Some moments in life are unforgettable. For me, the experience of evacuating from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina with my two young children and pup is one of those moments. Katrina became a marker in the life of our family. We used to talk about the timeline of our experiences in terms of “before Katrina” or “after Katrina.” While our home only sustained significant wind damage but no flooding, we witnessed firsthand the considerable tragedy across the city.
In 2020, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing reported that one in six children under the age of 18 experiences a mental health disorder each year. The pandemic has drastically changed the lives of high schoolers as academic institutions shifted to online or hybrid learning, leading to increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation.
As we enter the 2021-2022 school year, many of us are still reeling from the last one. Last year was defined by massive changes to the learning landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders meant that students and teachers alike were forced to shift to online or hybrid learning overnight. Now, more than a year later, educators, students, and parents have been able to reflect on their experiences with online learning.
As schools kick off the 2021-22 school year, the air is thick with questions — and with COVID-19 hesitancy. Will students and faculty have to wear masks? Will they have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19? Will we see remote learning play a major role this year, as it did last year? How can we keep classrooms safe while the delta variant seems to be running rampant and vaccination rates lag behind national goals?
We live in a world where learning and technology are intrinsically linked, especially in the minds of our youth. But do today’s students process information differently because it comes on a digital device? Is there a correlation between technology use and plummeting literacy rates? And is the way our young people consume information negatively impacting their growth as learners?