Logging on to my first-period Zoom class 10 minutes after getting out of bed, every student on-screen is motionless with their microphones muted. During group discussions, it’s either dead silence or constant talking over each other — and, consequently, class collaboration between students has taken a tremendous hit.
As we began school online this year, ASB sprinkled additional entertainment into the first few weeks as a way for students to connect with each other. One of the primary events was Paly Connect, where students received a list of activities to attend on Zoom with their friends, from watching wood being chopped to playing Skribbl.io, a popular multiplayer drawing game similar to Pictionary.
Paly Connect was a necessary break from schoolwork and helped take my mind off the stress of online school.
For this reason, Paly Connect should occur at least every other week. While Mondays are a great option for Paly Connect, another option is for it to replace Advisory when students do not have advisory during the week. Each week, Advisory occurs twice, but half of the students do not have a scheduled Advisory class. The boost of interaction Paly Connect provides is just what students could use during this time to re-energize throughout the week.
During the opening-week Paly Connect activities, students engaged in the presenter’s activities and asked questions to better understand the history behind why the presenter chose their activity.
Engaging with other students and teachers in a stress-free, non-educational environment helps bring back some of the social aspects of school we left behind with remote schooling.
Paly Connect also allowed students to learn more about teachers’ and fellow students’ interests, and that’s the kind of connection we need with remote learning distancing us so much.
Now that all classes have synchronous periods, a student taking seven classes on their computer for around seven hours a day, not including homework time.
A regular Paly Connect would allow students to make a quick escape from those school-related activities and reduce stress. Ending in an environment where students are social, comfortable, and work-free reduces the harmful mental health effects brought on by online schooling.
Paly ASB said they saw Paly Connect as a success, because more students participated in the activities than they expected.
However, ASB noticed that some of the activities did not have a lot of crowd control. They said that a handful of students yelled into the mics during certain activities and disrupted the teachers. ASB says they plan to make future Paly Connect-related events on Zoom more controllable by using more of the Zoom security features that are able to handle the participants’ options more.
A more regular Paly Connect is an opportunity to learn unique skills from Paly teachers, reduce student stress and allow for more personal connection in a time where that’s hard to come by. It ought to be a fundamental component of every student’s school week.