OPINION: Zoom Allowed For a Unique and Safe Return to the Classroom

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Photo provided by James Oke

BASH student, James Oke, accesses his class zoom calls via his laptop provided by the high school.

The 2020-2021 academic year is coming to an end, and with that comes the time to look back at the strange, yet interesting school year heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With signs of the pandemic coming to an end, it is looking very likely that next year will look more like the normal we were used to prior to March of 2020. This remarkable school year will be remembered by students and teachers alike for the rest of their lives and will be in stories that will be told for years to come. With the conclusion of this school year, it is time to reflect on how a school year under zoom has been different from a normal school year.

The Early Stages

The sudden emergence of the Coronavirus came as a surprise to me and every other high school student last year. The third quarter was nearing the end, and students were beginning to prepare for the fourth quarter and end of the year finals. The public barely knew anything about the new virus, but the general thought at the beginning was that the pandemic would last a couple of weeks once it reached the U.S from China.

The announcement of a two-week shutdown came in mid-March last year when Governor Tom Wolf announced that the state needed two weeks to slow the spread. Students ended up staying home for the rest of the school year as the virus was rapidly spreading and showed no signs of slowing down.

Over the summer, it started looking more and more likely that students would not return to school normally for the 2020-2021 school year as the virus showed no signs of slowing. The main question that started floating around was how exactly students would be able to return to the classroom in a safe and effective way; a way that would prevent the virus from spreading from student to student. The solution for Boyertown and almost every other school district in the nation and across the world was Zoom.

The Integration

Zoom is an online conferencing platform that allows students to meet up with their teachers and classmates. This online platform has allowed for students to participate in class discussions right from home. Zoom has made life a lot more convenient for students and for workers who are working from home through the pandemic.

When we first started using zoom for class at the beginning of the year, it took some time to get used to the interface and functionality of the application. It was strange doing assignments all from a computer and not being in a classroom with students surrounding me. The home environment was a drastic change of experience. These changes varied from very good to not so good.

Changes in Work Ethics

After the first week of classes and getting used to opening links at the beginning of every class period, I became comfortable using Zoom for my school assignments. Working from home allowed me to have more time to complete assignments when I had free time. This is something that seemed to be a benefit for everyone working from home. Students have more freedom from home and more of a responsibility to get assignments done on time.

This is good for students who are disciplined and can manage their time well. In school, you must still follow procedures even when you are finished with your work. At home, you have the freedom to use your time to do whatever you want to do and there is also lots of time to complete missing assignments for other classes.

The first month of school this freedom was new to me and I used it to my advantage. I was able to balance work and pleasure at the same time and ended up doing very well. For some people though, this freedom proved to be more of a distraction. This made it challenging for some people to get assignments done. Some people are not as disciplined and need to be told what to do before they do it. I know a lot of people who have struggled with online school because of this. It made it harder for them to focus on their work.

All online students had to adjust to these changes in schooling. There was no option for hybrid learning at the beginning of the school year, so people who would eventually switch to hybrid or in-person instruction had to deal with some of the challenges of online learning.

Zoom Year in Review

For me, my first all virtual school year has been very good. Learning from home via Zoom has allowed me to learn in a quiet environment with more freedom and has thus made me happier. My better mood and more time to complete my assignments allowed me to have great results in my classes, even better than they were in person.

The year started off great while learning the functions of Zoom. Having the presentations show up right in front of me on my laptop made it easier to take notes and complete work while the teacher was talking. In most in-person classes, you do not get to choose where you sit and are assigned a seat. If you are sitting in the back of the classroom, it can be harder to be engaged in a lesson or participate in active discussions. Using Zoom, everyone has the lessons right in front of them and has the same opportunities to discuss and participate in class. This came as a huge relief to me as I could pay attention in every class and never have to worry about where I would be seated or if I would have a hard time paying attention.

As the year progressed and the workload increased, I found at home learning more and more of an advantage since I was able to keep up with my work since I did not have to move my books or folders back and forth between classes and from home to school. Having all my books at the same place at all times made it easier for me to stay organized and stay on top of things.

The portability of Zoom made it even more convenient as it is accessible from laptops, phones, and tablets. It is easy to find the way you learn best from home and use it to your advantage.

Going Forward

It has been over a year since schools shut down and Zoom was introduced to our lives and now there are many signs of normality returning. Zoom will not be used for the next school year and it looks like this unique learning experience will be a one-year occurrence. Whether your experience with Zoom was good or bad, it will be one of the things that we will remember for the rest of our lives. There are surely many memories that we had on Zoom while learning this school year. So, make sure to cherish those memories and remember that you’re part of the generation that embraced a school year of Covid, Zoom, and unique experiences!

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