Old-School Learning Amidst Online Living
October 29, 2020
Carson Crochet is a junior majoring in German Studies and Arab Studies at Davidson College. During the pandemic, Carson became an Interfaith Intern for Bridge Builders Charlotte, an organization dedicated to overcoming social divides and strengthen the community in Charlotte, NC.
If you gave my fourth-grade self a foldable computer, Skype calls with my teacher, and recess time to play with my cats, I would’ve believed I was in college. I remember as an eight-year-old that understanding technology not only made you smart but also an adult. If adults were defined by their access to and unlimited knowledge of computers, Wifi, and Zoom, our globe would be currently overrun by “adults”. Now, if you told my eight-year-old self that nearly all kids would be “adults” in 2020, my first response would be “ew, that’s boring”. But maybe fourth-grade me is right; it is boring. It’s dull because our reality has become this: many students today are sitting behind screens instead of beside their peers.
As a college student, I am learning similarly to my grade school neighbors. While they present homemade bottle rockets to a class dispersed across a screen, I present Powerpoints to a camera. My tiny laptop camera has become my entire world: my studies, my social time, and even parts of my spiritual life. Despite having this privileged online access to people and education, I feel a gap in connection. Connecting the dots, whether that be between theories into practices from class, words into emotions from friends, or prayers from my community, all can be shut down the second I close my laptop screen. With my computer turned off, eight-year-old me and my cat would have gone outdoors. Yet, today’s me wants to go outside too, but outside of the world of “online”.
Unfortunately, I cannot simply google “how to go outside online” or “how to continue life online in the real world”. Instead, I had to ask myself: how can I still impact others, a fundamental part of my faith, when I cannot physically interact with people?. I waited for an answer just as I am waiting for the pandemic to be over.
About two months into mask-mandates, I received an opportunity to join a team of extremely passionate Davidson students and professors for a remote research lab. The project, titled “The College Crisis Initiative” or “C2i”, is dedicated to examining innovative responses of colleges and universities due to crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of summer, many schools had no plans for reopening the Fall 2020 semester; futures were very unknown. Yet, as the summer and COVID-19 progressed, schools began communicating their decisions. Not only has this data collection impacted college reopening plans amongst higher education, but I have experienced first hand how doing work remotely allows real-world changes.
Perhaps my young neighbors would find this C2i project boring. (I get it, playing in the yard does sound a lot more exciting than collecting data.) However, being on a real-person team through virtual group Zoom calls made it clear that I can still learn from others, old-school style, while not sitting next to them in class.
This realization encouraged me to apply for a remote internship with “Bridge Builders Charlotte” or “BBC”, a partnership between IFYC and local Charlotte universities/colleges to bridge the gaps between different faiths within Charlotte communities. Dr. Christy Cobb, one of the team leaders, Facetimed me one evening to talk about her inspiration for one of BBC’s projects: “Interfaith Activity Boxes”. Not only did I get to meet her son during the call, but Dr. Cobb simultaneously cared for him while speaking with me. As a mother herself, she knew the need for continuous education and engagement, therefore, “Interfaith Activity Boxes” were born. The boxes consisted of hand-built boxes composed of many different religious and faith-based activities. These crafts, such as drawing rangoli with chalk or constructing a small DIY sukkah out of food, bridge the gap between education, engagement, and family involvement.
Although I could not physically put my hands on the boxes or meet the individuals who received them in Charlotte, I knew that there were young students, similar to my neighbors, taking a break from the internet in order to play with their boxes. These arts & crafts may be the closest thing they will get to the traditional education system all semester. These games and activities may be the only multi-faith exposure they ever receive. I can picture myself younger eagerly ready to leave the screen to get started on my next art project all while reading about dream-catchers originating from the Ojibwe Tribe or learning that rangoli welcome a Hindu goddess.
I want to challenge my fourth-grade-self; is life right now boring? Or do I just need to adapt?
To continue my online living while venturing outside of the internet translates to reading those theories, words, and prayers through an ethernet cable, and actually hearing them. “Hearing” the information from class or the needs from my community through technology looks a little boring to fourth grade me. But building a bridge between online engagement and real-world projects is the fun part. At the beginning of the pandemic, sitting between the same four walls for two weeks straight, I envisioned my future only being online living. Now that I have lived online, I know that even within one room, I can adapt to change the lives of people outside of my walls.
American Civic Life
American Civic Life