High School Comm Tech Classes Adapt to New Safety Restrictions

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Government put new restrictions and guidelines in place for schools across the province. For the return to school in the fall, computer labs are one place where extra precautions have been taken in order to maintain social distancing, keep areas clean, control the spread of the virus, and overall provide a healthy environment for staff and students.

Adjustments had to be made to fit the new environmental requirements. One of WCI’s  communication technology teachers, Ms. Guo, said her classroom was arranged in a way that allowed students to have their own personal bubble of space and keep distance from other students in the class. 

In Guo’s classroom, name tags were placed at every other spot when students came in each day, allowing them to sit only in that spot. Each computer’s keyboard was cloaked with plastic wrap so that no student could touch the keys directly. Due to the rotation of half of the class being online, half in-person, a student from each cohort sits in the same spot on different days, so replacing the plastic wrap and cleaning down the computers and desks is an important precaution in the routines of each teacher in a computer lab.     

Guo described the cleaning process she has now made a part of her routine each day, “I first put on gloves, then get the special wipes and wipe each person’s spot: keyboard, mouse, monitor, and the main computer case, table and chair.” Then she wraps the keyboards with a new layer of plastic wrap.

Computer lab keyboards in WCI classrooms. Photo by Zoe Sanderson.

Guo described her concern for this year: “I do feel a bit nervous. I feel that I’m responsible for myself and everybody else in the room. I just want to make sure they’re following the policies, wearing their masks, and just being very cautious.”

Along with a differing set-up from other classrooms, in technology-based classrooms, students at school and on the computers in the room have access to programs such as Photoshop and other Adobe programs, but those at home do not have access to these programs, so changes had to be made in order for students to complete assignments. 

“You notice that at home, everybody has home computers or the chromebook and, therefore, we use the programs that are compatible with the chromebooks,” Guo said. “So for example, we use Photopea to replace Photoshop. It’s almost 90% the same as Photoshop, and we can get our work done. In terms of the video editing, the school board already has a license purchased for WeVideo, so it is a powerful and easy software that everybody can use.” 

“I think it’s a really good idea that the students and myself are embracing the new technology instead of sticking to one software,” said Ms. Guo.

Essentially, these changes do not affect students’ ability to complete work whether they’re at home or in class. They will not fall behind on assignments because they have a certain level of freedom. However, if they’re in class, they have access to higher tech software like Photoshop or the Adobe series. 

Due to the difference of platforms, tech teachers, like Ms. Guo, are constantly giving different tutorials to different students, depending on the project and whether they are at home or in school that day.

“It’s more work for me to do, but it’s okay, I don’t mind that. It is a little bit time consuming because I have to post stuff twice and [when] sending emails, I have to send separate emails. So it’s definitely inconvenient, but I understand this is a time we are all trying new things, it’s just very time consuming and hard on the teachers because we already have so many students and then this just adds on that.” 

Borrowing equipment from tech classes, unlike most years, is not allowed at all. Signing out cameras and other technology for assignments is no longer permitted. This change affects the quality of a photo/video for an overall assignment. 

Most teachers are asking students to simply use their cellphones. She said, “The good thing is we have so many advanced software or those compatible with the chromebook, a lot of photo editing can be done on chromebooks, so it shouldn’t be a big issue.”

When reflecting on the quadmestering system in general, Guo had this to say: “It’s definitely new. I’ve never done this before, everything is new; new polices. It’s challenging I’d say. We don’t have as much of the same freedom as before. The good thing is we [can use] Google Meet [during our lessons] and [students] can share their screens so I can see their work a little closer. If we work well as a team we can overcome all of the difficulties.”