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Interactive courses find ways to continue classes


The first quarter of the school year has seen PAUSD schools move classrooms online. Even with the change to remote learning, many courses at Paly are finding ways to use onlie platforms creatively by exploring innovative ways to use virtual classrooms.

Even so, junior Flynn Kelley said online learning has limited schools’ abilities to maintain the same level of engagement compared to in-person schooling. 

“It’s not a direct replacement for school,” Kelley said. “There’s a lot you can’t do, that you need to be in person for. For example, there are classes like PE and a lot of electives.”

In courses that rely on demonstrations and activities, teachers have had to find creative ways to engage students. 

Paly’s band classes, for instance, have utilized a unique method of engaging students. While music classes at Paly traditionally function with students playing instruments together, junior Mihir Gupta said the lack of interaction with her classmates in the second semester of the 2019-20 school year detracted from his experience in Symphonic Band.

“At the end of last year, Mr. Willner was having us do assignments and recordings on SmartMusic,” Gupta said. “During class time, we didn’t play a lot. Concerts were a big thing we missed out on.”

This year, however, band directors Jeffrey Willner and Gregory Miller have created an interactive online environment by allowing students to play along to a recording or practice with a peer during instructional time in addition 

Gupta said this format helps maintain a part of the normal interaction that takes place in in-person band rehearsals.

“When I can hear one of the teachers or a click track playing, that can be helpful because I can adjust to what they’re playing, especially since I usually play a part that’s similar to theirs.” Gupta said. “It’s also because it gives you a decent idea of how you fit in with the rest of the music.”

In addition, Paly music courses plan to replicate their traditional concerts by having students record parts to songs and publish a combination of recordings to YouTube at regular intervals.

Paly’s auto shop courses are also taking a unique approach to distance learning. Under normal circumstances, students would learn by working on cars in the school’s workshop. “It’s interesting because we can’t use the cars in the shop,” Kelley said. “(Mr. Knight) asks us to have access to a car at home so he can have us look under the hood. We use Zoom on our phones, and he’s able to show us things that way.”

This style of learning may allow students to have an improved experience compared to standard classes. In his Introduction to Auto Shop class, Kelley said the ability to use his family’s car in the course helps him learn the material more practically and personally, despite being .

“It’s definitely more useful to use our own cars … because they’re different.” Kelley said. “For example, a couple of kids had these BMWs that had hoods that worked differently than other cars. I was looking online for what the actual parts of my car looked like too.”

Band, Auto Shop and many other elective courses have overcome the challenges posed by quarantine to bring students the energy of their standard classes. The methods they have developed over the course of this year show that distance learning can provide at least a part of the experience of a real classroom, and may help add to classrooms in the future. 

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