For Better or For Worse: the debate around virtual learning

By Cassondra Daley

Grade 4 teacher Kiercin Pavao said teaching amid a global pandemic is challenging, but she said most of her kids understand why things are different this year.

“Most of them have a pretty good idea about what’s going on, and why we need to take these precautions.”

With the COVID-19 virus outbreak, there are many changes that have been put in place to ensure everyone’s safety. Pavao teaches with the Peel District School Board which has implemented many new safety rules and protocols. She said getting younger students to comply is the hardest part.

It is a bit more difficult for them to keep a mask on for the entire day, especially when they’re playing outside,said Pavao.

While her board is also offering online-only instruction, she worries those students may be missing out.

Pavao said in her traditional classroom setting, she is still able to provide students with a sense of privacy when it comes to their learning. That’s something she worries students taking online-only classes are missing. Students are forfeiting their privacy because you can’t just speak one-on-one to a student, you have to address it as a class.”

Teaching during the pandemic has definitely been different,said Upper Grand District educator, Shai-Anne Ly-McKenzie.

With online learning comes challenges with technology and taking extra steps to ensure students are given everything they need to learn. Ly-McKenzie said on top of learning how to navigate through the online platforms that they’ve been given, she has to teach the kids how to use these tools, while also keeping them engaged.”

Yet, with all the drawbacks, there have been many successes that have come up from online learning. Ly-McKenzie uses Google Classroom as the main platform for communicating with her students. There are features to allow students to work in small groups, which she said has been positive.

It’s amazing to see the students really shine in that small group where there are only eight students, whereas when we are in the whole group with 30, they might not be able to shine as bright, said Ly-McKenzie.

Ly-McKenzie said that she always tries to find new ways to keep her students engaged during class, and the most important thing she does is “give students a voice.” Things like “asking their opinion or thoughts on things really helped keep them engaged because then they give me a lot of feedback,” she said.

Both Pavao and Ly-McKenzie have agreed that these new ways of teaching have caused them think outside of the box, and be more creative with their students.

This year has been a huge shift for everyone all over the world, and with the uncertainties of what will come next, it’s a reminder to be mindful of those around you. 

“I think it’s okay to say, I don’t know. Sometimes I think that’s definitely what it taught me with my teaching. Sometimes we don’t know the answers…. And I think in regards to teaching, it’s definitely taught me that it’s okay to say I don’t know the answer, but things are going to be okay,” said Ly-McKenzie.

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