Internet a useful tool for many in pandemic

Municipal employees have benefited from the use of the internet during the pandemic, but students with poor connections have had a harder time.
Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 7:40 PM EDT
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The internet has proven to be a useful tool in the pandemic, allowing people to gather, while never having to leave their home or office. But it hasn't been the ideal method for all. Kathy McCarty has more on the benefits and problems users have faced in the past few months.

The trip from Aroostook County to Augusta, until recently, required officials with downstate meetings to spend much of their time traveling. Jim Gardner, Vice President of the Maine Municipal Association, says the internet has made travel almost a thing of the past.

“There is a silver lining. We found out what Zoom was. You know, zoom just isn’t a car going around the road anywhere, vroom vroom. Nah, now we know what Zoom is. I’ll find you in a little square somewhere and we’ll talk to you, because you’re gonna be in the - in the - I call it the ‘Hollywood Squares,’ right? The old show. So you’re gonna be up there in the - in the Hollywood Square,” says Jim Gardner.

Gardner says it’s no longer an issue to have someone from Aroostook meet with someone from Kittery. Using Zoom, webinars and other aspects of the internet have brought the state together, despite the need to social distance.

Gardner says “We’re going virtual for a week and a half of training with the clerks and the town managers and the G.A. assistants, so everything’ll be a webinar, which is kinda nice, ‘cause you don’t have to pay for the travel and all that stuff to go away and do that.”

While doing things online has worked for some, Superintendent Ellen Halladay says it wasn’t optimal for educating her students. Teachers focused more on reinforcing what had already been taught, rather than introducing new information.

“There were such inequities in terms of families’ ability to have the internet, to have the devices, and our teachers just learning how to do this,” says Ellen Halladay.

She says this year students who attend remotely will follow a learning plan as close to what’s offered in class as possible.

“They will Zoom in or they’ll be screen casted so that they can follow along with the lesson with the class. Other times it will be material that they’ll be working on independently, and then getting feedback from the teachers,” says Halladay.

Despite having a few issues, Halladay agrees with Gardner - the internet can be a useful tool for education and work, especially in a pandemic.

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