Milpitas Unified School District Shares Student Tips For Success In Distance Learning

MHS student

This quarantine, I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time online, searching for the perfect counsel to help me embark on a frightfully different school experience— one where I sit on my laptop for at least 6 hours a day and squint to see my smiling peers trapped in the little rectangles of our Zoom class meetings. Thankfully, I’ve combed through dozens of articles touting face masks and bath bombs to develop a practical guide to staying productive during distance learning. These suggestions will not only help you be a successful student, but a healthy one.

1) Let’s start with what is structured.

The overarching effect of quarantine has manifested itself in a less structured day; we have independent work on Wednesdays, we don’t feel pressured to eat breakfast and get dressed before running out the door, and we’ve been entrusted with managing larger chunks of time in between classes thanks to our new block schedule.

Start jotting down structured events such as classes, club meetings, and family events in a calendar or planner. In doing so, you’ll have a helpful visualization of where your unstructured time lies. I recommend using Google Calendar; it’s free, easy to navigate, and is compatible with school Gmail accounts. To further add structure to your day, make a note of your teachers’ office hours and do your best to come up with questions and insights to bring with you. By making a commitment to attending office hours, you’re holding yourself more accountable for your learning.

2) How to effectively utilize your unstructured time.

The feared unstructured time, where 30 minutes can turn into hours scrolling through Instagram with a straight face. Now that you know where your unstructured time lies, it’s time to figure out how to fill it. Visit Google Classroom and start creating a task list based on your assignments and assessments for the week, either digitally on an app or physically in a planner or journal. Feel free to use a digital app, such as the Reminders app, to store tasks and reminders farther in the future so you don’t forget about them.

Visit Google Calendar once again to block out periods of time to accomplish those tasks. Make sure to overestimate the time needed to complete your tasks so that you don’t end up severely overscheduling yourself. I’ve noticed that piling many more tasks than you can accomplish in a day leaves you feeling extremely disappointed and overwhelmed just seeing all those assignments longing to be crossed out in a task list. It just causes unnecessary and unfounded stress.

Now that we’ve dealt with schoolwork and assignments, let’s talk about how to enjoy our leisure time.

3) How to have fun and be happy! Hint: mindfulness.

Yes, there’s a trick to having fun. Ever wonder why sometimes sitting idly on your phone or Netflix leaves you feeling more tired and empty than when you started? Those activities are likely not interesting or fulfilling to you.

I’ve made it a daily habit to write down things that made me happy today or things that I’m grateful for. This exercise is extremely important because it helped me identify which activities were most fulfilling to me and which accomplishments I am most proud of to keep myself motivated. For example, I noticed that painting and making clay sculptures consistently appeared in my daily “happiness entries,” and I’ve decided to pursue those activities further since they make me happy! Try it out.

This year has been a wild one, and who knows if next year will be different. However, we’ve been afforded the opportunity of a less structured school experience, and we ought to take advantage of this unique situation to learn and grow. Let’s start the school year being productive and healthy together.

By Rajvee Patel

MHS student

With the extended amount of time we spend at home due to distance learning, staying productive and not losing the motivation to do work has become one of the largest struggles many students face. In an effort to combat demotivation and stress, I have put together a list of 10 tips you can use to stay productive this socially-distanced school year!

1) Write It Out

Did you know that writing out a to-do list before you start working can help with stress management? Being able to clearly see the amount of tasks you have to complete can make life a lot easier. This is mainly because people tend to stress over tasks that are floating around in their minds. Writing down tasks allows you to pour your thoughts onto a physical piece of paper and when you look at it, you might even start to realize that you don’t have much to do.For some, writing in a bullet journal helps keep everything organized. However, you do not need a planner or a fancy bullet journal to put this method into practice. You can start off with something as simple as a piece of binder paper and work your way through from there.

2) The Pomodoro Technique

This system can help you effectively manage your time when studying. Essentially, The Pomodoro Technique breaks your workday into manageable 25-minute periods with 5-minute breaks in between. You repeat this cycle for 4 times and then, you are allowed to take a longer 10 or 15-minute break. These breaks are referred to as “pomodoros”.

