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Chaos and Dead Air: A Glimpse into What Zoom School is Like for Kids

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Middle school is the last place most of us want to return, but I voluntarily went back last month.

My niece was struggling mightily with seventh grade. Her parents asked if I, a former teacher and an educational consultant, could help her tackle Zoom School. So I converted my kitchen table into a classroom and spent eight hours each day attending online classes with her and coaching her through homework.

I was getting an inside view, not only of my niece’s development but of online learning at one of the most highly sought-after public middle schools in Brooklyn.

What I saw was alarming.

Middle school is the time for children to build a foundation for success in high school and beyond. It’s the time to hone the executive functioning skills essential to organizing their writing, their reasoning, and their backpacks. But in Zoom school, my niece did not have a single notebook. All of her work was done on a laptop she had borrowed from her mother. (At least she had a device and a keyboard — plenty of other kids were on phones or iPads, or absent.) Yet my niece, like many others, had always used pencils and paper in school. She had not yet learned to type.

In many classes, the only way for students to participate was by putting answers into a chatbox. My niece struggled to type fast enough to join conversations. Her inability to keep up led her to provide one-word responses or simply stop participating.

We know how difficult it is to conduct an engaging and productive online meeting. Unfortunately, the forays into group conversation I saw with middle schoolers alternated between dead air and chaos.

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-Chalkbeat, Elana Sigall

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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