By Jhasua Scicchitano – Editor-in-Chief
The computer microphone peaked with excited young voices as familiar faces started to pop on screen. Then, silence. “Everybody make sure they have their cameras on — I need to be able to see you,” said Nicholas Insinga, a fifth grade math teacher at Woodrow Wilson #5 School in Garfield, New Jersey.
Last March, most schools opted for remote learning and found themselves in a difficult situation as the outbreak of Covid-19 persisted around the world, enforcing a global lockdown. Students had to adapt quickly to the new circumstances that would ultimately force their lives in a different direction, and not necessarily for the better – especially younger kids. Curriculums of late are functioning through online platforms: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Webex, for example. Part of growing up is attending school. It builds social skills, forcing young children to make friends and create life experiences as they progress in age. But how are they supposed to do that now through a computer screen?
“The interaction with another kid is probably something they have all been missing for the last six or seven months,” Insinga said during a recent interview. “I don’t know if parents were letting kids hang out with kids too, you know, be kids — but I feel like that was taken away from them.”
In other words, there is a type of comfort associated with classroom camaraderie. Having friends makes a learning environment feel more welcoming, especially at a young age, but that is no longer the case. Kids now are experiencing a sense of disconnection, with children as young as preschool learning online. As difficult as the “new normal” has been for so many, some teachers have done an extremely good job of giving students a positive interactive experience.
“Vincenzo — please pull up your whiteboard and show your work on how to solve the problem. We can do it together if you have any trouble,” Insinga said during a recent remote class Vincenzo’s finger slid across the track pad, selected the whiteboard tool, and showcased his work in red.
“Very good Vincenzo, good job buddy,” the teacher said.
It is important now more than ever to have students interact in the classroom, especially at a young age. It’s how you keep them focusing, while also giving them some sort of social interaction — even if it’s through a computer screen.
Aside from this, there are other factors that contribute to the overall success of online learning and the growth of children. The Garfield School District has done well with providing teachers with the correct tools to teach, according to Insinga. This is not limited to just the platforms in which they teach, but rather the websites they use to work around their lesson plans. These websites can further be defined as “online manipulatives” and their purpose is to act as a skills assessment tool that notifies teachers on areas where students need help. While the world seems to have changed for the worst over the last few months, it is imperative that we try and make the best of the situation.
“Are things going to be perfect?” Insinga asked. “No, but the world isn’t perfect right now so we have to do the best we can.”
*Story was also used in David Bergeland’s Journalism Capstone class*