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With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Classroom Technology Opinion

‘Online Learning as a Student Has Been ... Hell on Earth’

By Larry Ferlazzo — November 19, 2020 8 min read
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(This is the second post in a multipart series. You can see Part One here.)

The question-of-the-week:

What has your online learning experience been as a student this fall? What is working for you and why? What is not working for you and why?

This series will highlight contributions from students in my classes.

In Part One, Cathy Liu, Julia Yang, Eliseo Angulo Lopez, and Masihullah Shafiq shared their thoughts.

Today, Luis Diaz, Samantha Nicole Vicedo, Cheyenne Lo, and Manpreet Rana contribute their commentaries.

Too much work

Luis Diaz is a junior at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.:

Online learning as a student this fall has, in my opinion, been the equivalent of hell on earth. The way that teachers demand us to do hours of work when only seeing them for 40 minutes at minimum. I’m used to staring at a laptop screen for long periods of time, but many people I know are not used to it, and their eyes are beginning to strain, and some now need glasses but can’t afford them. All I’m seeing is that people are not used to being on a computer for hours at a time. I’m used to it, but not for this long. I don’t understand how we’re supposed to be on a screen from 9:30 am all the way to 7 pm because of classwork. That is 10 hours of screen time for work and only work. Some people have other work to do, but instead we’re working hard in front of a screen for teachers that don’t even try to get to know us.

What has worked, though, was teachers having office hours to contact them out of class. I cannot begin to remember how many times I needed help with asynchronous assignments for class only for me to not have any way to contact my teacher. I don’t understand how I’m supposed to get work done when I have no idea how to even do the assignment in the first place, but luckily, one of my teachers has office hours that I can use to talk to my teacher when I need help from her class.

What doesn’t work is heaping on assignment after assignment while others don’t even have the first assignment finished yet. Not everyone works at the same pace, but teachers expect us to finish all their given assignments in an hour or less. What they don’t remember is that we’re learning, meaning that we don’t have all the knowledge we need to properly do the assignments.


“It’s hard to talk to a profile picture”

Samantha Nicole Vicedo is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:

Online learning has been a roller coaster experience, one where you’re constantly screaming and not out of joy. I still enjoy my classes because I make sure to give my 100% best, but sometimes it just gets a little too much, and I’m afraid of getting overwhelmed to the point of shutting down and not doing anything since almost all my classes collectively stress me out. I’m sure it’s stressful for the adults as well, but we teenagers still haven’t fully grasped our emotions yet and tend to be driven by them no matter how hard we try to be in control, especially when our emotions overload us.

Some teachers’ classes go overtime unintentionally, maybe because interactions between teachers and students make it more exciting, interesting, and engaging since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and it gets lonely sometimes. Some teachers’ classes go overtime intentionally to compel students to work on the designated assignment so that they can get it over with.

Each student’s home situation is unique; some students have siblings they need to take care of, chores to get done, or some may not like online learning because they feel unattached as opposed to physical learning where it’s hands-on. All I know is that each student is trying their best to survive the school year and get passing grades until everything goes back to normal again.

Both parties are trying their best to adapt to this new form of learning, but it’s hard to talk to a profile picture. It’s hard to connect with new students because you don’t see them and sometimes you don’t even hear from them. Some of my teachers encourage getting to know each other, but I still end up picking the same people I know from last year because I feel uncomfortable talking with people I don’t see and don’t know yet. It’s hard to take full advantage of your teacher as a resource to be successful because you can’t just yell their name or raise your hand when you need help.

I actually kind of like online learning, I just wish more people were engaged in collectively making it feel as if we were still in physical classes. It’d be more fun, more socially engaging, less lonesome, and less emotionally draining.


“I hate the Chromebooks”

Cheyenne Lo is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:

Doing online school this year has been interesting. I am not sure if I like it or don’t like it. First and foremost, I will be honest. I hate the Chromebooks. These Chromebooks could be better. I hate having to log in all the time and having to log into my Zoom and every day. It came to a point where I just leave my Chromebook on 24/7 so that I don’t have to login every time. I feel like being in Zoom during the day is OK because I still have time to do other things while I listen in on what we have to do during class.

I have a problem with some of my teachers because we have 80 minutes with them. From my knowledge, teachers are supposed to teach us for 40 minutes and then give us 40 minutes to do our assignments. Not a lot of my teachers have been following that schedule. They spend the whole time talking, and sometimes it gets to a point where I leave Zoom just so I can do my assignments or I completely mute them so I can work.

I do miss that dedicated time during school to do assignments because personally, as a broke child without parents, I have a job and I work 40 hours a week, and it is very hard to do 2-3 hours of work every day after “school” when I go straight to work after school and then don’t get home until 11 at night. I still have to eat and shower after I get home from work so I don’t even settle in my room to do homework until midnight. From there on, I stay up until 3 to finish my assignments, then I am exhausted the next day during school and I just don’t feel ready for school in the morning, and the process just repeats until the weekends. I don’t have to wake up as early, but even then I work on weekends, and with my busy schedule, I have to do other things so I don’t have time to sleep in and catch up on sleep. Overall, I just wish I had more class time to do my work, and teachers would give us more time to do assignments during Zoom calls.


“Hang in there”

Manpreet Rana is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:

Since this quarantine has started and everyone started staying at home, a lot of things have changed. I’m a high school student, and this year has been crazy for me because before I used to go to school, see all my friends, and have fun. I used to say, “Oh, I hate school,” but I kinda miss it now. I do miss talking to friends and doing stupid stuff in the classroom. Now it doesn’t even feel like school is going on. It just feels like we are watching a video or something.

As of my experience of online studying, I would say it’s good and bad for me. The good part is that I get more time to do my work and I don’t have to sit in a boring lecture for really long and also I can wear and eat whatever I want and whenever I want. The bad part would not be seeing my friends, missing out on all the fun things like prom, homecoming, and many more things and also just not having that classroom fun we used to have. And I would say that attending class online is very difficult because school feels very optional now. If I don’t do any class, I can still work on Google Classroom and get good grades by not even attending the class. That’s the thing I’m struggling with. And I know a lot of students struggling with a lot of problems in this online learning and I would say just hang in there, take some time off if you have to, but stay focused, and things will get better.


Thanks to Luis, Samantha, Cheyenne, and Manpreet for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

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