February 11 Day 705: Pandemic Learning

I noticed something the other day. In class, when students didn’t know how to solve a problem, the first thing they did was Google it.

I had set up working groups with a mixture of in-person and remote participants. Computers were open for communication. I purposefully gave only one copy of the activity to each group ensuring they would have to work together. Results were to be recorded on the classroom whiteboard (not a virtual whiteboard!)

I wandered, listening in on the discussions and was surprised to find a group watching a video. Rather than struggling to understand the question or bounce ideas off each other, they sought a passive solution–one they could watch rather than discover ideas on their own. And in this instance, it took them off task.

It hadn’t even crossed my mind that this would be an approach for a student physically present in the classroom. The video had pretty graphics but wasn’t directly related to the activity at hand.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise. For the last two years, students have been learning in isolation. When they were alone and got stuck, Google was their friend, perhaps even their savior. I was right there in the classroom, ready and eager to assist, but the idea of asking me questions didn’t seem to cross their minds.

Self-sufficiency was an important skill learned through the pandemic. But now it’s time to learn in community. Productive struggle with peers will be remembered far longer than the results of a quick internet search.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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