Early Progress Report on Rye Homeschooling
By Peter Jovanovich
Hanging out, or hangouts, are expressions usually associated with teenage delinquency. However, in a world where the schools are closed, and students are trying to keep up academically, Rye City School District teachers are using apps like Google Hangouts to video conference with all of their students.
After the District closed the schools on March 12, Superintendent Dr. Eric Byrne devoted the very next day to training teachers on how to deploy remote learning, including instructing teachers on using apps such as Google Hangouts. Next, on March 16, the District delivered Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots to those families in need of internet access. This solved the “equity” issue of internet access which has hampered some American school districts from delivering any distance learning at all during the Coronavirus crisis.
“It’s not like simply turning on a switch,” said Dr. Byrne. “None of our teachers ever expected to have to deliver instruction remotely . . . while many are trying to take care of their own children while delivering instruction. We have asked parents to be patient.”
Hearing from students and parents in the Rye City community, we learned that the process of distance learning began in fits and starts. Senior Chris Urban remarked: “Teachers are giving us a fair amount of work, delivered through Google Classroom. Teachers have used Google forms to administer tests and several video recordings, but the majority of work is assignments on Google docs. Google Hangouts is an option for the whole class to get together on Webcam, but that hasn’t happened yet.”
Another senior, Freddie Clarke, said, “So far, I haven’t found remote learning to be very efficient. Many teachers don’t give clear enough instructions, and I often find myself confused over what exactly I need to submit.”
Homeschooling younger children is a completely different proposition. Milton School mom Aubrey Smith wrote: “We are managing to find our rhythm. I do think my boys are faring better than I am as I’m hard on myself. I know their learning will be impacted by this. It’s interesting to see different learning styles emerge: one is excelling in reading and writing while the other slumping, which is a bit hard to watch. But I know he will hit his stride again and be fine.” She added: “It’s an important benefit to have Dad around to help. He’s added Guitar, Chess, and scoot around the block. And I have allowed more screen time to keep everyone happy. I even ordered a Carvel cake to lighten things up.”
Midland mom Jillian Volpe said, “There has certainly been a learning curve with distance learning, but I think we are getting the hang of it. Our virtual learning routine is different each day so we are taking it one day at a time and doing the best we can under the circumstances.” She added, “The teachers have been wonderful throughout this major transition. We appreciate all of the hard work they have poured into creating this new educational experience.”
Starting from scratch on March 13, it’s hardly surprising that remote learning is still not a robust learning experience. As Dr. Byrne remarked, “We are literally building a plane while flying it.” And parents and students should be aware that national research shows that remote learning in the K-12 field, as opposed to undergraduate and graduate instruction, has a very spotty record – even with programs that were designed from the beginning to be delivered via the internet. Studies, such as those from the CREDO Institute at Stamford University, find that online learning seriously lags in-class instruction.
There’s nothing that can substitute for being in class with great teachers. Perhaps Rye’s school community can take comfort in the words of the Queen Elizabeth II, “We will meet again.”