Let’s say, for example, I have to accomplish a certain amount of tasks in one day. If I were to use The Pomodoro Technique, I would select one task and start a 25-minute timer. For those 25 minutes, I have to completely focus and finish as much of the task as possible with no interruptions. Once the timer goes off, I can take a 5-minute break. I repeat this cycle 3 more times and then, I can take a longer break if I want to. If I finish the task before the 4 repetitions are over, I can move on to a new task.

3) Reach Out

During this time, many students can easily get lost during their classes and this leads to low motivation. If you don’t understand something, you are less likely to want to study that subject. The best way to solve this problem is to reach out to your peers or, even better, your teachers! Creating a study group with your friends or classmates is also a great way to get your questions answered.

An advantage that comes with online learning is that you don’t have to meet anyone in person because you can send them an email or text. Students tend to shy away from asking important questions that can help them learn because they are afraid of being judged or just embarrassed. I promise you, the question you have is not going to be seen as “weird” or “dumb” because there are probably 20 other students who have the same question. You’ll be helping yourself and those around you by being the first one to ask.

4) Finish Tasks ASAP

Due to distance learning, teachers have become more lenient with due dates. Rather than having homework due everyday, many teachers just have their students submit assignments towards the end of the week or even during the weekends. Although it may seem like a long time before a task is due, time flies. The best way to stay productive is to finish as many assignments as you can as soon as possible so you don’t have to do them last minute.

Let’s say, for example, you have a task due on Friday and it was assigned to you on Monday. If the task requires a lot of work and you can’t finish it all in one day, spread the work throughout the week. Do one portion of the assignment on Tuesday and the other portion on Wednesday. Splitting up the work over a few days can make it more manageable and easier to finish.

5) Listen to Lofi Music

The usefulness of this tip is based on what kind of music you like. Many students tend to listen to music while they work, but for some, it slows down their productivity. Personally, I have found that I get tasks done slower if I listen to music that has words in it. I recently discovered lofi music, which is a kind of study music that you can play in the background while you work. There are no words, just different calming beats. Listening to lofi music has helped boost my productivity because now, I can listen to motivating music and get work done twice as fast. There are thousands of playlists out there, all you have to do is search up “lofi music” and I guarantee that you will find plenty of results on platforms like YouTube.

6) Go Outside (But At Home)

Staying indoors all the time can get pretty boring, and it’s not good for your mental and physical well being either. Stepping outside to take in some fresh (well, right now it’s smoky) air can really help clear your mind. You do not have to go far, and unnecessary travel is definitely not what I’m encouraging. Stepping outside can be something as simple as walking around in your backyard and smelling the flowers. You can also lay down a tarp or picnic blanket and watch the clouds. If you don’t have a backyard or porch, you can take a walk at your local park (with a mask on, of course). Either way, the main goal is to go outside your home and relax for a bit. You can do this during your 5-minute pomodoro breaks as well (refer to tip #2)!

7) Exercise

We’ve all heard this and it goes hand in hand with the previous tip, but it is important to take care of your body. Especially during this time, many people find themselves gaining weight. There are many at-home workouts you can find on YouTube to keep yourself in shape. For some exercises, having a yoga mat or small weights is useful. For others, you don’t need anything. Sometimes, it can be helpful to put on some running shoes and go for a light jog or bike ride.

8) Healthy Meals

A problem that many students face is overeating, and now that everyone is at home, you have access to more junk food than before. Although it is completely fine to eat unhealthy foods once in a while, they should definitely not become a part of your daily diet. There are many healthy, quick recipes you can find on Pinterest and YouTube. Personally, I like to eat fruit bowls or avocado toast when I’m looking for something that’s easy to make and delicious. There are also many healthy replacements for junk foods. For example, rather than reaching for the french fries, try out baked sweet potato fries. Spaghetti squash and spiralized zucchini are great replacements for pasta. Coconut water is a healthy alternative for sugary drinks and sodas. Last but not least, raw honey can replace white sugar in many meals too.

9) Call a Friend

As mentioned before, mental health is an important aspect of productivity. After not seeing your friends for what feels like forever, you might start to feel lonely. You’re not alone. A great way to overcome this feeling is to FaceTime or call your friends. Just because you are stuck at home doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to see your friends at all. Platforms like Houseparty and Zoom allow you to video call a group of friends at once, which can be useful if you want to catch up with multiple people. You can talk about your day, plans for the future, or just check up on each other!

