xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Our View: For Carroll County students taking virtual classes, ‘there’s a lot that can be learned' | COMMENTARY

Expecting online learning to be equal to or even a close approximation of the educational and life experience a student receives by attending school in person, alongside classmates, would be unfair and realistic. All that should be expected and, in fact, demanded of Carroll County Public Schools is a significantly improved version of what kids received last spring both in terms of technology and teaching proficiency, as well as a detailed reopening plan.

While the school system said attendance data for the first week is not yet available and there are no statistics as to how many students — or teachers — are struggling with lousy internet or faulty laptops, anecdotally, at least, CCPS appears to be on track to meet or exceed those expectations after the first few days of the new school year.

Advertisement

The majority of the school day, particularly for older students, is spent on “synchronous learning.” So, students log in securely at the appointed class time to see the teacher speaking and giving instructions. It’s live and it’s interactive. Students can participate in class by clicking the microphone icon or by sending a message via a chat program. Assignments can be accessed and completed in real time. But the schedule is built so that students have some independence and aren’t staring at a screen for seven straight hours. (Classes or equivalent lessons are recorded for students who were unable to “attend” during regular hours.)

As Liberty High School junior Tommy Nelson told us: “It wasn’t bad, it’s just a new style of learning.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Emily Sainz, a math teacher at Francis Scott Key High who said she had nearly 100% participation from her students on the first day of school, told us that while she had concerns, some positives could come from online learning.

“I was really nervous to get started ... but overall I think it went really well,” she told us. “I think as long as the students are motivated enough to stick with it and try, there’s a lot that can be learned. And they’ll also learn a lot about managing their time, and speaking up if they have questions, and advocating for themselves, and resilience.”

Fair points. Of course, it’s easy for students to be motivated on the first day or the first week. Will teachers be able to engage them a month in?

Teresa McCulloh, Carroll County Education Association president, said during Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting that she heard overwhelmingly positive reports from teachers as well as comments from parents on social media, comparing the start of this school year quite favorably to the end of last school year. She credited teachers for the work they put in on their own time over the summer to be able to adapt to a new way of teaching.

Advertisement

However, this method of teaching and learning won’t work for all. Special education students tend to struggle. And not everyone is working with the same technology. Despite CCPS giving out close to 10,000 laptops and nearly 500 mifi hot spots, there are plenty of students, and some teachers, who just can’t successfully make and keep a high-speed connection.

The target date for a return to a hybrid version of in-person learning, which probably means students going to school twice a week, is Oct. 19. Given the school board’s predisposition for wanting to reopening, it’s likely that target date will be hit. But it’s conceivable online learning will be around longer than everyone wants, particularly if we see major increases in the number of COVID-19 cases here or outbreaks among teachers who have returned to school or the small groups who will be returning to the Career and Technology Center and certain other programs very soon.

We want to see students back in school as soon as it is safe. But we also hope CCPS will use the knowledge gained during this difficult time and continue to invest in and improve online learning. And then continue to utilize it once students are back in school and the threshold for kids or teachers staying home due to potential illness is at an all-time low.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement