When Hands-On Becomes Cams On

A look how classes that required in-person interaction are working virtually.

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Turning and talking to the person next to you in class, handing in a paper to your teacher, and collaboratively working on classwork; these are all instances that have become foreign to students. Breakout rooms and shared Google documents seem to be the solution in most core classes. However, classes that require more hands-on learning and collaboration between students are finding different ways to cope with the lack of interaction that virtual learning has brought. Along with these virtual changes in instruction come many obstacles, as well.

Many students who have taken these classes, such as chorus and band, both in-person and remotely have noted a contrast when taking them virtually. For junior Ian Zaman, the change from in-person chorus to virtual chorus has been rather tough. “Chorus did involve a lot of interaction, since we had to sing together and work with one another to do so,” Zaman explained. As a result, Chorus class looks completely different when done virtually. “Now we’re learning music theory and doing virtual recordings, which is a lot harder because you don’t have a chorus to back you up.” Zaman said. While he does like the addition of music theory, Zaman expressed, “I feel, it’s not really what chorus is about.”

Band has also taken on new methods of integrating online performance into the class. Before the switch to online school, members of the Stuyvesant band were able to play their instruments together, listening to each other to ensure synchronization. This seemingly simple task is now nearly impossible to accomplish over zoom. Instead of performing in class, band students send in recordings of themselves playing their part of the score. These recordings then get synched to each other to create a virtual video performance. “The vibe of the class has changed, because instead of trying to synchronize our parts in real time and in person, we now have to record our parts individually and try to upload our recordings,” senior Serena Chan expressed. Many students, like senior Angus Chen, prefer this model, as it’s less nerve wracking than performing live. “I think recording takes away from the interactive aspect of the band, but it’s a lot more relaxed when you don’t have to play live,” Chen said. Senior Sunny Bok also shared her preference for virtual band. “It’s more organized,” Bok shared. “For instance, people don’t steal my band folder anymore, which was something that always happened in in-person classes.”

Ten techs, which are mandatory senior classes like ceramics, woodworking, and painting, have also adapted to virtual learning. Many of these classes have been especially difficult without in-person instruction. Ceramics, for example, requires access to a kiln, specific materials, and demonstrations. Senior Kelly Guo shared her disappointment with the virtual shift. “We couldn’t truly experience the class… A lot of students are behind on assignments because they were either having trouble getting materials or just losing motivation overall,” Guo said. Guo also shared similar sentiments for her painting class, which is taught by Wrigley. Unlike in-person classes where Wrigley could easily walk around and help students, Wrigley is often unable to assist all of the students in his breakout rooms on Zoom. The difficulties in interaction also pose a particularly stressful situation for some seniors who need Wrigley’s assistance with their college art portfolios. However, Guo finds some merit in virtual learning. “I guess one thing I like about virtual classes is that you have more freedom in your schedule. Both my ceramics and painting classes have been pretty lenient with deadlines,” Guo shared.

Technical drawing, also known as drafting class, has also been forced to deal with the absence of materials. When taught in-person, students were required to draw with tools such as a t-square and a drawing board. “The homework seems to be the same as what it was in school but we are not required to have some of the tools that were provided in school, such as t-squares,” sophomore Ben Balodis shared. Zooms usually consist of the teacher demonstrating activities through a document camera. “On Zoom, we usually talk about concepts we need to know about for the homework or we start the homework with the help of our teacher and finish it for homework,” Balodis said. Student use an online browser called Onshape to complete work as well, which was not used during in-person instruction.

The switch to virtual learning has called for changes in how we approach classes. Some classes that relied on in-person interaction have changed their curriculum entirely. Technology has also become an essential method of instruction for many of these classes. While some students appreciate the new changes and find them beneficial, for others, there are certain qualities of in-person instruction that virtual instruction can simply not make up for. “I strongly believe that creative and hands-on classes should be in person,” Guo shared.