Where Are Any Online 2016 Conferences On How Does Cooperative Learning Improve Test Scores

Participating in online learning is dangerous. Indeed, some of the best examples in education have proven it at the academic level.

In the years leading up to the 2016 presidential election, my family discussed one underlying question as we watched the news: “What should I do, Katie?” I was about three years into my first job with the Miami Herald in an editorial, and Katie was finishing her master’s degree in education.

My monthly paychecks weren’t worth much—and that was actually why I took the job. The wages and benefits I received would help me with my student loans, my credit card bill, my rent, my monthly grocery bill, my car payment, and even my late fee, which remained unspoken among my friends: “Katie, what have you been doing?”

I had no car, but a boyfriend. He was taking care of me. He put his car in the garage. For a moment I was swept away in my savings, riding the bus home when he “had to catch the bus.”

Then, after the bus had deposited him, he shut the garage door. The rest of the conversation was about soccer. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about him. The goal of a weekend passed, consumed by subtext. The only way I could make sense of it all was with an answer that didn’t exist. I was “made.” I had to be everything to everyone. I had to fall on my sword if someone liked it. I had to give and give and give. I had to step up if someone needed someone to step up. Katie’s money, cash money, was not the same as my money. Katie’s bag, Katie’s money, was not the same as my bag.

My answer to Katie’s question wasn’t an easy one. It was not full of clever pop culture references. It didn’t start with “Isn’t it funny how?” And it didn’t end with “I learned so much from all those relationships that weren’t true.”

None of the answers I gave to Katie were from online research or student work. I spent hours in books or online for hours more thinking about, reading, and pondering things that I saw pop up on the news the week before but I still didn’t have an answer to. It was exhausting.

Of course, no professional blogger would argue that members of the Millennial generation have innate analytical skill, or that they have a clear understanding of the world and the problems facing it. All blogs do is list information to be read. For example, instead of answering Katie’s question, I might have listed nonobvious ways to fight rising inequality and poverty in the U.S. or ways to encourage inclusion and civic engagement.

For my generation, offering an answer would be a disservice. No one would want a version of a news article written for us because we were careless, because we failed to live in the present and because we failed to recognize our own privilege. Rather, for many Millennials, it would seem counterproductive: Make it seem like you are invested in my world, and I will be less invested in yours.

I can give a few examples of how online conferences can help everyone. We are faced with difficulties and challenges every day: how do we help students in college, immigrants, people in need, students who live with trauma, parents, teachers, families, and more?

In one 2015 online conference, I heard from many students who were advocating on their peers’ behalf, and their peers’ representatives. In one common experience, a student had committed suicide by shunning the college counselors, hospitals, and psychotherapists who had told her to go to school and stay on track. In another, they were trying to pass a bill to enact tuition-free public higher education that ultimately failed. They mentioned trying to decipher the conflicting information on the internet regarding how to apply for grants. During that same conference, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had informed students that they would receive an emergency grant to help them move and to get back on their feet after Hurricane Maria had caused widespread devastation in Puerto Rico.

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