Virtual learning observations


In the absence of my classroom, I realize I don’t care about any of the stuff that fills it. I only miss the children.

The first 30 years of my career were spent as a licensed certified social worker, engaging with children and their families. That said, it is natural that I have concern that my pre-K students were robbed of the crucial lesson that prepares them for a productive future: how to get along with others. This cannot be done remotely, and I sincerely hope that next fall the Department of Education will have the wisdom to permit kindergarten students to make up for this lost, crucial lesson in social engagement.

Sitting at a desk silently, learning to read and write, can be put off until they are versed in getting along. They have 12 more years in school to accomplish that.

But if they have missed the foundation for success, appropriate social functioning, they might carry this educational deficit with them forever.

Valerie Staal Borock, PS 386, the Bronx

The coronavirus pandemic has made clear the benefits and shortcomings of technology replacing traditional in-class education. Teaching through a computer screen makes it harder to deliver nuanced criticism and praise when not in person, and impossible to read tone and body language.

Although face-to-face relationships have been undermined by electronic conversations, the need for human connection and cooperation is still paramount. There is the awkward feeling that during electronic classroom discussions, student needs, feelings and thoughts are less honestly conveyed. The dearth of human contact could have a debilitating effect on students’ emotional growth. As a species, we are not suited to maximum growth and potential in physical isolation.

The growth and movement toward more virtual classrooms could either be curtailed as their shortcomings are exposed or enhanced as their economic value and convenience become evident. Establishing healthy and positive relationships among students, teachers, administrators and support personnel is central to a comprehensive and liberal education. These qualities are missing in the virtual classroom.

The coronavirus has made online learning a health necessity, but I’m sure that many see this as the future of education. Teachers are not expendable at this time, but the brave new world of education might see artificial intelligence as more efficient and certainly more cost effective. This is misguided thinking that will have a horrible influence on the education of children and our democratic institutions.

Larry Hoffner, retired

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