The shift to virtual learning

FAMILY: Stephanie Nicerio and her family pose for a photo in July 2019. As a teacher she recommends playing board games and checking out educational activities online to keep the mind active. Photo courtesy Stephanie Nicerio

With the novel coronavirus at large, the government, most businesses and schools have shut down and classes for many students have gone online.

Many faculty and staff are adjusting to this change and figuring out what works best with their students.

Jane Shiu, college guidance counselor at St. John’s School, shares some thoughts and tips to share with teens as this switch to online classes begins.

“Students should make a habit of checking their school email regularly,” she said, noting it could be another communication platform depending on the school.

Some schools use WhatsApp or Remind, and others use RenWeb.

Shiu said it’s important for students to stay in constant communication with their teachers and advisers during this period of social isolation.

“Teachers may still be in the planning phase but will still be able to give students a sense of how the remainder of the year will look, should schools remain closed,” she said.

But despite the advancement in technology through virtual classes, Shiu notes that online classes have made a big impact to her teaching style.

“I love having discussions in class; they are more difficult to navigate online. In person, you can gauge body language to monitor engagement, and to determine what topics to further delve into – it’s a lot more difficult online,” she said.

The college guidance counselor also considers that St. John’s School is very fortunate during this switch to online classes.

“I want to acknowledge how privileged we are – as we contemplate and try to determine how our remote learning strategies are going to look for our school community, I recognize that this is not the case for the majority of students on the island – and around the world. We're fortunate that our SJS students – and staff – have access to laptops/technology and Wi-Fi.”

With regard to maintaining a good schedule for students, Shiu reminds students to formulate a schedule that works around their needs. She encourages students to ask themselves these questions:

“When will you wake up? What will you accomplish before class begins? As most of your instruction may be computer/technology-based, what will you do to get some nontech time? Add some nonacademic time – what will you do for fun? Is there a hobby you love to do that you normally don’t have time to do during the school year?”

Shiu also acknowledges the negative impact this has for the class of 2020.

“This is a really unfortunate, really frustrating situation. For some of you, this is your last year of high school – this was supposed to be your year, you were supposed to have prom, and sporting events, and clubs, and special senior events, and memories with your classmates, and so many other things, big and small,” she said.

But despite the negative circumstances, she emphasizes the resilience and innovative minds that high school students have.

“You have the ability to take this situation and make the most of it – to say that despite these immense challenges, you can still remain positive and as we navigate social distancing and remote learning, you can help us find innovative solutions."

Parent-teacher perspective

Adjusting to online classes while being a parent to students can be a challenge. However, through time management and a work schedule, Stephanie Nicerio is able to find a balance.

Nicerio is a geometry teacher at the Academy of Our Lady of Guam and has three children who are taking online classes due to the coronavirus.

“We schedule their learning from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.” Nicerio says.

With her daughters in sixth, eighth and 12 grades, she tries to keep a routine to help them focus and keep track of their school work. They constantly check their emails to see what assignments they have and what is due for the day.

As a teacher, her main challenge is navigating the internet since her revised way of teaching is by posting YouTube videos of her lecturing and posting work online.

Normally, she said, her class is highly interactive as math problems are solved and discussed as a group.

Now, she provides her students with seat work that is done individually. She utilizes Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, Teacherease and WhatsApp to communicate with her students and post assignments. She is also finding a way to include students with no internet access.

To help keep students’ minds sharp, Nicerio advises students to play online and board games as well as look into learning websites.

She also suggests taking a breath of fresh air away from technology by going outside and doing physical activities. Having a balance of learning and exercise as well as a work schedule to follow are essential in being productive during quarantine. Lastly, she highlights the importance of prayer to help others during this time.

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