It has now been about two weeks since the beginning of our nation’s journey into online education. In light of the pandemic, everyone is required to stay home to flatten the curve and help end the spread before it becomes too much to bear. This means students and teachers cannot go to school without being in danger. In response, school districts and universities across the nation have been converted to e-learning to ensure K-12 students receive knowledge that they need and that university students receive the knowledge they have paid for.
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There is no doubt in my mind that it has been a difficult transition for everyone. From a college-aged perspective, my professors have been working harder than ever to create online content to replace precious in-person classes. Us students have been working hard to complete our school work and get back into the swing of living at home. It doesn’t feel the same, but then again, it’s not supposed to be this way.
Working from home has proven to be a greater challenge than I originally expected. When I’m on campus, I have a routine – certain places I go to for completing work and certain times set aside for working with groups and meeting with professors. At home, all of those things are completely nonexistent. It’s like starting over from square one in the midst of completing square 99. I have nothing I must be doing except finishing my school work, but I can’t seem to find the motivation to work as I used to. My lack of motivation has caused me to think A LOT about education and why we do it especially higher education where we pay to receive a degree and more knowledge.
The materials prepared by my professors contain tons of information that I no doubt would have learned in lecture if we were still in session, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel like the same information. It feels like a chunk of knowledge I have to swallow to finish my degree. Actually, it feels like a chunk of knowledge I merely have to pretend to swallow to finish. Being a home means a lack of guidance and a lack of contact with the people who not only share information with me but also expand on and connect the information to things outside of the classroom. I’ve started to realized what I’ve truly lost in the midst of losing our places of learning.
Today I was reading a chapter from The Purposes of Schooling titled “What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated?”. I’ll admit reading through this chapter gave me the idea to write about how education feels now that I’m no longer physically at my university. When discussing the point of schooling, Kohn uses a quote from Nel Noddings that reads “the main point of education should be to produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people”, and I think he has a brilliant point. Education should not be centered solely around the acquisition of knowledge for who is to say which bodies of knowledge are worth more than others.
While I was at DePauw, I was learning traits to achieve Noddings’ goal. Yes, I was learning thermodynamics and molecular biology, but I was also learning vital skills collaboration, patience, and kindness. Without using these skills, it is actually harder to learn the information required to pass a class or obtain a degree. Being able to work with professors and other classmates provides a new dimension to learning that I wasn’t aware of until I had lost it. Now that I am taking classes like biophysical chemistry and anatomy online, I find it more difficult to learn the information and even more difficult to invest myself in learning it at all.
The online learning environment we all exist in for now has helped me to see what really makes education valuable to higher level students. It’s not solely about the material. As interesting as enzyme mechanics might be in theory, learning from a screen feels like a chore. When taught by an excited, kind, and intelligent professor, it suddenly doesn’t feel like work anymore. Sharing knowledge and using it in conjunction with others and in connection to the real world is what makes it truly special.
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I’m not quite sure if I found a point throughout this post (quarantine scrambles the brain a bit); however, I do feel like I have stumbled upon something of vital importance. Whether or not it seems like it, the foundation of education does not lie in the facts and figures. It lies in connections. Connections between concepts, people, and the world itself. I hope a few of you can relate to this feeling. Because right about now, I’m really missing my education.
MLA Citation containing Noddings’ quote:
Kohn, Alfie. “What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated?” The Purposes of Schooling, 2004, pp. 1–10.
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One response to “Quarantine Blues: How It Really Feels to Suddenly Become an Online College Senior”
You point to another really important conclusion: “knowledge” is so often confused as content when, in my experience, I think true knowledge is in application and knowing when, how, and why to use skills you’ve acquired. Content you can look up. Vocabulary you can look up. You can pull out a calculator anytime in the real world. But knowing how to interpret, filter, and use content…how to connect words in a sentence that work in the context and tone of a moment…how to apply mathematical principles to measure, weigh, and build something meaningful (sometimes lifesaving)…those are SKILLS. To me, that’s true knowledge and that goes beyond rote memorization. You can know all of human anatomy but if you don’t understand how body systems operate and how they’re all interconnected, you can’t effectively and safely treat a patient. Not to mention you have to be able to really listen to the patient to get to the root of the problem. In your words, make CONNECTIONS between data points. That is so key and so hard to learn remotely and without hands-on learning.