Zoom Schooling: Bad, Good, or Mixed

I originally thought that zoom schooling would be a disaster for elementary students and kids from backgrounds that didn’t especially value schooling. And it would be a surmountable disadvantage for high school kids who were engaged with school.

But now that we’ve done it for most of a year, I’m leaning more towards “mixed”.

I don’t have kids in school. My exposure to zoom schooling has been through interviewing 4 kids for college admissions (all high school students who are pretty engaged with schooling), with tutoring in an urban school where most of the kids have older siblings who dropped out (high school students from backgrounds that don’t value schooling) and from chatting with neighbors (elementary and middle school kids from families that value schooling.)

I opened the interviews by asking them how the pandemic schooling was going, because it was the obvious elephant in the room and sort of a soft intro-question. Of the four kids I interviewed:

One was autistic, and was pretty happy with zoom schooling. He enjoyed playing with his dog during the day.

The other three were neurotypical and all likely prospects for admission to a competitive college. One of them went to a private school that had fully reopened, and was extremely happy about that.

Another assured me it was going okay, but he clearly would have preferred a normal school experience.

The fourth surprised me. She said that while she missed the social life of in-person school, she actually found the zoom schooling was working really well for her academically. She could replay the lectures, look stuff up, and generally learn at her own pace. And, she continued, the (public, mostly closed) school had been pretty good about creating some in-person experiences for the kids. For instance, her chorus group met outdoors, distanced and masked, when the weather wasn’t too bad. And they had software to enable them to create group performances.

For that matter, a friend who teaches honors physics at a mostly-minority school outside Chicago says his kids are scoring higher this year than last on (essentially) the same tests. Of course, he also wrote me the other day about one of his kids who was trying to re-enter the US at the Mexican border, and was detained, and managed to get permission to call my friend to tell him he’d be having trouble submitting his work, before he cell phone was confiscated for good. But… that’s not really a Zoom Schooling issue. (except that the kid had managed to stay in school and excel in classes while out of the country, I suppose.)

At first I despaired of the kids in the urban high school. But while some of them have completely checked out, the school says they’ve actually had good retention this year, because the flexibility of zoom has allowed some of the kids who would usually drop out to remain enrolled. I’m mostly working with the kids who have dropped behind and are struggling, but I start each class in the open classroom, and it’s clear that a lot of the kids ARE engaged, and some of them seem to be doing very well.

And as for neighbors… My town has mostly done “hybrid” learning, but also set up a full-time remote option, which one of my neighbors opted into. She say the school is now inviting them to return to in-person learning, and she thinks it will be disruptive, and wants to keep her kids (elementary and middle school) in the fully remote option. She says they are doing really well academically, like their teachers, like their classmates, and she’s cross that the set-up is likely to be disrupted. Other neighbors have said that the hybrid model seems to be working well for their kids. They said that last year, when the school suddenly switched at the end of the year, was a complete waste of time. But this year, when the school had time to prepare to teach remotely it’s gone pretty well.

So… what have your experiences been?

Our experience has been better than expected for our daughter in HS.

That said we’re looking forward to schools being fully open in the fall for her Senior year.

I have no real opinion on zoom schooling, but playing the TIA videos at my own pace was key to me passing my last EA exam. It’s great for the ADD crowd who zone out in class otherwise. So, not surprising that this was key for zoom schooling too.

I’ve only really had exposure to pre-school and I’d say remote has been at best a big load on the parents and at worst just a loss of education.

At the end of last year when my kids were remote it was a lot of work to get a 2 and 4 year old in front of a computer and actually get much out of it. My sister, who sadly is less into education, basically didn’t do it and my niece and nephew just didn’t really have school.

I’ve some friends who have kids in another preschool nearby and they basically just shut down and gave parents some packets they could optionally do.

Fortunately they opened the preschool in September with restrictions and we’ve had no issues and school has basically been back to normal for us.

Mixed. Our son is in seventh grade, and has mostly done well except for math. He used to do very well in math (actuarial genes!), but now he struggles a bit. We’ve done this at a school in CO and now KS, both schools have done a pretty good job communicating with parents. I’m not sure it’s ideal, and I hope they can re-open safely in the fall, but Zoom hasn’t been too bad. I didn’t have high expectations.

