Thursday, February 19, 2009

Learner Interview in Zamboanga

My grandmother use to say that her kids had to go through such grueling tasks just to enter school; from selling all sorts of food products to walking hours and hours just to reach school premises. Again and again, she would point out that education is the only thing that she can give her kids once all else comes to an end for her. That was why education was, is, and always will be a big deal for us – having spent my childhood years with her and all that.

But you see I never knew first-hand how it would be to make such efforts just to enter school so most of the time I have to rely on stories in order to appreciate the value of education more and more.

So here goes one of those stories…

Just recently I had an opportunity to visit our eSkwela site in Zamboanga City and I sure am grateful to have met quite a lot of people. It was also then and there that I shared a meaningful exchange with Ate Shirley.

Ate Shirley is a third year high school drop out. Married young and now has a 4 year-old son whom she adores. She said that a few months back her husband used to work in Basilan and their family had to endure the condition of being with so many rebels hovering within the vicinity. It was only on the latter part of the year of 2008 that they decided to move back to Zamboanga and start their own sari-sari store. It was the perfect set-up since she now has it in her own hands to help settle their financial whereabouts and take care of her son at the same time. One thing was quite amiss though, somehow she wanted more.

It's a good thing that her neighbor, who's also a district ALS coordinator, told her about eSkwela. She said that she never would've thought that she'll have the opportunity to continue her studies. Armed with her notebook, pen, and sheer determination to learn she continues to strive forward for herself and her family. She then makes it a point to allot her Friday mornings to go to the center even if she had to spend sixty pesos for her back and forth fare. Indeed, looking at her discuss the Circulatory System with her seat mate while she was making notes to bring home that day placed a smile deep in my gut.

Hers is but one of the few stories that was waiting to be heard that afternoon and I did manage to hear a few more but then Ate Shirley's story was just my 'it' for the day. A classic example as to why I'd still have to salute my Lola Cion for her unwavering stance on the value education.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

News: Eighth eSkwela Center Launched in Kalumpang

eSkwela – Kalumpang is the newest addition to the roster of eSkwela centers in the country.

Launched last February 2, 2009, the eighth eSkwela site serves the needs of out-of-school youths and adults residing in Barangay Kalumpang, Marikina City. Mobile teacher Ivy Coney Gamatero, who will be handling the learning sessions, is now bringing in eSkwela learners. A total of 39 learners, including Maicar Llaver, 34, a baker, enrolled in eSkwela. During the orientation of eSkwela learners, Llaver said: “Hindi na po tinapay ang hawak ko kundi computer na.”

The establishment of the eSkwela center was made possible through the efforts of CICT, ALS – Marikina City; Barangay Kalumpang; and Rotary Club of Marikina South. CICT has already provided 41 learning modules; six of which have been newly certified by ALS. ALS – Marikina City will be sending in mobile teachers, while Barangay Kalumpang will be shouldering the operational expenses of the eSkwela center. Barangay Kalumpang will also be allotting a center solely for eSkwela use.

The Rotary Club of Marikina South started new programs, which are exclusive to eSkwela learners. Rotarians will be serving as mentors, guiding the learners as they go on with the sessions, through the “Adopt-a-learner” program. They will also be giving college scholarships to eSkwela graduates, who get to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency Exam. Scholars can enroll at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina.

Present at the eSkwela – Kalumpang launch were Director Carolina S. Guerrero of DepEd – BALS; Dr. Virginia E. Silvestre, ALS Chief of DepED – NCR; Dr. Flordeliza R. Mayari, the Schools Division Superintendent of Marikina City; Honorable Councilor Boggs S. Reyes of Marikina City; Rotary Club President Mr. Edu Magtaos; Brgy. Captain Enrico Chu of Kalumpang; and Ave Mejia, eSkwela Project Officer and CICT representative.

News: eSkwela Teacher Training Conducted in Oroquieta

Mobile teachers and instructional managers from upcoming, as well as existing eSkwela centers, in the Visayas and Mindanao region have participated in the Teacher Training on the Customized eSkwela Instructional Model last January 28-30 held at the Misamis Occidental National High School in Oroquieta City.

Upcoming eSkwela centers are located in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental; Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur; Sultan Kudarat; Digos City; and Tanauan, Leyte. Existing eSkwela centers are situated in the cities of Davao and Zamboanga.

