The transition to online learning has been a significant change for many of our students across the school. In particular, students completing Year 11 and 12 this year in both IB and VCE have had to adapt to an entirely different learning style during what is to many, the most important years of secondary school.
We spoke to Poppy Rechner, a Year 11 VCE student, about her experiences.
What has been a highlight for you during the online learning program?
Poppy: I think it has been interesting getting to know how I work on my own and seeing how long I can focus on a task. I find that if I am writing an essay for literature, I will only be able to write one paragraph at a time if I don’t get into a flow, whereas for maths I know where the end of the task is and I have a vague sense of how long it will take me. I have also been talking to my friends lots though tech rather than face-to-face which is an interesting new way of communicating. It has been good to try and set myself a way of learning from home, knowing that everyone else is having to make the same changes.
Have you had much contact from teachers and your peers?
P: With social media it is much easier to get in contact with my peers and friends. Our friendship group all downloaded Skype and we Skype each other over lunchtimes and when we are doing the same work so that we can help each other out with questions that we don't understand. Canvas is the main platform to talk to teachers, I mostly talk to them through the conference calls and over email when I have a question that I need answered. It has been helpful to be able to contact them so easily.
How have you been managing your time to get the most out of your learning?
P: I have been trying to do a little of each subject each day, making sure not to spend too much time on certain subjects or assessments. If I have a double then we will have a conference that day which helps confirm the work for the week. After and during the conferences, I make sure to note down everything that my teachers want me to do so that I won't forget about anything they have added that day. I also make sure to have breaks so that I don’t get distracted from study, like going for walks, playing some flute or doing some music theory outside to get away from the computer.
What are some of the challenges associated with this style of learning?
P: The most challenging thing is managing time and sticking to a routine that allows for time away from computers while also completing all the work to a high standard that will benefit my learning. But I think that what we are doing right now can only improve, we have so many good resources like Canvas, Edrolo, OneNote and Teams which are really helping us connect with teachers and peers. The only other challenge is the ability to have music lessons. I have a Teams meeting with my teacher once a week but it is really not the same as having a face-to-face lesson.
What are you doing outside of schooling to maintain balance and mental health since there are no more co-curricular activities?
P: Well it's pretty hard to do much now with the lock downs, so I've mostly been trying to go for walks with a family member, making sure to have a good chat with them. Not having music while I walk is also good as I am listening to music all the time and so giving my brain a real break while I'm outside helps me get back into a productive zone when I put my headphones back on. I also like to play my flute during the day to help break up study. I like to keep flute practise to what I would usually have each day, for example, if I normally have band one day, I will play band pieces rather than personal pieces.
Do you have any advice to help students who might be struggling to engage with online learning?
P: I think this goes for myself as well. Stay on top of work so that you don't get stressed, everything always seems worse and more difficult when you are stressed. I think it is also important to know that our teachers want us to succeed. They are not trying to make this more difficult than it already is and they are so ready and open to helping. Even if you think you are asking a silly question in a conference and it has already been explained, there is a big chance that someone else wants to ask that same question and there is no harm in the class hearing the explanation more than once.