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Jocelyn Knight: It's not perfect, but virtual learning is working
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Jocelyn Knight: It's not perfect, but virtual learning is working

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We will soon be entering into the fourth and final quarter of the school year. No one doubts that what we’ve been through has been of historic significance. Students have been forced to learn from home. We sign into Zoom classes and watch our teachers from afar. But are we learning? Is it working?

I’ve read a lot of opinions about this, mostly from adults. I think those opinions often lack connection to what’s really going on, and it occurs to me that it might be worth sharing my perspective.

Simply put, virtual learning is working. It’s not perfect. There are hiccups. There are things that still need to be smoothed out, but that should be expected, considering that we’ve instituted a new way of doing things. We’ve upturned the entire history of brick and mortar, after all. We are blazing new frontiers online, learning how to navigate the challenges of tomorrow.

But amidst the small headaches and troubles, have no doubt that this is the future. Consider, when was the last time you actually worried about a school shooting? We used to have drills about what to do in a school shooting. Think about that. So many people barked at the moon, insisting that we had to do something about those tragedies. Well, now that we’re online, we’ve done something about it, albeit unintentionally. School shootings aren’t an issue when we’re not physically in school.

Are there any other benefits to online learning? Absolutely. We each have enormous resources at our fingertips. We’re all online, which means we can use online resources to assist in our education. Meanwhile, not only are we learning what’s being taught, we’re also learning how to navigate computers, preparing ourselves for a future that’s sure to be dominated by technology.

In addition to this, parents can now get a clear glimpse of what we’re experiencing. Do you have kids? Would you prefer asking them about their day or maybe auditing a class with them every so often? During online learning, you can sit through a class with your child and see what they’re learning. You can see how their teachers are teaching. My own parents were iffy about online learning until I pointed this out to them.

Some people would argue that students aren’t learning. They would argue that students aren’t going to their classes. As a student myself, I challenge you to watch your child’s Zoom class. You’ll notice that the class is full of students, all logged in. These aren’t ghost Zoom meetings with missing children. These are full classes, and they’re often alive with discussion.

Personally, my grades are excellent. I am learning. I am doing well. And I understand that this is the way of the future.

Our struggle right now should not be about getting back to normal. It should be about embracing where we are and understanding that normal is fluid and ever-changing. We should be thankful that we have this amazing technology that allows us to learn from anywhere. We need to commit to this. We need to understand that school districts and zones are a thing of the past, divorcing us from concerns about poor neighborhoods and insufficient budgets. Your child can use technology to go to school anywhere, to learn from the best teachers. The only boundaries we face are the ones we impose upon ourselves.

Yes, we need a way to socialize. There should be more after-school clubs and activities, but these are the things we should (and will) smooth out in time. As long as we focus on making this work instead of undermining it with backward thinking, trying to return to a previous system that was always riddled with problems in the first place ... problems we forever meant to fix “someday.”

Jocelyn Knight is a seventh grade student at Meadowlark Middle School.

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