By Charlie Mark
The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed our way of life. Barber shops, movie theaters and restaurants have been temporarily closed, leaving many stranded in their homes with few social outlets. Personally, the most significant development of the pandemic occurred, when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all New York schools will be closed for the rest of the year. As a student, this news is particularly upsetting; school has always been a consistent outlet for important social interactions.
Students go to school to learn several topics. These include math, science, social studies and more. Yet one topic that cannot be learned in a textbook is the art of socialization. Right now, students are being deprived of valuable face to face interactions, which can negatively impact their academic performance and mental state. With this being said, an issue which has crossed my mind, along with those of numerous educational professionals, is how schools will continue to promote social interactions despite being closed.
Currently, classes are taking place on multiple communication platforms, such as Zoom and Google Meet. While these classes are valuable in that students get to speak to their peers, they do not necessarily equate to the interaction’s students used to have. Surely, online learning could never fully replicate the magic of person to person socialization. However, to a certain extent, schools can preserve the interactions they once provided.
In school, students work together on projects, team-building exercises, and much more. The purpose of this is to help students meet new people, build friendships, and make memories. There is no reason why this process cannot be re-created through online learning. In Zoom, there is a feature called “breakout rooms,” which allow teams of students to breakout into small groups to collaborate on in-class projects. There is a similar feature in Google Meet. With regards to student socialization, these breakout sessions are very valuable. They encourage friendly conversation, teamwork, and help create a desirable online learning environment.
How schools will support meaningful interactions between students during the pandemic does not foster an easy answer. One thing, though, is for sure: there are resources which can turn an online classroom into a hotspot for socialization.
Charlie Mark has been a reporter for the Port Washington News since 2018, mainly covering high school sports. He hosts a weekly show on WDOT Port Washington Radio, and is a staff writer for the Schreiber Times