How was Connecting with Others Disrupted this School Year?
It is safe to say that this year was unlike any other. From the sudden shutdown of schools to tackling the world of virtual instruction, students and educators were thrown many curve balls. They were faced with unprecedented challenges as they navigated through life during a pandemic. Throughout all of this, the ability to connect with others was severely damaged. Students and educators were denied access to regular classroom settings which led to a decrease in the majority of social interaction most were used to. Students lost time connecting with and learning from their friends. Educators could not interact and collaborate with their fellow teachers as easily as in the past. Most importantly, educators and students had a more difficult time forming meaningful relationships that either make or break a student’s success in the classroom. Virtual learning (or the lack thereof) made all of this much harder and more difficult to achieve. In general, students and educators were denied a multitude of opportunities, from sporting events to extracurricular clubs, that normally provide opportunities to connect with others.
Why is it Important for Students and Educators to Stay Connected?
It is obvious that the need to stay connected is greater than ever. Additionally, I would even dare say that most have realized how integral social interaction is for overall health and well-being after experiencing life during the Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s identify why it is important to stay connected in general and why students and educators should stay connected.
Friendships and Support Systems
Social interactions of any kind allow us to form friendships and valuable relationships with others. When this happens, we have a chance to develop a support system without even realizing it. Suddenly, we have people we can rely on, share with, and seek advice from. Most importantly, we have people around us that we can have fun with.
Mental and Emotional Health
That fun mentioned previously ties in directly with the need for social interaction and our health. One of the saddest consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic (other than the loss of life due to the virus) is the decline in mental and emotional health. Many have experienced periods of depression and anxiety due to social isolation and the lack of contact with others. When we begin to connect with others, we generally start to feel better both mentally and physically. Staying connected has a direct influence on your health which is why interacting with others is so important.
For students and educators…
All of the other reasons to stay connected apply to students and educators, but it is equally important that they create trustworthy relationships with one another. It is one thing to have a support system in the classroom, but students need to know that their teacher is “in their corner” rooting for their success. Students must also feel that their teacher knows and understands them which encourages better involvement and higher levels of achievement in the classroom. Unfortunately, virtual instruction made this type of relationship extremely difficult to achieve as teachers and students were not working together in the typical setting.
Technology Tools for Staying Connected During Summer
After an altogether challenging school year, the last thing that students and educators need is to become disconnected from others again or even more so. Here are some ideas to keep students engaged and interacting with others this summer.
One way that students can stay connected over the summer is to have a virtual penpal! Teachers can assign each student a classmate to share written information with via email or another messaging platform. Over the course of the summer, students can reveal general information about their lives, activities, or other things that may be relevant to share with a classmate.
Educators could organize weekly (or as frequently as desired) video chats via Google Meet, Zoom, or another video conferencing platform. This video chat would provide students with an opportunity to “meet up” and simply discuss what is going on in their lives. During this time, students could share presentations they have made on topics of their choice, have a time of show and tell, or simply talk and hangout. All of these keep students connected with their classmates.
Virtual Game Day
Summer is the time for fun and constant excitement so why not utilize that in an activity for students. Educators or even fellow students could organize and host a virtual game day via one of the video conferencing platforms mentioned above. Students could play trivia, bingo, and so on!
Although using social media outlets in school can be scary and overwhelming, some older students (with access to social media) may benefit from its use. This activity is called the TikTok Challenge, and it can be completed in two ways. The first and easiest way is to ask students to create a video that represents something they enjoy and share the video they have made with classmates. The other way of completing the challenge is to task students with creating a video that “describes” a thing or action without directly stating what it is they are describing. Students could act it out, dance, or provide other clues that give some insight. For instance, a student may decide to depict getting a soda from a drink machine, but he or she can only act it out without talking or telling the action to viewers. Then, classmates can comment on the video with their guesses as to what is taking place. Students can be creative and add music or other elements to make videos more interesting.