Schools could have done better to limit the time spent on computers

Karen Dorantes at her laptop | Photo by Carlos Castro

| OPINION 

By Karen Dorantes

This past year, it seemed like my whole life was spent on a computer screen.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. All my friends have told me they felt like they were glued to their computer screens during the school year. They weren’t able to step away because everything they did for school was on their computer. 

Have a class lecture? On a computer.

Club meetings? On a computer.

Homework? On a computer.

Every day, I would wake up, open my Chromebook at eight in the morning and finally close it around five in the evening. 

Some may argue that having students do everything on a computer is a lot easier for both students and teachers, because it brings routine to people’s lives and because work in general is much easier on a computer. I believe this is wrong. In fact, doing everything on a computer was draining, and it also made everything much more difficult than it had to be. 

I remember getting on my computer in the morning to start my classes. I then spent an hour on one subject, then switched to the other for another hour. I went through this routine three times a day and then had to start homework for each of the subjects I had that day. 

'It felt like I could do no more after all the time I had spent sitting down and staring at a screen.'

The homework would be around another hour for each subject. At the end of the day, I had spent up to six hours on my computer just for school work, and it felt like I could do no more after all the time I had spent sitting down and staring at a screen.

The strain that I and many of my peers felt could have been avoided if administrators had just assigned offline projects to students.

Throughout my schooling this past year, I had a few opportunities to finally step away from my computer screen and do some hands-on projects. These projects allowed me to use my mind creatively, but also think of different mediums to express what I learned during class discussions. 

In science, my teacher assigned a project where students had the option to build diagrams with whatever materials they had readily available to them. I chose to build a molecular 3D model of photosynthesis and cellular respiration to show that I understood the flow of energy and matter. The material that I chose to work with was Play-Doh because that was something I had and could use to make something three dimensional. I was not only able to step away from my computer, but I also was able to think of ways I could show my teacher that I had understood the topic we were discussing. 

Some art classes provided materials and assigned home projects students had to complete in order to get a grade in the class. I saw my brother build different three dimensional models using dry pasta and marshmallows or cardboard paper, which had been provided to him by the art teacher. Students could express themselves through their art and through different mediums. 

I believe having more assignments like my science project and the art projects would have helped limit the time we students spent on our computers. It could have helped students feel less drained at the end of the day. 

The pandemic isn’t over yet, and schools still have time to reevaluate the way they want to teach their students this upcoming year. The least schools can do is ask the students for creative thoughts about the ways they wish to be taught.

I know that students have ideas and preferences for how they wish to learn. All the schools need to do is listen to these ideas and put them into place. 

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Young Voices Media Project teaches Monterey Bay area teens multimedia skills to report the news from their communities. This project was generously supported by the Clare Giannini Fund.