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The lingering effects of pandemic technology

photo by Nyda Hosack

A lot of the people I’ve talked to have different words to describe the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. People like Mr. Torres described it as a “scramble.” Others talk about it as a time to better understand themselves. Students either loved or hated online learning. “Zoom School,” as some kids call it, was especially difficult because of the somber mood felt throughout the world. Some students simply found it uninteresting and didn’t even bother coming to class. Teachers were visibly strained and worried.

While students all over the district dealt with the pandemic with mixed emotions, educators all over Los Angeles felt only one thing– stress. Most teachers wanted the best for their students and their education, but without access to their classrooms filled with resources and technology, they felt helpless. 

As the pandemic continued to worsen, the school district wasn’t the only group of people that were starting to understand the toll that was being taken on students’ education as they proceeded with online classes. In an act of total desperation, the district used government money to buy a $100 Connection Hub, a $120 monitor, a $134 Document camera, and an $800 Soundbar and video camera for every single teacher in all of LAUSD. About $1,200 dollars of equipment was rapidly sent out to every educator in the district. These gadgets were going to help teachers better instruct their students from home. Boxes of equipment suddenly appeared in classrooms, stealthily bought, shipped, and delivered. Right now, one of the few staff members that can operate the pieces is Mr. Torres– no surprise there. 

“The video camera is a very special camera,” he describes. “They were purchased for hybrid learning… some kids would come back to school and learn in-person, while other kids stayed on zoom and watched a video that was being recorded on the camera, in class.” 

This plan sounded effective, but ended up failing miserably. With a majority of students feeling safer in their homes, class sizes stayed small when kids were actually allowed to come back to school. The video-camera-plan would come into effect at this point, but one major problem ensued. Teachers were never given any instructions on how to operate any of the machinery. 

“The district just implemented this thing,” Ms. Youngblood says. “They had a plan and they didn’t think it through… I think it was well intentioned, but not well thought through. That’s a huge problem for a huge district.” 

Mr. Colla agrees. “It was a necessary expenditure so teachers could do their jobs and teach kids,” he clarifies. “But at the same time as with a lot of things with the district’s implementation, it was a little… terrible, in short.”

With the equipment the district purchased, students were supposed to have the best at-home learning experience possible. The soundbar purchased (shown below, insert picture) has a camera in the middle of it, designed to track movement.

Teachers would be able to move around their classrooms with a quality camera following them as they recorded their lessons for students at home. Video quality would’ve been immensely improved. There are exactly 24,769 teachers in all of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Although I couldn’t find a set number of total costs, doing simple math, it’s easy to find out that about $29,722,800 was spent on equipment, equipment many teachers never even used. This money was given to the district by the government to be used on pandemic technology, so we couldn’t have “just bought chocolate,” as Mr. Torres likes to put it, but we could’ve maximized the massive funds to have the desired online experience. If the district was able to plan better and collaborate with educators more effectively, students might have been able to learn a lot more through zoom learning. 

The pandemic was a lonely time for many; perhaps students would’ve been able to better bond with their classmates and teachers. Mental health could have improved greatly. Students that struggle with major things they should’ve learned in early middle school and late elementary school, while on zoom, could be having an easier time in their present classes. This is yet another example of the school district’s failure to unite and communicate with their students and teachers, and this is one with massive consequences and an even bigger waste of money. With better leadership and organization during that time, school might’ve been better. Students all over LAUSD will never truly have been exposed to an ideal online education, and that is very problematic.

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