In an age of technology, we are constantly facing new barriers that we need to overcome almost every day. 2020 in particular has given us the opportunity to face a question that both students and administrators have been asking themselves for years: Can we effectively transition to online learning without losing the teacher-student connection? Now, after many months, I can safely say that online learning should be used only as an emergency tool in extreme circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong. As a junior in high school, this has (mostly) been the most stressful year of my life. From extracurriculars to more advanced classes to college research, it has been a long, difficult journey from September. So, virtual schooling from home has been a blessing in disguise. But why have I, and so many of my peers, enjoyed being able to take our classes from the comfort of our bedrooms? The fatal flaw of online learning is how easy it is to settle into a routine. School is meant to be difficult, at least to an extent. We are supposed to challenge ourselves every day, being put outside of our comfort zones through speaking with new people, working on projects, and studying for tests. This is considered a form of active learning. In physical school, we seek out knowledge, attending period nine and asking questions. However, online school has transformed me into somewhat of a passive learner.
I’ve recently found myself doing the absolute bare minimum to get by with good grades. Tests and quizzes are mere assignments that have more weight, and most of the work I submit is a collaborative effort with others in my class. Teachers are less-than-lifelike figures separated from me by a screen. My life has turned into a sickly routine of sitting in my room all day, not intaking any information but methodically cranking out homework assignments like a robot in a factory. Yes, it is easy. But I can sense myself slowly slipping down a spiral of laziness, and I fear that come September (or whenever we go back to school), I will have lost all the hardworking study habits I’ve gained from the last 11 years.
This pandemic definitely qualifies as an emergency situation. But do I think that we should be using online learning as a regular classroom function? Absolutely not. My grades may have significantly improved, and for that I am grateful. But I know that I am no longer challenging myself to the fullest extent, and may have lost my work ethic in the process. Until (and if) we figure out a way to break down the barrier that separates teacher and student both physically and emotionally, online school should be used as a mere tool of emergency, such as during snow days or similar situations like the one we are in. I’m afraid that the further we look to technology, the further we stray from truly learning.
Graphic: Logan Richman