Zooming out: a farewell to online school

by Kel Faherty / Staff Reporter

Professors share their opinion on teaching through the popular web communication. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Gen Z has been dubbed “digital natives” by multiple sources, including Forbes and the Pew Research Center. A “digital native,” as defined by Oxford Languages, is “a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the internet from an early age.” 

During the current global pandemic, Gen Z — as well as its predecessors — were forced to adapt to unfamiliar technology. Zoom, a video conferencing platform, has become popular among teachers. So, what happens when a generation who is statistically not as affiliated with technology is forced to assimilate to it? Does this foster connection between generations? 

“Certainly, the environment has demanded us all to be vulnerable in ways that haven’t occurred before, and seeing into each other’s living spaces allows a kind of familiarity that can’t help but lead to a special kind of connection,” said Elise Kauzlaric, a CCPA theatre director and vocal and physical prep professor.

Freshman ballet professor Allen Desterhaft said he feels a more “personalized connection” to his students because he sees them in a more intimate environment. 

“It may be their dorm room, their hallway or a studio space, but it is a space that is their own over which I have no control,” said Desterhaft. “There is something about being in a classroom studio that makes the teacher the host and the students the guests. With the online platform, it is almost like everyone is inviting everyone else into their space.” 

Gretchen Eng, freshman improv professor, agreed. “There is value to the practice of ‘come as you are, not as a performer’ that students can access more easily behind a computer screen that makes me feel like we can interact more authentically.”

Both Kauzlaric and Desterhaft feel like there are an outnumbering amount of disconnecting factors. Despite the convenience online school may provide, comparisons to learning in-person ultimately make the experience less than ideal.

“There are many points of disconnection. Organic conversation in discussions, seeing people in the hallways [and] quick conversations in passing are all greatly missed,” said Kauzlaric.

 “When someone’s video is turned off for whatever reason, it is disturbing because it feels the door has been closed and locked. That never happens in a live studio setting,” Desterhaft said. “There is little feedback from students in the way of physical energy and verbal expression while teaching. This makes it difficult to read the class and to know what they need.” 

In terms of the future, Kauzlaric said that she is “not sure” of possible implementations of technological learning. Desterhaft, however, said that it would “certainly not be my first choice.” 

Stage manager professor, Tim Stadler, said, “Some experiments have worked so well, I will continue to teach portions in a similar fashion even after we return to the classroom.”

Whether it is loved or hated by the professors here at Roosevelt, the majority of Zoom school may be coming to a probable close. With that, Desterhaft says,“For this technological experience, I will now appreciate the studio environment even more as a space where we all can go and escape together, and I will have a better understanding of students’ emotional needs.”

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