Graphic by Margaret Heffernan
Welcome to the age of Distance Learning and the Coronavirus. In case you’re a future human, post-quarantine, grudgingly dragging your feet to a tangible Woodrow Wilson High School, let me set a scene to make you more grateful.
You’re a Wilson student garbed in your casual bedroom attire, disheveled hair crowds your face as you open your internet browser, and look at the work assigned over the weekend. Perhaps you begin with Canvas, a learning platform that allows your teachers to give assignments, quizzes, and grades galore. Soon you’ll realize you have assignments on Google Classroom, a website far too similar in function to Canvas. A couple hours later you’ll remember that Microsoft Teams exists; yet another learning platform with assignments, quizzes, grades, but this time, here’s the kicker: lower-quality video chat. And just as your day is coming to a close, you’re reminded that you missed your Zoom, a video conferencing platform. While this is certainly a difficult time for teachers and students alike, why, Wilson, are there so many different distance learning platforms?
History teacher Christina Crotty explained that “the message was to do what works for you” and to “use what will make you the best teacher.” She said that while the platforms Canvas and Microsoft Teams are being promoted in correspondence from DCPS, nothing is set in stone. Most teachers, however, have chosen to be consistent with their subject department. But if uniformity is possible through each subject, why is it not consistent throughout the school?
When learning from home, the learning process is impeded by distractions, a lack of guidance, and no true schedule in addition to juggling at-home responsibilities. When there is a lack of uniformity in the school, it adds to the distractions that students have to balance, therefore complicating their ability to get an education. Now, you may say, “But some platforms don’t have video chat features?” or “I can’t turn my work in on Zoom.” A true statement indeed. So why don’t we have video chats on Zoom and turn work in on any of the three platforms that all share this function? It’s certainly an upgrade when you consider that currently students are managing up to four platforms, six including emails and Remind notifications. And why are so many platforms required when only one or two get the job done?
If students don’t have to worry about keeping track of all their classes, they can spend more time learning. I’m 96.52% positive that more time learning increases the quality of education. Though it is important to appreciate our teachers’ almost immediate transition to distance learning due to COVID-19, it is also important that the Wilson students get the best education possible. So, why, Wilson, is there not a universal distance learning platform?