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How does online learning change the school day?

Raquel Fitzgerald is one of two students from the NYCiSchool who will be writing occasional columns at GothamSchools on life as a New York City public school student.

Angelica, my classmate at the NYCiSchool, already explained how she adjusted to learning online, but you might still be wondering what it’s like to attend a school like ours on a day-to-day basis.

A day in the life of an online school involves more computer time and less teacher time.

The “commons” is the student lounge where we go to study, eat lunch or just relax. This room, filled with modern-style furniture and six plasma screen TVs, is where we first stop to catch our breath and exchange a few words with friends after traveling up five flights of stairs.

At 9:00 a.m. our principals come out of their cubicles to remind us that class is starting.

Each classroom here at the iSchool has two laptop carts filled with either HP Pavilions or Dells. The laptop-to-student ratio at the iSchool is 1:1; with each student having a laptop, we get much more work done. In each classroom, a student is assigned a specific computer. This arrangement lessens confusion and protects the laptops.

Even though the school is all about online learning, we don’t take all our classes online.

Each period may be devoted to a seminar class or an online course. In seminar classes, instead of going online, we review Regents questions with a teacher. We also have science labs that are not online. A student at the iSchool can have up to 3 online classes a day.

After staring at a computer screen for three hours, don’t students become restless?

The solution: the school has us switch classrooms every period.

The teacher in the classroom does not teach one subject, but monitors how students are progressing with their work. In an online course I may be working on Integrated Algebra while my neighbor is working on Global History. The teacher in the room may come around to each of us every few minutes to make sure we do not digress from our assigned work.

How do teachers feel about not having to teach a class? Christiana Pellicci, the Global History teacher at NYCiSchool, has this to say, “I would rather teach kids global than have them learn it online. I’m used to teaching and being the ‘center of attention’. I miss not having an actual class to teach. I’m content with this new avenue of learning, but I am not too ecstatic about not having to teach.”

Going to an online school is a big change in the way we learn, but it doesn’t really affect the rest of our lives. We go to a school like no other, yet we still make friends among our classmates, get into trouble, and occasionally decide not to do our homework. And when I sit in a classroom and see all the students focused on a computer screen it becomes clear that how we go about learning doesn’t change what we learn.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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