Chapter 8: COVID and learning

8.2.1 Reliability of virtual communication (synthesis)


English 102, February 2021

The last time the world had seen a pandemic was in 1918 when the influenza outbreak took place. Citizens in every country had the possibility of being infected with the disease, and those who were added to the 50 million casualties around the world. Scientists and researchers in the early 20th century took the same route as scientists today to find a cure for COVID-19. Rewriting the code of the virus while also finding what parts of the body the virus affects overall. Upcoming young adults and children today are unfazed with the current health of society because they are so used to the unrealistic situations seen through the internet. Their comfortability with the virtual world also forces them to be addicted to the connections they hold between their fingertips rather than face to face. Now that COVID-19 has restricted academic institutions from having in-person classes, this creates a dilemma with how students will use their time on the internet. On a day-to-day basis, COVID-19 has continued to dismantle the required human connection that students and teachers need to keep the school system from failing.

There used to be two types of schooling in the past, homeschool and public/private schools that parents sent their children off to. In homeschool, students could watch lectures and take tests at home on a device or from their parents who were qualified teachers. For public/private schools, students can move from class to class while also having the ability to make friends who have similar interests. These two separate environments allowed students to gain different discourses from their experiences. As seen from Gee’s “What is Literacy,” secondary discourses are described to come from gaining experience for a type of communication outside of an individual’s home (22). It would then be reasonable to say that homeschooled vs public/private school students will have different discourses because of their surroundings. It can also be reasonable to say that COVID-19 has made it so that students are now mostly learning as homeschooled students because of call for quarantine by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The primary discourse identifies the home environment persona which can explain why Gee differentiates it with secondary discourses (19). Mostly before COVID-19, only homeschooled students were accustomed to configuring their primary discourse from their experiences with their parents and homeschooling activities. Now students today are supposed to be in the same position as if they were homeschooled students. This difference in obtaining secondary discourses is much more difficult than in the past because young adults are stagnant when transitioning between environments to gain new experiences.

In a classroom environment, students have many opportunities that allow them to seek help with their studies but also as a space to just learn. When the students are out of school, they are recommended to use their time to study and do homework. With COVID-19, students are now being told to go to school in one location rather than two. An article from Megan Kuhfeld called “Projecting the Potential Impact of COVID-19 School Closures on Academic Achievement,” was conducted to see the effectiveness of transitioning to online schooling during the pandemic. The results showed that students will gain about a third to a half of what they would usually learn within a face-to-face classroom (1). Another problem that the study found was how families were able to deal with the transition to online schooling. A poll was revealed in the article by the Education Trust that half of low-income families and colored families did not have the technology to support their children for their online classes (8). This explains why the statistics of students who learn a third from schooling are not changing. Since there has been news of a vaccine coming to districts and counties, teachers and students can expect to see a change in the statistics on whether they can regain the lost ground since the beginning of the pandemic.

Another study from Erick Baloran called “Knowledge, Attitudes, Anxiety, and Coping Strategies of Students during COVID-19 Pandemic,” was more so surrounded around the knowledge and precautions college students took with COVID-19 and their mental states since the lockdown. With this experiment, students were asked questions on whether they knew what the virus was and how they should stay safe on campus (4). Most students were able to answer the questions correctly, however the percentage of how students felt during the lockdown was shockingly high. Erick continued to find that about half of the students felt anxiety and felt that it was best to stay in their dorms in order to keep themselves and everyone else safe (5). They were also asked about how felt on the government’s actions felt towards fending off the virus and most were satisfied with their decisions. The students were also understood the campus’ decision to mix online with face-to-face classes as they wanted everyone to be safe. This was the same instance in the first article that had the same issue of keeping students stuck in one location doing their schoolwork. This instance will cause the same outcome of college students only developing their primary discourse.

On the other hand, the students were not at home so it could mean that they are developing their secondary discourse. In this study, students were developing their secondary discourses because of their daily lives having to switch between online classes in their dorm and then moving to their face-to-face classes on campus. Since the lockdown, few individuals have been able to work on both primary and secondary discourses. If high school students are only using their primary discourse, then that would mean their secondary discourse would fade over time. Eventually leading to, for example, high school students not being able to talk to others in public or in online classes. If college students were only using their secondary discourses, then from Gee’s research that would mean they would not communicate with their family language. This trade-off that COVID-19 has had in communication between primary and secondary situations has caused students and teachers to lose and gain overall.

A final article was found that more deeply emphasized how much families are affected by the pandemic. There was a search by Wim Van Lancker in “COVID-19, school closures, and child poverty: a social crisis in the making,” found that 90% of students with an education were affected negatively (1). It was also put into question whether the closure of schools was the best idea, and it was because the only way for a virus to transfer is for contact between individuals. If there are schools closing, then that would mean there is no contact between students and teachers. Lancker continues to address hungry and poor children as they need food and a home in order to learn efficiently (2). For younger students from, “lower and higher socioeconomic backgrounds,” Wim also found that there was a gap between their Math and English skills (2). With there already being learning curves between students, school closures will also contribute as they distance students from low-income families from continuing their studies efficiently. The article described homes having no heat, no working spaces, or having access to the internet showed that upcoming students will not be able to survive a semester due to the lack of there academic needs (2). This article is related to Megan Kuhfeld’s research because of how students are still being seen struggling around the world with meeting the needs to do well in school. Now that there is no classroom, nor is there a chance of having several students, what is to happen to the school system if this continues. This was not answered in any of the three articles; however, it is clear to see that the academic system relies on how the schools will conform to the needs of students rather than vice versa.

With Erick Baloran showing through his questioning of college students that they are still able to continue their studies during these difficult times, Gee’s distinction between primary and secondary discourse is represented by those students. However, communication has become more difficult as peers are forced to rely on the use of technology in order to ask for help. Now that quarantine is being reinforced around the academic institutes, this restricts students from gaining additional secondary discourses which would mean that their identity kits will only come from their parents and online schooling. This was also seen in Kuhfeld’s research as it showed peers and teachers lacking the ability to communicate with each other effectively. This was an issue because child poverty and hunger played an important role in students being able to sufficiently learn in school. Boards of Education around the world are having a tough time trying to understand why their students do not communicate in or out of class. However, if students choosing to restrict themselves to their own confinement, this enables more of a chance that they will not gain a secondary discourse until quarantine is over. There is a possibility of students obtaining a secondary discourse over the internet, however even with it being an experience with a virtual world it is only artificial. Meaning that if students fully rely on the internet to learn and speak, then they would speak in public because there is no computer screen or camera that they must talk in to. Overall, students will not be able to gain a secondary discourse, so until the pandemic is over, students and teachers will have to fully rely on technology in order to mimic the true face to face connection between individuals.



Works Cited

Baloran, Erick T. “Knowledge, Attitudes, Anxiety, and Coping Strategies of Students during  COVID-19 pandemic” International Perspectives on Stress & Coping (2020): 635-642.  Accessed February 22, 2021.

Gee, James Paul. “What is literacy.” Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning  across languages and cultures (1998): 18-25. Accessed February 9, 2021.

Kuhfeld, Megan. “Projecting the Potential Impact of COVID-19 School Closures on Academic  Achievement.” (2020): 549-565. Accessed February 22, 2021.

Lancker, Wim Van. “COVID-19, school closures, and child poverty: a social crisis in the  making” (2020): 243-244. Accessed February 22, 2021.

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