The Reality of Virtuality

“One of the great lessons I learned from teaching behind a computer screen is that nothing can beat reality.”

North American October 25, 2021

During the coronavirus pandemic, many students and teachers have had to learn how to make virtual education work. In many places, online learning became the main source of teaching and learning for about a year, and in some places, it is still the only learning format in use. After a year of online learning, many have mixed feelings about teaching and learning in the virtual world. 

In my role as a foreign language teacher, I had a fairly normal experience with online learning. There were students who enjoyed learning through Zoom while other students had more challenges adapting to the online environment. There were hilarious situations where students just showed part of their faces or appeared on the screen looking like they had just gotten up from the bed. Once I waited for my online students to log in for several minutes before realizing that I had the wrong link for the class and everyone else was waiting for me on another page. Still, it went fairly smoothly overall. 

As a music teacher, however, I had a completely different experience. It was very challenging to attempt to run a music program online. My fellow music teachers and I found ourselves looking for ways to bring students experiences that approximated the physical classroom. The challenges were huge and while there were some positive experiences as colleagues discovered new tools to deliver content and even create “virtual choirs,” many music educators found that nothing can replace reality. 

One of the great lessons I learned from teaching behind a computer screen is that nothing can beat reality. Talking face-to-face, hearing in real-time the voices of my students, answering questions, even addressing the disruptions, made me realize the value of being in the classroom with my students. There is no equal for having the social aspect, the interactions, the laughs, the questions, the answers, all in real life. At the end of the day, it is good to be in the classroom with our students. The classroom is like a mini-society, with different types of personalities and minds that work on finding answers together, solving problems together, making music together, and having fun together. The reality of virtuality is that we need each other as human beings. We need to hear each other, see each other, and cooperate with each other in the real world. While virtual learning can get close to real life in terms of emotions and feelings, it will never replace being physically present. One of the big lessons I learned during the pandemic is that nothing can replace the real you.


David Nino is currently serving as the Music director at Shenandoah Valley Academy in Virginia, USA.

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