10) Pick Up a New Hobby

Picking up a new hobby to take away some of the stress you face from school work can greatly contribute to productivity. You don’t have to worry about mastering how to play the piano or paint a detailed portrait, just find something that makes you happy. Doing something that you find joy in is the most important and best way to reduce stress. It can be something as simple as doodling, baking, or teaching your dog tricks!

By Kathleen Huynh

MHS student

Distance learning is uncharted territory that none of us have much experience with. Since March, much of the student body has been plagued with a lack of motivation, technology induced migraines, and idleness. However, distance learning is not an unconquerable beast. With a little organization, effort, and commitment, you can fall in love with learning from home.

1) Time block.

Sectioning off hours of your day to do work is an underrated tip. Put your plans into fruition; dedicate a chunk of your day to being productive. I highly recommend using Google Calendar to time block. We’ve all told ourselves that we’ll get around to working in 15 minutes, then 15 minutes becomes half an hour, and time gets away from us. Time blocking and physically scheduling your study sessions will help hold you accountable and boost productivity.

A few guidelines:

Two hour blocks are a good place to start. It’s enough time to get a lot of work done. Assign tasks to blocks. Not having a plan defeats the purpose of time blocking. You should know exactly what you want to get done in your study session. You can do this with Google Keep.

2) Limit distractions.

Let’s face it. We’re all a little bit addicted to our phones and that’s okay. However, a single “ping” can ruin your focus. Do yourself a favor, silence your phone and keep it out of sight. A simple glance at your phone is equivalent to opening Pandora’s box. Practicing restraint takes a lot of effort but abandoning your phone won’t be the end of you.

When you’re studying or doing homework, you want to be completely in the zone. The goal is to not get up for however long your study session is. That means going to the restroom, eating, and preparing all of your materials ahead of time. Getting up for any of these things will put you at risk of breaking your productivity streak.

3) Take breaks.

Allowing yourself time to recharge is equally important as being productive. Sitting and staring at a screen for hours on end is straining on the eyes, mind, and body. Taking breaks every so often will help with endurance and longevity. I recommend having a technology-free break. Go on a walk, take a nap, or exercise. Whatever you do, give yourself some time off from staring into a screen.

Distance learning is really what you make of it. If you’re strict with yourself and set expectations, you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish. Good luck!

By Evelyn Fu

MHS student

During this pandemic, students change from in-person classes to distance learning. Although students have different opinions on how our lifestyle changed, one thing many students struggle with is staying productive.

Staying productive varies from student to student, for example, some may feel more productive working at different times of day, or night. Others may like or dislike learning which, respectively, cause them to be motivated or unmotivated to do work. It may also be difficult for students to adjust to the new block schedule and to pay attention for two hours straight.

Switching to distance learning is not easy, but here are a couple tips to stay productive:

1) Set realistic goals

A key aspect to being productive is to stay motivated, and by setting unrealistic goals for yourself, you may become discouraged and give up. That is why it is crucial to set a goal that is challenging yet achievable.

2) Take a break

Trying to finish all your work in one sitting may seem like the best way to be productive, but it actually makes you less productive. Time breaks to be around an hour and a half, then go back to work for another hour or two. If you sit at your table staring at your computer screen for, for example, five hours, you might become bored and take longer breaks.

3) Put down distractions

As many say, technology is both a blessing and a curse. Technology makes life better, however students become distracted by social media apps, spending hours talking to their friends to watching TikTok clips. Add apps on your phone that limits screen time or use apps like Flora to motivate you to not look at your phone. (Grow some flowers!)

4) Organize your work

According to the Eisenhower Matrix, you can sort your work by importance and urgency. Obviously you start with the homework that is due soon and important. Next plan out your next steps, if it is important but not urgent, find some other reasonable time to work on it. If it is not important but urgent, for example, a poster for teacher appreciation, make your sibling or parents help you do the minor details. If an assignment is both unimportant and isn’t due for awhile, determine the amount of points it’s worth in the gradebook and choose whether to spend a worthwhile amount of time on it.


This press release was produced by the Milpitas Unified School District. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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