment from teachers and a grade plummet some weren’t used to. While teachers struggled to close the divide between them and students along switching curriculum to a completely online-platform. “Both the masks and the blank Zoom screens made it nearly impossible to connect with some students all year long. I began to look at teaching as a point casting rather than a live show,” Bush commented.

It seems like the set-up for a dystopian, when in reality it is simply the result of change. Despite this, if things continue, computers won’t be the only thing needed in the classroom. Traditional learning will hold tight in its place.

“I will stay paper-pencil as much as possible,” Barrs said. “I was not a fan of grading on the computer.”