Without a doubt, students today have a wider social network, all thanks to the internet and social media platforms. Yet why do we feel, despite the advancements, that there is little social interaction in today’s classrooms?
INTERACTION IN THE CLASSROOM
The teacher does all the work – from preparing the lesson plan to presenting the topic to the class, to creating quizzes and questionnaires. We are used to the traditional way of teaching that we often discount the idea of change. High school kids expect their teachers in front of the class to do all the talking. In fact, in a classroom setting, teachers talk 90% of the time while students sit quietly with their classmates. At the end of every school day, it was the teacher who learned and not the students.
This is the breeding ground of one-way communication, a telling sign of why kids have weak intrapersonal skills. Research recommends that students in a classroom should be the readers, writers, speakers, listeners through active engagement in social interaction with others. Social interaction must be an exchange among learners, not just between the teacher and a select few. After all, high school kids get much of their learning when they can talk with one another and are involved in their environment.
BENEFITS OF SOCIAL INTERACTION WITH PEERS
Numerous studies have shown that adolescent learners who develop a healthy relationship with their peers become happier and more productive adults. Having a strong relationship with peers brings a positive impact on kids’ academic performance and achievement. This is especially true in a brick-and-mortar classroom where students interact naturally. There are new ways that teachers use in getting their lessons across. Teachers now actively engage students in classes. They allow them to lead the class in presentations or group work or pairing the up in activities. There are also different clubs and sports teams that schools organize to promote teamwork and creativity among students.
Contests, whether they are academically or artistically inclined, promote a competitive spirit and camaraderie among students. Events by the school or organizations are also designed in a way that everyone could interact with. Some of these are physical activities or require the presence of students and teachers. But is this type of environment ideal for high school kids? Or social interaction done online or virtually produces less pressure on these kids to get along.
ONLINE SOCIAL INTERACTION
There are countless benefits that online schools have to offer, but let us be honest. The social interaction aspect of it is entirely different from what you get from a brick-and-mortar school. Teachers and students inside an actual classroom will not deny the satisfaction of seeing everyone engaged with one another and exchanging ideas. At first glance, teachers, parents, and students notice a lack of social interaction in an online setting—but online schools have set in place interactive spaces for students to stay in touch with classmates and peers!
The internet and modern programs grant teachers the tools to efficiently make lessons no longer limited by their chalkboard and artistic skills. They are not limited by equipment as they could set up virtual labs and go on educational tours anywhere they want. But how about communication?
Students can use the microphone on their computers or use their keyboards to send the teacher or the whole class a message. They could still be assigned group tasks or be paired up and interact in real-time for group projects. Teachers can find ways to set up competitions or activities using the internet. Students can now do presentations with online resources at their disposal. Take advantage of the various productivity apps and software and easily downloadable graphics to make your presentations stand out.
Virtual spaces are available for you to meet with your friends and classmates. Even after online school hours, plan, complete, and share your lecture notes and meet with your study group to discuss topics you missed or did not understand. Collaborative projects prepare high school students like you for the most important aspect of adult life after you graduate – networking.
What about the advantage of brick and mortar schools having organizations and clubs? Do not worry; you will get to experience this as well. Online schools are connected to other institutions, so you have access to these clubs and organizations. This virtual setup might need some getting used, of course. Some will prefer this type of interaction, especially those who are introverted learners. And we can’t overemphasize that you can do all these at home!
It is up to your parents to provide a safe and stimulating environment for students. The efficiency and flexibility of online schools give you more time to spend with families and friends. These could potentially improve how they handle social interactions.
ONLINE HIGH SCHOOL AND BULLYING
A Harris Poll reported that roughly 20% of students age 12–18 report being bullied in school. This is why some students do not get along, and, in some extreme cases, it forces them to transfer to other schools. Without question, this should not be tolerated in any way! Will this be the case in an online high school?
In cyberspace, it is easier to interact with people negatively. Bullying also takes place online. Cyberbullying may be done through SMS, text, social media, apps, and even online gaming, where users can participate and share content. Online schools are adamant in promoting safe and welcoming cyberspace for students of all ages. The Cyberbullying Research Center finds that cyberbullying is more prevalent among middle school students, particularly adolescent girls, at 25.8%.
Schools, whether online or brick and mortar, should provide a safe channel for students to voice out their opinions or, at the very least, be vocal with their emotions without fear of embarrassment. Teachers and parents should work hand-in-hand to develop students’ social skills and interactions with others. It is only through this that school, be it online or traditional, will be safe to learn.