I can hear my son up on the third floor when I’m in my office, he does a great job participating and asking questions if he doesn’t understand something.

Spring semester of 2020 was effectively home school for my kids. The district pretty much just bailed on us.

But in the fall they came back much better prepared. I had a K and 2nd grader that did about 1 month total of zoom school over the last 8 months (2 weeks after thanksgiving and 2 weeks after xmas).

The 2nd grader really missed the social aspect of school. She was able to do everything independently and seemed to be learning everything fine. But she was very bored and always complained that she missed her friends.

The K Zoom school was effectively guided daycare. Was very difficult to control the class. I saw a few days of it and my son seemed to be sitting there waiting a lot, which I guess is what K is really teaching kids- how to function in society.

We were seriously considering a private K school for the little one if in person was canceled for the year. I was happy that they actually offered it as much as they did.

side note, my younger son usually gets sick like 5 times every winter. between 2 kids, we have had 1 minor cold all year, with both of them in person school. Go to show that the mitigation methods they are using are highly effective at preventing the spread of disease.

School is kind of pointless in general. Active learning far exceeds passive learning and nothing is more passive than attending lectures, whether they are in person or online. The pandemic is just making this more obvious since the parents are actually around to see how worthless it is in action.

School = daycare and it’s no surprise that the typical student is functionally illiterate on the way out.

this is why it annoys me when people like to claim that this pandemic is worse on kids than anyone else. uh, no, it isn’t, it depends on the kid and depends on the adult. i think i would have LOVED zoom school over regular school with those animals in junior high.

i take it back. I HAVE OPINIONS.

more like prison in junior high.

Yes and Aramark caters both.

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Gotta love them Sysco fries

There’s a lot of evidence to the contrary, do we have much evidence to support the claim that school is pointless?

I can tell you from my wife’s experience as a teacher that it is bad.

She teaches in a title 1 urban high school. The main issue is that the kids who otherwise would be indifferent to schooling simply don’t show up for the most part now. Her last block class for both of the last 2 semesters has an attendance rate below 50%. Her best classes are around 75-80%. If you’re not there you’re not learning. Its hard enough getting some of her students to care when they are forced to attend. This just doesn’t work.

I’ll tell you how I feel about school, Jerry: It’s a waste of time. Bunch of people runnin’ around bumpin’ into each other, got a guy up front says “2 + 2,” and the people in the back say, “4.” Then the bell rings and they give you a carton of milk and a piece of paper that says you can go take a dump or somethin’. I mean, it’s not a place for smart people, Jerry. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but that’s my two cents on the issue.

Having a curriculum foisted upon you is the antithesis of learning. What kids really need to learn is how to identify actual life problems and figure out how to solve them without an expert there to hold their hand to tell them whether they are right. I mean real problems as you try to make a living for yourself and provide for your family. Not made up problems by some administrator who thinks it’s the best for you when you might not even encounter them outside the context of the classroom.

In short, kids need to learn how to make their own curriculum, independently. As an adult you need to make decisions without knowing with certainty whether you are right because oftentimes there is no right or wrong answer, just your actions and the consequences that follow.

I think you’re just complaining about bad schools. Kids don’t need to make their own curriculum, that’s silly, but they should be taught to think critically, which happens in high school and college. But critical thinking isn’t much fun without many skills to start with.

My experience is that it is a disaster for kids under age 10 or 11.

After that it can work ok for certain kids. Would believe maybe even better for a few kids.

I think one big problem is that it is much easier for a kid to be left behind, especially younger ones. The nature of the interaction is that the teacher gets much less information on the student.

That’s a contradiction though. How can a kid think critically if they have to be taught it by someone else? In a course where they are graded from A-F undoubtedly.

They literally test it on some actuarial exams.

Here’s a bunch of information, make a judgment. If you made a valid judgment out of a cloud of alternatives then you get it right, if you didn’t then you get it wrong.

The CAS: we want students to think critically as long as their answers are ones that we deem to be correct.