Updated: May 21
I don't know who to attribute the quote "April showers bring May flowers" to, but I hope it's accurate. It has been 7 weeks since MCP has been offering virtual classes. We do not know when the coding studio will open again, but I would expect by late May or early June. In the meantime, schools and activities have moved to a remote environment with tools such as Zoom. It has been a big change, but stay safe and keep coding! Below are some tips on how to be successful in a virtual environment.
We have found that the virtual setting brings challenges that we did not face in the studio. An outspoken student asking questions in a face-to-face setting is less disruptive than in a virtual setting, where all participants are required to listen to her/him. Any student questions consume the instructor's attention, and there is no space to ignore a few students that may be chatting with each other. We are keeping the remote classes small with less than 5 students so that kids can have attention and all students will have the opportunity to ask questions. In larger groups, it is easy for students to get frustrated and drop off the call or not engage in the activity.
We also see more distracted students in a virtual setting, though we understand that a large part of that can be attributed to the disruption in children's lives. Their school year ended suddenly, and they were forced to learn from parents and online resources. They are required to stay at home and can only see classmates and friends through a screen. It is a tough time to be a child, but students can adapt and there are qualities we can encourage to help them be successful online.
As a student, thriving in a virtual environment requires the following attributes:
patience: A virtual setting often requires more patience than in-person classes. Patience with technology challenges and patience with other students is helpful.
communication: It is no longer possible for the instructor to see your screen or recognize you are struggling unless you actively communicate it verbally or through facial expression. However, the instructor may be too busy managing the aspects of an online environment such as screenshare and chat to pick up on body language, so speaking up would be best.
focus: Being at home creates more distraction than being at our studio. With small class sizes, we haven't required students to be on mute so that we can encourage communication. It is helpful if the student has privacy and a quiet study area so they can concentrate and other students are not also distracted by noise and movement in the background.
In summary, understanding and adapting to a shift in environment will help students be successful learners. Patience, communication, and focus are helpful attributes. With patience comes flexibility in dealing with other students and a students' own situation, as they will need to make more effort to tolerate differences, overcome technical issues, and communicate questions and frustrations. Good luck to all students as they learn to navigate our new normal!