Added Technology Key to Meeting Hybrid Learning Challenges

David and Charlie work together with their partners at home, Gavin, Ellie, Sebastian, and Syed as they all learn how to make Mac & Cheese together.

In the past year, Longfellow students and teachers have experienced drastic changes to the technology surrounding us as we navigated distance learning in a constantly changing environment. The recent pandemic has forced teachers, schools, and students to learn a lot more about technology and how to get through the challenges of learning from home. 

 With FCPS already slated to start FCPSOn, their one-to-one computer initiative, in the fall of 2020, we were ideally positioned to make sure every student had a computer at home. In addition, FCPS implemented their “Access4all” program. They work to ensure that every student has access to reliable technology and the Internet through innovative programs and developing public and private partnerships. This is the program that offers MiFi access for the students without adequate wifi at home. After an entire year of empty hallways at school, Longfellow tried to make the “Return to School” the swiftest adjustment possible by having students continue to do work on their school-issued laptops rather than using paper and pencil. 

Teachers are happy to see students back in the building but are still figuring out how to navigate the additional technology.

“In the classroom, I have an extra monitor, extra camera, which has been positive, and then also just websites that we use; there’s a lot more to pick from,” said 7th grade science teacher Elizabeth Schinstock.

Even though the return to school may seem like it makes things easier, that’s not always the case.

“I see the standard challenges for technology in class,” said history teacher Stephanie Haley. “Batteries not fully charged, disrupted connections to the wifi, and the challenge of vying against YouTube, games, and the other aspects of the internet for students’ attention,” she listed.

Nevertheless, hybrid school would be impossible without the technology. Teachers like Catherine Czifra figured out how to use the technology to combine students at home in groups with students at school to work on the hands-on labs together.

Outside of Longfellow, there are results of this year of online learning that may affect schools in the long run. In terms of efficiency, schools’ rapid increase in the need for technology means that companies need to produce more and more efficient technology. According to Education Week’s “How Technology, Coronavirus Will Change Teaching by 2025,” published June 2nd, 2020, technology and 1-to-1 [computing] will be available faster because schools are seeing the need for it. 

For those who enjoyed online learning, there may be more opportunities to engage in it. Even before COVID, the number of students enrolling in all online classes or schools was rising. According to The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), this rapid expansion has prompted schools to increase the number of online classes and topics that they offer. 

Even with the added technology load, teachers are happy to be back in the classroom. 

“I like that we’re back in school in person to some degree,” said Haley. “I like seeing faces and hearing voices, even if those are masked faces. I can’t speak for everyone, but my experience is more positive with students returning.” 

 “Let me say, I’m so excited and happy for the return to school,” said Schinstock.

Overall, the technology used by Longfellow has increased significantly since the pandemic started. FCPS has provided all students and teachers with adequate technology to succeed in virtual learning and in-person learning.