Week 1: Student thoughts about online learning

It’s been a week of this so I reached out to my students. What do they think? Are there aspects they like about online learning? What is challenging? I posted this to my 80+ students and received responses from several. I appreciate these varied responses.

I feel like I don’t really like it because I wake up and there is like already a lot of notifications on stuff to do and like I have to do things with my family and stuff so to balance so much work and house/ family things is hard. Also, with todays delta math it’s kinda frustrating me because it says that I am getting them wrong and then I go to submit the same answer again and then it says its still wrong when it’s literally the same thing.

I wish there were fewer notifications in Google. It is overwhelming. I know it is hard to be a student and see all these notifications because it is hard to be a teacher and get all the notifications too. I wish Google had a lovely calendar view of posts. They have a calendar view but it isn’t really good enough in my opinion. I want a true calendar grid that can persist at the top of the feed and show all assignments on the day they are assigned with all the necessary info. I created a version of this for my students in my classroom website (password protected) and gave the link in the top of my feed but it is still another place for them to navigate to. Delta math is a great program that we use, but it does have its limitations and that largely comes with entry of problems. Like any computer program it can only accept what it expected to see, so if a student makes a small rounding error or submits the answer in a slightly different way than the computer wants it, it will say no.

I love the fact that we are able to wake up later, and go in our own order, and at our own pace with our assignments. But, being at home can come with many distractions. Sitting at my desk right next to Jub Jub’s cage is challenging, because I know I have to get work done, but it is tempting to just play with him. It is also difficult being cooped up inside, and not being able to see friends.

I think not being able to see people is one of the hardest things about all of this. I don’t have really strong social needs, but in this very short time I’ve already learned that I don’t desire solitude at all. I really miss people. I can’t imagine being a teenager – I know I’d be missing my friends dreadfully.

The online classes are fine the only problem I see with them is the odd timings for some classes to post work.

And from another student. It’s fine. It is just boring.

I see this. I know I post my stuff at odd times. Very early in the morning between 6 and 6:30. In fact it is one of the things that has been instructive for me in this first few days. Some of my students do their best work early in the morning. I have one on one Google comments back and forth and help sessions between 6:30 and 8 that are really useful for the student (I think) and for me. They help me know what questions to anticipate later in the day when the other students wake up and start their work.

There are many things about doing online school that I love, but there are many things I am not so fond of. I love that I get to sleep in and I can do my work whatever time I want to. I like being able to take breaks and work with people from other classes. I do have some problems with getting work done sometimes, because I just don’t know where to begin. At school, there is a set amount of time we have to do things in one period, so it’s easier for me to get things done knowing that I have a certain amount of time to get something done, but at home it’s very easy for me to lose motivation on a project or something for a class without knowing how long I have to work on it, so I move on to work for other classes. I also feel like it gets stressful at times, because you have all these assignments, but no specific order so it just feels like a mess. I do enjoy getting to do work with my cats cuddled up with me, and I enjoy being able to work individually with no one around me.

I think it’s been very interesting. The teachers are doing amazing about trying to keep us learning and giving us assignments. It’s really hard to have the same experience as being in a school, and it doesn’t feel as productive or fulfilling. I understand that this is the circumstance for now, but I would enjoy getting back to school as soon as it’s safe.

I echo the productive or fulfilling part. I miss the connection with the students and the “in the moment” opportunities to connect and learn from each other. From a lesson point of view it is helping me really focus on what is ESSENTIAL. In Algebra we learned how to solve a quadratic by completing the square this week. This is a tough topic that I usually approach in many many steps over several days. I gave it two and really tightened the instruction. One thing that made it to my dinner table was, “you know what. This is going to help me for next year because I succeeded in tightening this instruction and the kids got it.” That’s one thing I’m pretty jazzed about.

My last reply came from Maelin last night. I told the kids the quotes would be anonymous unless they said that I could share their first name. Maelin was game for name sharing. I’ll share it here.

My online experience has definitely been something new for me, I don’t necessarily love using the Chromebooks, but I do like how in math we have the doodle notebooks which is nice to have a little change from just being on electronics for school work. I think it will take a little time for me to get used to this online learning, but I think it will help me learn how to manage my time better and help with organizing my school work.

A note about the Doodle Notebooks. This was a notebook that I had printed for the kids a few months ago. We started out using them as partners because they were so big and I felt so guilty about using that much paper (deciding I could save the 2nd half of them for next year’s students, thus using less paper). But, it didn’t work so well so ultimately everyone got their own. These are great for taking notes and it splits things up so the kids have some pencil and paper (and colored pencils for drawing) work to do. The notebooks aren’t meant to stand alone for practice so I have to assign them other work to either do on the computer or on paper.

And that’s that …

My last comment is from my son. He is happy as a pig in mud right now with this opportunity. It isn’t so much a quote as an observation from me gathered from dinner table conversations and other times we get the chance to chat.

He is enjoying a virtual piano lesson, saxophone lesson and voice lesson weekly. He transitioned really well to this format. He has more time to practice his instruments at home – and he’s finding spaces away from us so we can still concentrate. He is taking better care of his room because it is visible in his virtual classes. He has the opportunity to continue his karate classes with online classes. He looks forward to his teacher’s office hours to ask his questions and he’s just as focused on learning as he was at school. We’ll ask him to play a game after dinner and he says, “I have another hour of work to do and then I can join you.” This is after working almost all day I must note. He also enjoys the chance to run at a better time of day instead of having to wait for after school.

I look forward to checking in with my students and my son as time goes on. Do things start to feel more fulfilling? Is it easier to avoid distractions? Do we start waking up earlier or push things even later?

My daughter and I check in every day on our hiking streak. We hike a trail near our house and share our experiences. I love hearing how her college professors are able to use ZOOM and hold breakout sessions for students. I like hearing about how they are managing classwork with Sakai. I am envious at times, but proud of what I have managed to get going within what we have available to us in K-12 education in my district. I’m also extremely proud of my students and how quickly they got up to speed with all of this.