The Commission on Information and Communications Technology is working in partnership with different local government units, Department of Education - Alternative Learning System (DepEd - ALS) divisions, and private organizations in establishing eSkwela centers in Visayas and Mindanao.

The eSkwela team, headed by Project Manager Maria Melizza D. Tan, conducted the training. Ms. Tan gave an overview of the project, while Project Officer Maui Salang presented the eSkwela Instructional Model. Ms. Salang introduced the participants to education tools and resources available over the internet, Module Guides and the Learning Management System.

During the training period, the eSkwela team also conducted module installation and site inspection in Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga City, and Davao City; and a stakeholders’ meeting in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Technology in the Eyes of a Child

by Gener Luis Morada, Country Representative, Virtual PC

Being in a room full of school administrators, teachers, parents and government officials could be one of the most terrifying experiences of an internet café owner with an educational advocacy. Most of the times I often sit there and wait till I am acknowledge. If asked of what I do for a living what comes into my mind is what Eric Raymond has narrated in "Revolution OS" and franklya tell them "I am your worst nightmare."

Last Tuesday, February 3, 2009, I was fortunate enough to be invited in the "Round Table Discussion on Elearning" that was organized by the British Council and the British Alumni Association. Participants were the major stakeholders in incorporating the use of technology in Philippine education. There were the usual officials of the Department of Education, school administrators, those in the private and the NGOs that are providing assistance to the educational sector in the field of technology. I have attended similar activities in the past and most of the time the usual discussions takes place.

Mr. Gavin Dudeney, the main presentor for the round table discussion asked the participants about their experiences in the Philippines on how technology is being integrated in education. The participants responded with the usual answers like the lack of hardware, the resistance to change of some teachers, lack of infrastructure, lack of standards and others which was the usual reply in activities like these. These are problems that were identified in so numerous activities of the Deped that one could be tired of hearing about it all over again.

During the discussion a though has occurred to me that it seems that the participant's approach in incorporating technology in education is more on the adult or a managers perception on how to do it. We often complain that no matter what's being done is not always enough to suit the needs. It's very stiff and often very working on certain boundaries. Maybe a new prospective is needed in order to give these problems a new twist.

Technology in the Eyes of the Child

In the Bible (please don't ask me where since I only remembered it through my religion classes in my long years of studying in a catholic school) when Jesus asked about faith he answered that one should see it through the eyes of the child. Maybe that is what we are forgetting that in our haste of incorporating technology in education we failed to consider how technology is being perceived in the eyes of a child.

Technology in the eyes of child is fun. I remember the time I was growing up, it was 1972 and martial law was just declared. During that time almost all television shows were cancelled except for cartoons and Sesame Street. Those who were well off during those times could afford television for it was too expensive then that the whole neighborhood was watching television right there in your living room or through your windows. At those time, Filipinos were very much proficient in the English language since the television shows and movies back them were mostly in English. Fast forward 30 years hence we find ourselves in a situation of having a generation of Filipinos failing English proficiency examinations or who could hardly read and write in functional English.

Our educational officials are finger pointing as to how we have reach this point that it is very difficult to comprehend since we do have a lot of Doctors in Education but yet we have a generation that is failing in English proficiency. The answer could lie in the fact that we have taken a very stiff approach to the problem. In our world right now English is something that is very structured or a combination of words and its relationships such as adverbs, adjectives, nouns, open sentences and so many technical jargons. We forget about one thing that learning should be fun and one learn something very eagerly when he is having fun. Our world right now is a world of complexities that I find it amusing to learn that there is now a prohibition to air past episodes of Sesame Street most especially the episodes done in the 1960's since they considered the scene of milking the cow as a cruel and inhumane way of treating animals for heaven's sake.

Recently I saw the pictures posted in Facebook by Ms. Ruth Marya, an Indonesian friend and colleague studying at the President's Open Source University about their recent activity teaching open source to children. I emailed her and requested an outline of their program. What she shared with me provided an insight Ruth being young not like me only young at heart. In explaining what an operating system is all about she told the participants that it is the soul of the computer that without it the computer would just be a shell. In the end of her long email that after she itemize the software they were using she said they had a lot of fun. I guess that's it we have to take back the fun part in technology in our schools so that our children would learn.