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Educators step up for new revolution

MANILA, Philippines — Time was when parents struggled to pry their children from TikTok and Minecraft and get them to “hit the books,” as older generations used to say.

The memories of today’s youngsters will likely be of their parents scolding them to get on Google Classrooms or Canvas or whatever learning management system (LMS) emerges as the champion after the ongoing revolution in Philippine education.

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Certainly many educational institutions, like the Dominican-run Angelicum College in Quezon City, have already had success in their homeschooling program long before COVID-19 rudely disrupted daily life all over the world.

Nevertheless, Anna Cherylle Ramos, director of the Educational Technology Center of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), maintains that the challenges remain tremendous.

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Schools not only have to rethink their fees as students spend less time in their facilities and parents struggle with added burdens, but they also need to update their infrastructure, decide on support systems and boost the capabilities of their frontliners — the teachers who tirelessly serve “in loco parentis.”

“We need to look first at the back end of the situation because whatever the students will see at the front end — their screens or whatever they download offline to be able to study — would be the instructional design of the teacher,” Ramos explained in an Inquirer webinar on Friday.

The webinar, titled “Learning in Focus: Are we ready for an online semester?’’ was sponsored by Unilab.

Aside from getting used to the LMS their school adopted, teachers have to develop new and catchy learning materials through applications, like Microsoft Powerpoint or Panopto, they may not even have used before.

“Teachers are still necessary to recreate the courses, do the work and educate our students. It’s more their relationship to [the] platform,” Dean Bocobo of the College of Information Technology and Engineering of De La Salle Lipa also said in the webinar.

“It’s really the evolution of people and how they have to change their relationships with each other in order to address the new needs of the new normal,” said Bocobo. “We need to pay attention to the requirements on us to change. If it’s a revolution, we need to evolve.”

Aside from its long experience in distance education, Ramos was lucky that UST implemented its learning continuity plan as soon as Luzon was locked down in March but the “digital divide” remains daunting.

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“Based on a survey we conducted, 98 percent of our faculty and 94 percent of our students claimed they have intermittent internet connection so [the admininistration] quickly shifted to self-learning,” said Ramos, adding that nongrade formative assessments and other forms of evaluation had to be implemented.

But Education Undersecretary Nepo Malaluan, who developed the Department of Education’s (DepEd) learning continuity plan during the pandemic, reiterated that online learning is only one modality of distance education.“If we equate online learning with distance learning, obviously we will never be ready in this present time,” said Malaluan, encouraging schools to explore printed modules, educational TV and radio-based instruction.

While the DepEd acknowledged that there are various infrastructure- and resource-related problems that need to be addressed in online learning, Malaluan said could be “a very potent tool” since it allowed synchronous interaction and promotes self-learning.

Civic groups can also play a crucial role in narrowing the digital divide, like the Bayanihan Para sa Distance Learning program of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership and the Office of the Vice President.

The group aims to raise funds and donations for laptops, tablets and smartphones for students.

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TAGS: 2020 school opening, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, distance education, online classes
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