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By: Paige Britt, Senior, Gateway Regional High School, Woodbury Heights, NJ
WOODBURY HEIGHTS, N.J. — Long gone are the days of students carrying heavy textbooks and roaming the hallways, and in are the days of Zoom meetings in pajamas. Since online classes have begun at Gateway Regional High School, both students and teachers have had to adapt to the world of virtual learning.
While students continue to navigate the challenges of online school, they are learning what resources are the most effective when it comes to completing assignments.
Gateway Regional High School senior Nate Smith described the difficulties of using services such as Zoom and Google Meets.
“Video services such as these make it difficult to have class discussions and make connections with teachers. However, I prefer Zoom because Google Meets tends to be finicky,” Smith said.
On the contrary, Gateway junior Scotty Watts believes that both applications are sufficient for the time being.
“And while no application is perfect, I think both applications work well for the environment we have been put in,” Watts said.
Gateway senior Kayla Ripley weighed the positive and negative aspects of online school, stating that she enjoys working at her own pace, but that can lead to organization issues.
“I really enjoy deciding when I’m going to do what work, instead of it being all laid out for me,” Ripley noted. “However, if I catch myself procrastinating, that turns into a major con. It takes a lot of effort to keep yourself organized and make sure you’re doing everything on time.”
Watts described the convoluted nature of doing assignments entirely online.
“It isn’t always clear where assignments are located, and the amount of work can be overwhelming. It’s also difficult to receive instant feedback from teachers,” he said.
Ripley and Watts stated that they have found useful apps on their cell phones to help them with school work.
“I tend to use a translating app a lot for French work instead of going online to find out what the words are,” Ripley said.
Watts added, “I have found the desmos app to be useful when doing math.”
Students agreed that turning in work primarily online is ideal because it keeps classes and assignments well organized.
Smith talked about how having everything online has improved his work ethic.
“My organization has improved with the online schedule and I can divy up work on certain days,” Smith commented. “I can also filter my emails to see what’s relevant to school, and connect with teachers that way.”
On the other hand, Watts said that he thinks some classes are more effective in person and on paper.
“Most assignments I prefer to complete online, but there are certain classes I find better suited than others to complete on paper rather than over the computer, such as math,” Watts stated.
Ripley noted the difficulty of accessing textbooks online, saying, “Something about reading tiny words on virtual pages makes my head hurt and frustrates me. I would much rather have an actual textbook in front of me.”
Although virtual school provides ease when completing assignments, technical difficulties can create roadblocks during class.
Smith discussed the details of this, saying, “You can always tell when someone else has a bad internet connection, and sometimes you can’t hear your classmates at all.”
While students continue to learn the ins and outs of online learning, teachers are working to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Gateway Regional High School English teacher Kelly Barrett commented that her students appreciate the accessibility that Zoom provides.
“My students definitely prefer Zoom over Google Meets because there are more features that they enjoy, and they can join from any device,” Barrett said.
Liam James, a Gateway history teacher, said that he finds that his students enjoy the freedom and flexibility of virtual learning.
“At this point in the school year, teachers and students are both used to adapting day by day,” James stated. “So as long as students are communicating, the teachers have learned to be flexible and understanding. I also think that students are truly enjoying the idea of working at their own pace with assignments.”
Barrett noted that the shorter school day and fewer distractions have resulted in more productivity from students.
“I’m finding that students have been more productive while working remotely. I’ve been chasing down fewer students for missed work. I think it’s because they have fewer distractions and more time at home to complete things, given that the school day has been shorter,” Barrett said.
Both teachers have found helpful online resources to increase interaction with students.
“My students are enjoying vocabulary.com Vocab Jams the most and also Slido, which allows me to add interactive polls to lessons as well as the ability for students to ask questions anonymously,” Barrett added. “My ninth graders are part of the Pre-AP program, and the College Board made teachers distance learning slides, which are super helpful. There are useful videos linked to them as well as other interactive tools for engagement and practice.”
James said that the trials and tribulations of online learning have resulted in him finding helpful educational tools.
“I love how through the obstacles of remote learning, we have been able to find great resources to improve instruction,” James said. “For class discussion and debate, I have used Slido and Poll Everywhere. For review games, Kahoot and Quizizz are always student favorites. Also, Class Kick has been a helpful editing tool for students working on PDF worksheets.”
Barrett voiced that while some of her students like virtual learning, others find focusing difficult out of a classroom setting.
“My students seem split between enjoying working from home because of flexibility and disliking it because of social isolation. Some have stated that it’s easier to learn in the actual classroom because it helps them to maintain better focus,” Barrett said.
Although remote learning poses challenges for students and teachers, both are adapting to a virtual school environment.
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