The Cruel Reality of Modern-Day Learning


Lily Qin

With new technology distractions, it’s easier than ever for students to get distracted while doing homework.

Minds filled with the latest TikTok trend, ears drowned in the screeching voice of a superficial influencer, have changed student approaches to the education process. There are more distractions, more excuses than ever to avoid school work and simply scroll through a “for you page.” With a new generation of high school students, the constant presence of phones with these technological distractions has provided obstacles for effective learning environments. Addressing learning loss brought on by this is vital to improving students’ high school experience and helping them be successful in the future.

While this learning loss has existed, the pandemic seems to have brought it long overdue attention. Many staff and administrators believe that a middle school career of long hours hiding behind a Zoom green screen has taken a toll on Campolindo freshman. Especially in the English department, educators have been concerned about students suffering from learning loss instigated by the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to put this fear into perspective, the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) created an English assessment featuring a short story entitled Montreal 1962. The assessment included a multiple choice comprehension quiz followed by an analysis paragraph.

According to English teacher Matt Ridenour, the purpose of this assessment was to “see where skills were at from the get-go and use that as a base for planning the rest of the year.” He added that the freshman English teachers from the district met for a day to view the paragraphs written and develop what they call “norming.” Ridenour described this as trying, “to get us all on the same page and…see how consistent the grading is.”

This assessment is beginning to be implemented permanently. Ridenour stated, “The district has a plan to continue using this and maybe even extend it to other grade levels.”

Additionally, the implementation is causing English teachers to rethink their structural plan for the school year regarding the order they read novels and conduct specific lessons.

However, it seems that this restructuring won’t end up changing much regarding learning loss in freshmen caused by COVID-19. This is because in reality it hasn’t made a prominent impact. So far students’ skills are “pretty much on par,” according to Ridenour. “A lot of the English teachers I talked with weren’t very concerned about the fear of learning loss,” he added.

While learning loss brought on by COVID-19 might not be a major concern other forms of this loss can’t be forgotten. Educators are quickly discovering these issues are stemming from the increasingly prominent role of technology in the lives of current students. “The technology definitely impacts their attention span,” said English teacher Dan Doyle. He explained that “their ability to perform reading comprehension is most heavily impacted.”

With online platforms like Tiktok and Instagram more popular than ever, students are inclined to reach for their electric rectangles over a collection of word-filled pages. Freshman Mae Chilton said how technology makes “it much easier for kids to stay entertained without actually having to exercise their mind.” Referencing the growing influence of social media, she added, “they don’t have that ability to think for themselves because everything’s just given to them at this point.”

Not developing critical thinking skills means doing analytical work in schools, such as in writing essays, or figuring out how to apply learned information to the real world becomes much more challenging. This means these skills have to be retaught and take longer to explain in order for the majority to grasp them. The common nonexistence of this reteaching has resulted in the lack of needed understanding of such skills in students.

All the trends, every video reinforcing specific brand products such as the Tilly’s floral crop top, creates a herd behavior mindset among their consumers. This mindset further prevents analytical thinking as it only involves instincts and reflexes.

It also stunts individualistic growth and stops students from being able to do the cliche high school “soul searching” which in reality is important to their development. Students should be able to develop their own passions because they want to and not become something that doesn’t reflect who they are because the D’Amelio family said it was “fire.” Without learning how to make successful decisions in such formative years leaves students unprepared for the world outside of the Lamorinda bubble.

Furthermore, not being required to rely on their own intellectual skills also makes it hard for students to advance their reading abilities because, in the words of Chilton, “reading takes a certain skill…you have to use your brain.” Reading, learning from other’s experiences is another way to prepare for the real world. This means not being able to successfully do it prevents students from reaching their full potential.

The notion of lessening attention spans is a recurring concern in conversations centered around educational environments. The constant buzz of social media notifications is something students “would rather spend time on instead of focusing on study for a test or reading for an assignment…It feels like it’s just an excuse for them to break their thought cycle and focus,” Chilton said.

Overall, encouraging students to be invested in their learning opposed to the next big clothing trend on social media will require effort. Students being so consumed in their virtual worlds of snapshot moments and beauty filters will continue to deter them from beneficial education if an intervention isn’t begun.

Teachers, upperclassmen, and administrators need to bring passion to education. They need to convince lowerclassmen that there is a place for them. There is a place for them in reality to lead a life they love. They need to share the way to find that love, to search for it, learn from the expert teachers, and explore the extensive course options at Campo. These are the most accessible options for students right now.

Tackling these issues, brainstorming ways to reshape educational structures to reintroduce passion for learning is the next step. If students only attend school because their parents tell them to, because the law says they must, then they can’t be expected to benefit from the experience regardless of how much effort the administrative staff puts into other issues such as stress levels.

What an English district assessment can’t show is the number of faces illuminated by blue light while the words of Orwell and Shakespeare are ignored. The words that were meant to live immortally in the minds of new generations will simply be lost in the draft brought on by a classroom AC.