By Jack Viscuso ’21
The coronavirus pandemic has limited each of our lives in profound ways, forcing us to come to grips with a temporary environment devoid of many social norms. All sectors of life have been affected, as children and teenagers across the country have been forced to move nearly all aspects of their lives – including their education – indoors for the foreseeable future.
Interactions between students and teachers elevate the learning experience, but the recent worldwide cascade of school closures has forced millions of us to adapt and reinvent our perspectives on education itself. In recent years, Chaminade High School has provided iPads to all of its students, ditching the need for notepads and pencils. In response to the ongoing school closure, Chaminade has maximized the use of these devices and its Learning Management System, Canvas, through its new distance-learning program.
“Virtual learning has been quite an interesting experience since we, as students, can create our own work schedules that suit us to learn efficiently,” reflected Owen Serkes ’21. “The incorporation of virtual extra-help sessions has allowed students to clarify any misunderstandings about the lesson and brings another dimension to the virtual learning experience.”
After several days without direct interaction between students and their teachers, Chaminade made use of the BigBlueButton conference system implemented into Canvas when the school’s faculty offered their first virtual extra-help sessions on Tuesday, March 24. These sessions provided the opportunity for students to ask questions about different topics in a live session with their teachers and classmates. Since then, the BigBlueButton software has been replaced by Zoom, a similar remote-learning tool that is a popular choice among businesses and universities, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. Several classes, clubs, and other groups have been able to meet using this tool, a welcome return to some semblance of normalcy for many students and faculty members alike.
“It was great being able to sit down with the editorial staff of Tarmac and see the guys face-to-face as we planned out the next few weeks,” said Mr. Patrick Reichart ’01, the newspaper’s faculty moderator. “I really enjoyed meeting with my students, too, and hearing their perspectives on my recent haircut – or lack thereof.”
For as long as the situation deems necessary, Chaminade will continue to augment its distance-learning program and expand its scope in the third trimester. The use of Zoom is expected to expand to include nearly all club meetings, as well, to ensure students can remain active in their extracurricular activities.
There’s no doubt that transitioning to at-home classrooms was a challenge for all. In a video posted to Chaminade’s social media sites, the school’s president, Bro. Thomas Cleary, S.M. ’81, commended both students and faculty for their seamless transition into distance-learning, saying, “I have to applaud our students for the exceptional work they are doing. The administration and the teachers have completed a huge task in keeping this [program] up and running.”
Mr. Graham Otton ’05, the Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction, added to this praise in a letter to students: “I’ve been heartened by how well you all have committed yourselves to the work of the distance-learning program. I’m also glad to see so many of you remaining connected with your teachers and your classmates.”
Obstacles imposed by the pandemic have altered education worldwide, and this necessary transition into virtual learning is certainly apparent at Chaminade. The distance-learning program has effectively maintained the quality of instruction that defines a normal school day at 340 Jackson Ave. While we may be learning separated from one another, the school’s motto – Fortes in Unitate – reminds us that our strength to weather this unprecedented time comes from our unity as a Chaminade Family.