Scappoose High teacher experiences pros, cons of distance learning
As a student, back in the day, you would grab your Pee-Chee folders, head for the school bus on a frosty morning and arrive in time to hear the school bell.
Not so much these days, as students adapt to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Scappoose High School geometry and AP calculus teacher Mark Sprenger, there are ups and down associated with virtual teaching.
"There are positives and negatives," Sprenger said. "Everybody hears about the negatives, but there are certainly positives.
"With distance learning, lessons are recorded. In my classrooms, they have multiple ways they can access the information. If they don't remember something, they can always go back and rewatch the lesson."
According to Sprenger, this cuts down on the chance a student, upon returning home, may forget information learned at school.
With distance learning, "they can go back and rewatch something, or they can pause it and rewind it," Sprenger said.
Describing his virtual teaching regimen, Sprenger said, "I have two items students need to complete every day. My classes are structured where they have a weekly discussion, where they are interacting with classmates."
Students can go through a slideshow and take notes, or they can watch a video lesson of Sprenger teaching the content.
"They have to do a worksheet of some sort, or some type of practice," Sprenger said. "Then they have to take a quiz. I meet live Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at whatever their assigned time is."
As a benefit for his students, Sprenger sets aside a portion of time Tuesdays and Thursdays to help students who may have questions about their studies.
"From 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., I run a live, virtual help session where they can go over the quizzes, they can go over content, they get help navigating," Sprenger said.
Distance learning can be difficult for students without internet access.
"There are going to be students who don't have access to the internet," Strenger said.
"We did start bringing in small groups of students into the buildings" if they don't have access to the internet at home, Sprenger added. These students can come into the school for a limited time. "They can access the internet from school, socially distance and wear masks," he said.
The district also has provided students with Chromebooks.
"We should have every student, one to one, with Chromebooks, if they need them," Sprenger said.
The transition to virtual learning was not easy for Sprenger.
"I had never had a Zoom meeting or a Google meeting," Sprenger said. "I had never done a virtual meeting. So the learning curve was steep."
Sprenger believes that once COVID-19 subsides, some sort of distance learning may continue.
"For some students, it works better for them," he said. "They learn better this way. I think we will have some sort of distance learning forever."
Among the negatives of distance learning, Sprenger said it is difficult getting to know students.
"I do my best to try to get kids to come to meetings and really get to know them," Sprenger said. "These kids need socialization.
"Academically, I just don't think we're going to get through as much content with distance learning, so I think we're going to have some kids behind. That's definitely a con. I have to teach a year's worth of geometry in 18 weeks. Kids can't learn twice as fast."
As of press time, Sprenger had about 100 students engaged in distance learning.
The Scappoose School District announced last month it does not anticipate reopening classrooms until at least January, after the first semester of the school year is done.
Sprenger remains confident he'll get through this phase of virtual education.
"I'm definitely working way more hours," he said. "We're teachers, and we're going to do what we have to do for students. With every week, it gets a little bit easier."
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