The importance of having the right tools and skillset
By Fr. Art Vincent M. Pangan, OP, Director of Lyceum of Camiguin
As the Philippines continues to fight against the pandemic, the education sector remains to be one of the most significantly affected by the current situation. With classes halted since March 2020, concluding plans for the 2019-2020 academic year have been put in a stand still. As a recommendation, the government is looking at the potential of implementing blended learning, which combines traditional face-to-face and online learning, to ensure the sector’s continuity while keeping students, teachers, and staff safe.
One of the institutions impacted by the pandemic is Lyceum of Camiguin, a Dominican mission school in the Babuyan Group of Islands. Since the implementation of the community quarantine, our operations have totally stopped. To ensure everyone’s health and safety, we organized a donation drive for vitamins, alcohol, and basic food supplies, and gave our educators extra PhP 4,000 on top of their salaries as support during the lockdown.
On May 1, 2020, the lockdown in our municipality was lifted. Since we had no confirmed cases to date and no one was able to enter our island, we were already confident to reassemble our skeletal workforce to resume work and prepare for the new normal. We held meetings on the opening of the upcoming school year and had a series of webinars to keep us abreast with the developments of education including online learning.
Feasibility of online learning
According to Behavioral Sociologist, Ms. Shiela May T. Julianda, “Online learning is a possible solution to the continuation of education. While it has its advantages, the experience of face-to-face learning, physical interaction, and interpersonal communication still remains superior. It also raises challenges, including connectivity, adaptability, accessibility, but most importantly, financially. If not all private institutions can afford the transition, what more for public schools who have more students to cater to.”
Realistically, the possibility of online learning is far from 100%, especially in our context, since only a very small portion of our island has access to connectivity. Moreover, online learning is very expensive, but we are making preparations for this so that our learners and teachers can interact, despite our limitations.
Preparing for online learning
“While it may be the future of Philippine education, not all schools are capable yet of providing an effective online learning experience. Since many teachers are not yet as trained or accustomed to this new system, they must also learn new teaching strategies as well as navigating through the different applications. It is important to understand first how this all works to ensure effective teaching and learning for educators and students alike,” shared Ms. Julianda.
From being teachers, we must now become online facilitators to ensure our students’ holistic learning experience. As such, we believe that teachers must have following skills:
- Computer literacy. Knowledge of handling a computer will become essential in online learning. Thus, skills in using the multi and social media, and different learning applications such as Blackboard and Google Classroom need to be developed and improved.
- Communication skills. In an educational setting where there is less physical contact and presence, the clarity of communication and precision of language are very much necessary. This is to ensure that students clearly understand the lessons being taught or exercises assigned to them.
- Relational skills. Teachers must recognize, especially in a learner-centered approach, that for the learning process to be truly successful and fruitful, trust and confidence must be cultivated among them and every learner. Moreover, they must also recognize and tap the contribution of family members in the learning process.
- Patience and understanding. This new learning method exposes students to more distractions, especially since they are at home. Teachers must learn to be more patient and understanding, and develop different teaching strategies to effectively communicate and engage with their students.
Since most of our teachers are millennials, they are very creative, adaptive, multimedia and social media-savvy, and have a high rate of internet literacy. We support and empower them through various technical and technological workshops and training sessions, including Blackboard and other online classroom technologies. We also improved our facilities for more advanced learning similar to the continued learning of our educators, such as more advanced computer units.
For school administrators who are capable of doing this themselves, it is best that we facilitate the training of our teachers and staff to manage expectations and lessen inhibitions.
Value of student-centered online learning
“In the learning process, it is important to understand the value of cognitive development. Relying purely on traditional learning may make them dependent on available information. However, focusing on student-centered learning alone, may cause confusion and doubt despite proactivity. Combining these strategies would be best, as it follows the Experience Learning Cycle (ELC), where they are given Activity, Discussion, Input, Deepening, and Synthesis (ADIDS) exercises,” explained Ms. Julianda.
Lyceum of Camiguin launched its triangulation (teacher-learner-family) program in June 2019. We made our education more experiential with more involvement, communication, and closer relationships between the teachers, learners and their families to easily interact on their learning progress. It ignited the interest of the families as the students have become the center of education. By opening channels of communication at different levels – personal, virtual, online – we were able to prepare for the new normal, enabling parents and guardians to have a bigger role in their children’s overall learning.
Digital transformation of education
“Our country may not be fully ready for this digital transformation, but it may be time for us to start adopting new practices. While this would mean keeping up with the changing times, we must also be critical of our resources for long-term change. We need to align our plans with the readiness of the people economically, physically, emotionally, and mentally, and the skills and knowledge needed to lessen the gap on the quality of education being received by students in different market segments,” stated Julianda.
As an educator, I believe total digital transformation (online learning) has a long way to go. At present, there are many obstacles that we need to surmount – the cost which many students and families cannot cover, slow internet service, and limited coverage of service providers. But our situation challenges us to evolve with the rest of the world. We cannot remain as we are. Our new situation calls for progress and self-renewal. Of course, this is not done merely in pockets – and not only in the education sector. We have to do this as a nation.
KLEAFS Publishing has online platforms where teachers, students, and parents can connect and learn together. As a long-time partner of the Lyceum of Camiguin, we share the common goal of helping students and teachers develop knowledge, skills, and attitude needed in the new normal. With its flexible learning solutions, KLEAFS Publishing remains committed to shaping our learners into future leaders who are capable of reimagining a world of possibilities.