Although the Milpitas High School campus has been physically closed, school remains in session through distance learning, said Superintendent Cheryl Jordan. Educators continue to develop new and creative ways to deliver lessons, assignments, projects, and other in-home activities, Jordan explained.
Teaching online is not something she would prefer to do since she misses her students’ faces and sweet smiles, Chinese teacher Martha Kang said in an email interview. Since she understands it is difficult for students to learn more material on their own, she aims to provide her classes with more interesting activities, such as using this website to transform their Chinese names into stamps, Kang explained. She also asked students to use the initial pronunciation of their Chinese name to find and share dishes with similar pronunciations, Kang added.
“For AP Chinese students, I am going to conduct an AP Chinese Mock Exam… by using a Google Form with a time limit,” Kang said. “I [also] designed an Interact Slide for me to insert videos explaining the lesson, vocabulary and grammar points,” Kang added. “There is still a lot that I need to improve and learn from the students’ point of view, and I love to use exit tickets on a Google Form to know their struggles and reflection.”
In order to have successful online lessons, she has learned to utilize new tools, Kang added. To engage students, she uses Jamboard, Whiteboard.fi, and Padlet for students to collaborate and share their ideas during class, and sometimes she uses Quizlet, Gimkit or Quizizz to play live games, Kang explained.
Student clubs and organizations have also developed new ways to hold events and connect members. “STEMgirls struggled with the postponement or cancellation of many events, especially our biggest one, , which we had been planning since September,” STEMgirls President Mahika More said in an email interview. “A large aspect of our club is touring companies and schools, and our Google tour and Stanford tour got canceled,” More added.
STEMgirls moved these school introductions and talks online, More said. Their biggest event was a six-week-long series where students from four different colleges spoke about their experiences, wrapping up the series with STEMgirls’ senior officers by giving a two-hour presentation on tips for the college application process, More explained.
“The responses we got from this series were amazing; at each talk, we had 20 to 30 students attend, and for our large college demystifying talk at the end, we had over 50 underclassmen show up,” More said. “This was definitely the first time we had done online talks like this, and we plan to continue them because not only were we able to reach our club members, but we also opened this event to the whole school, allowing for many students to access these opportunities.”
Just like the college series, STEMgirls is trying to plan a professional series where they have speakers from different professions talk about their careers and how they got there, More said. Hopefully STEMgirls will have the amazing response that they have gotten with our other online events, More added.
Milpitas Xtreme Robotics (MXR) has also faced event cancellations and complications from the quarantine, but continues to develop virtual activities. “We had looked forward to representing Milpitas at the 2020 VEX World Championships, one of the two largest youth robotics events in the world, in which we earned a spot for the first time in 17 years,” MXR President Chloe Wang said. “A few of our members had organized an event of their own, the MXR 2020 Rainbow Six Siege Tournament, which had drawn nearly 100 participant applications from all over the Bay Area and nearly 200 interested attendees; both of these events were canceled due to the coronavirus.”
Wang said that the club members have been keeping in touch with each other despite their distance. They have also managed to organize events and keep their club running in the absence of a meeting place, Wang added.
“Our club has started new virtual lessons for our members and younger students to learn computer-aided design (CAD), hosted leadership classes for our upcoming leaders, spent time together to share club stories and bond, played around with online simulators and other games, and are organizing a virtual Robocode robotics competition/hackathon for our club,” Wang said. “In our effort to do our part in slowing the COVID-19 spread, we are currently using our 3D printers to aid an organization in printing face shield parts for local hospitals that are in dire need of more resources, contributing our computer processing power through Folding@Home to universities seeking to model COVID-19 in hopes of finding a cure, pitching projects for helping disinfect the city, and sharing fact-checked information to spread awareness on social media.”
Although distance learning has been an effective way of keeping students safe, there are many drawbacks, MXR Secretary Edward Mai said in an email interview. However, it is a good short-term solution for education under quarantine, he added.
“For the long-term, however, distance learning allows for far too many distractions, while taking away the resources that students need the most: teacher assistance,” Mai said. “Furthermore, certain classes are almost completely unable to take place.”
In addition to these problems, social distancing has exacerbated feelings of isolation and loneliness in some students, Mai said. The new distance learning system has also been stressful, he added.
“While there were fewer class meetings, the amount of homework given eats up the rest of our ‘free’ time,” Mai said. “For those of us taking AP exams, there is the added stress of learning the new online systems and format of more heavily-weighted questions in shorter tests—sometimes shortened down to just one question—that determine whether or not we will receive college credit.”