Even as schools shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic, experts say learning does not have to stop, it merely has to evolve. With new technology and more established forms of mass media, educators are finding new ways to extend their classrooms beyond the constraints of traditional walls.
In an article published in the World Economic Forum last March, it was hinted that the disruption can give educators time to rethink education. This, according to TalentED Consultancy ApS founder and chief consultant Poornima Luthra, and Copenhagen international director Sandy Mackenzie. Technology has stepped into the breach, they say, and will continue to play a key role in educating future generations. That's why the role of the educator must change as well in a world where knowledge is a mouse-click away. This break allows us to question what we need to teach and what we are preparing students for.
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With this in mind, Gen Z, Generation Alpha (the children of the millennials), and the generations beyond are more prepared for non-classroom types of learning as they grow up adept—even fearless—in using digital technology. In the Philippines, the Department of Education wants to harness mass media aside from online learning systems in order to ensure that no child is left behind. DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan, in an interview with ABS-CBN’s DZMM said that students in some parts of the country might get their lessons through television and radio next school year if travel in their area remains restricted to stem COVID-19 cases.
The opening of school year 2020-2021 in the country "does not mean necessarily that students will be coming to school," he said as classes can take a multi-modal approach where they are looking at ICT platforms, as well as television and radio. USec. Malaluan also said they are due to share the results of a survey on preferred teaching platform of students and schools. They will present their findings to the inter-agency Covid-19 task force within the first week of May. Recently, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that they are leaning at starting classes in August.
Globe recently conducted a webinar with educators and school owners about e-learning as a way to keep engaging students during the Covid-19 crisis and even beyond. The robust discussion focused on the aspects of online learning for students as a way to address the current challenges in the educational school system. It was also a forum for sharing best practices among the experts, along with ideas on how to build on e-learning as a complementary tool even during normal school operations.
Dennis Magbanua, FSC, community director of La Salle College, Hong Kong talked about the model used in HK schools where online has become a complementary way of learning. Their students have already become accustomed to e-classes even before the Covid-19 outbreak, which made the transition easier for them. Some even held PE classes where students at home follow certain exercises demonstrated by the teachers. During the exchange, Gerson Abesamis, executive director of Habi Education Lab and senior lecturer at UP Diliman and Miriam College notes that many teachers have already been reaching out to students and other teachers on Facebook messenger. Some have also started creating their own short learning videos.
Some of these online learning materials are available on the Dep-Ed website. Globe also has an initiative called the Globe E-Library project, a collection of free local and international public domain e-books ranging from classic storybooks and novels for K-12 learners curated by DepEd. This also included winning entries of a storybook writing competition among teachers sponsored by Globe and the Ayala Foundation. The e-library likewise has over a hundred three to five minute videos on core subjects like Math, Science, English, Filipino, and Values education migrated from its Text2Teach program, designed to supply public schools with high quality video content through mobile tech.
Luthra and Mackenzie explain in their World Economic Forum article that the notion of an educator as the knowledge-holder who imparts wisdom to their pupils is no longer fit for the purpose of a 21st-century education. “With students being able to gain access to knowledge, and even learn a technical skill, through a few clicks on their phones, tablets and computers, we will need to redefine the role of the educator in the classroom and lecture theater.”
There are challenges to the e-learning model too, as noted in the E-skwela seminar of teachers who experience discomfort in conducting their classes online. The answer to the Philippine challenge is to onboard teachers as quickly as possible, as well as laying out the groundwork and a roadmap toward making online learning a complementary part of education even after the crisis has passed.
Juco Antonio Rivera, who teaches Purposive Communication to 1st year college students at the iAcademy shares his experience from conducting his online classes right after school was suspended. He says that he used the materials that he has already prepared for his face-to-face discussions on Google Classroom and Google Meet. “I was relying more on the chat setting of Google Meet. The school was expecting documentation of the class, and so I was thinking that the best way of documentation was to simply copy and paste the transcript. I would turn on my mic only to lecture while using share screen for my slide presentation. Otherwise, everything else was done via chat.”
He describes his students as “dealing with it the best that they could, given the circumstances. I mean, they appreciated the effort I was putting for them to learn in my class. I'm not sure if they were appreciative of online classes per se. You can only do so much online for a 3.5 hour class, especially at home where there are chores to do and meals to prepare and eat.”
Rivera noted that slow internet connection is probably the worst enemy of online classes. “Being a teacher of communication, I can not appreciate not seeing my students' response to my lessons. I need to see them to know whether my teaching is effective.”
His opinion is that we are not ready for online roll-outs. “We were not ready for K-12, and we are also not ready for online classes. At the moment, our educational system is still struggling to adjust to the change brought about by the K-12, and so to bring up online classes causes yet another major change to the educational system. It may take a while for such a new normal to actually be normal.”