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How One Screen Makes a Difference

by Chloe Palmer

This was my first time attending a program of this nature, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but all in all, it was pretty great. This online Zoom world makes learning a completely different experience. Something I found interesting was how in all these different Zooms, each one developed its own personality and identity, similar to the atmosphere in an in-person classroom. What’s amazing, though, is that all of this can happen through a screen. Well, maybe that isn’t as interesting for the students of MIT whose worlds solely revolve around technology, but for me, it’s pretty neat.

Some of my classes, such as my early morning ones, were full of students surely still laying under the covers, with their cameras off, muted, and an empty chat. Conversely, my classes later in the day were much more lively, especially my large ones, where the chat feature became like a huge group text. Some classes had not a single face, and in others, most of the screen was lit up with students, as if in an actual classroom (granted, lots of this had to do with whether or not a teacher asked students to turn on their cameras). 

When I started Splash, I followed the lead of others. If most students had their cameras off, so did I. If no one else unmuted or typed an answer in a chat, then I didn’t either. But then during my last class on Saturday, I saw one student who had his camera on. Other kids were surely tired from the long day of learning, so the screen was full of dark rectangles. It was a very impersonal environment. When I was placed in a breakout room in that class, no one spoke. So, I didn’t either. If they didn’t speak, then why would I? But then this boy came in, with his camera on, and started a conversation. The other two students in the room didn’t say anything, but the boy and I had a good conversation about the topic of the class. That night, I realized that all it took was one student to be involved to make a difference. 

So the next morning, even earlier, at 9 am, I went to class with my camera on. In most of my classes, only a handful of students did, but it felt good to know that I might be the reason someone else might turn their camera on or participate. I also tried to stay more engaged, because, let’s be honest, the first day I was kind of zoning out. I had to get myself to realize that this wasn’t just a day on Zoom for school; these were topics I was interested in. Thanks to the help from my Psychology of Learning class, I did find ways to learn and pay attention throughout the day. And I’m glad I did because I learned so many interesting things that I probably would never have learned otherwise, mainly from classes I wasn’t even sure I would like, which is pretty cool, too!

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