Monday, October 12, 2009

Local Partners Open New eSkwela Centers

At the eSkwela center in Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay, learning facilitators teach eSkwela learners how to use the e-learning modules and module guides.

Local partnerships paved the way for the establishment of 13 more eSkwela centers in the country.

Through the initiative of different implementers, such as Department of Education (DepEd) divisions, local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs), schools, and civic groups, 21 eSkwela centers are up and running as of September 2009.

eSkwela centers accommodate out-of-school youth and adults (OSYAs), enabling them to attend information and communication technology (ICT)-based learning sessions. With the help of learning facilitators, OSYAs undergo learning sessions, which make use of digitized modules and a learning management system.

Through these learning sessions, OSYAs can acquire relevant life skills, prepare for the Accreditation and Equivalency Exam (A and E Exam), and finish their high school education, among others. Those who pass the A and E Exam, which is administered by DepEd, receive a high school diploma.

New centers established

In Luzon, the new eSkwela centers are located in Baguio City; San Fernando City, La Union; Laoag City, Ilocos Norte; Boac, Marinduque; and San Fernando, Camarines Sur.

eSkwela Baguio City is spearheaded by the Save our Street Children Foundation, a non-government organization, while eSkwela San Fernando City is led by the San Fernando Christian Community.

The eSkwela centers in Boac, Marinduque; Laoag City, Ilocos Norte; and San Fernando, Camrines Sur are led by their local DepEd divisions and LGUs. eSkwela San Fernando, Camarines Sur is the first mobile laboratory in the country. (See the story Bringing Alternative Learning Closer to OSYAs).

In the Visayas, the new eSkwela center, which is led by the local DepEd division and LGU, is located in Tanauan, Leyte.

Seven eSkwela centers were set up in Mindanao. These are in the cities of Davao, Digos, Pagadian, and Oroquieta and in the municipalities of Asuncion, Davao del Norte; Isulan, Sultan Kudarat; and Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay. These centers were established through the support of local DepEd divisions and LGUs.

Other stakeholders also include Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao, which is an active partner of eSkwela in Davao City, Digos City, Asuncion, and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. In Oroquieta City, the eSkwela center was sponsored by the local DepEd division, the Misamis Occidental National High School and the Parents, Teachers and Community Association.

The four eSkwela pilot sites are located in Roces, Quezon City; San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; Cebu City, and Cagayan de Oro City. These were followed by eSkwela centers in Ormoc City, Zamboanga City, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, and Kalumpang, Marikina City.

Need for local support

The Commission on Information and Communications Technology, through the Human Capital Development Group, works closely with the Department of Education, particularly the Bureau of Alternative Learning Systems, in bringing ICT-enhanced educational opportunities for Filipino OSYAs.

The establishment of new eSkwela centers would not be possible without the initiative and support of local partners and stakeholders though. Through these partnerships, additional eSkwela centers are established and more OSYAs in the country are provided with free alternative learning opportunities.

Related Stories:
First batch of eSkwela scholars in Tanauan ready to take DepEd's October 11 A&E test

Davao City DepEd launches eSkwela pilot center in Region XI
New computer sets given to Tanauan’s CeC

Monday, October 5, 2009

The eSkwela Experience (contribution from WMSU)

Below are testimonials from two WMSU team members who are involved in the eSkwela Content Development Project...eSkwela touches lives indeed. =D

Maycibel Rodriguez, Pool Leader (eSkwela developer)

I have only been on a rollercoaster ride once, and the experience was enough to last me a lifetime. Every time the car twisted up and hurled down at a speed only theoretical physicists with an “unusual” sense of humor can appreciate, I mentally screamed a prayer to every saint I can think of. Considering I was a mere jumble of barely suppressed fear and excitement, the ability to even think of trivial thoughts at that time was no small feat. However, it was one of those experiences that can make you look back and cringe but at the same time grin like a fool. It was good because it was bad. My e-Skwela experience was something close to that fateful rollercoaster ride, only better.

I can still remember clearly the day our Department Head told us about the project. When she laid out the description of the project, the requirements, the time frame, and the compensation, well, you might say we sort of focused on the last part. The rest was a bit vague but we figured it was worth a try.

Actually, during the first three to four months of the project development, that was exactly what we did – we tried. Boy, did we try. Between our classes, students, scripts, media, and whatever little personal life we had left, we had to juggle our time, effort, creativity, and consciousness (getting three hours of sleep became our definition of a “good night sleep”). There were even times when I came close to pulling my hair out of frustration, but only because I thought it was impolite to yank someone else’s hair right off their scalp. Ok, that sounded harsh, but thankfully that’s all water under the bridge now.

The thing was, the project was something new to all of the members in the team – we’ve never done any flash programming, we never thought that learning Adobe Photoshop can be life-changing (it used to be one of the unused applications in my PC), we’ve never had to deal with different sets of people with different perspectives and requirements (and we had to consider all of them), we’ve never designed interactive course content, and we never thought that trips to Manila and Bataan will be a monthly activity (for nine consecutive months, no less). In short, it was the first time we ever ventured so far away from our comfort zones. Looking back, I’d say those were the “cringe” moments of the whole experience. The turning point came with the first Beta Review.

The night before our flight for Manila and Bataan for the first Beta Review, we were still working on the last topic of one of our modules. There were still illustrations to draw and polish. The audio was yet to be edited and joined with the video, and of course, the whole thing was yet to be programmed and published. At that time we were working at the library of the college. However, when 11pm came and it was clear that we will need more time to finish everything, we decided to take everything to my home and finish it there where it was safer and the supply of electricity was more stable. We continued working until dawn. The flight for Manila was scheduled for 7 am. I started to pack at 4 am. We finished all media and programming at 5am. Publishing took nearly an hour to finish. Finally, around 6 am we were on our way to the airport. Standing there at the side of the highway waiting for a jeepney, I saw a plane making its final descend and I thought about my flight. Suddenly, it hit me. That must be the same plane for my flight! However, my home is approximately 12 kilometers away from town and the airport, and there was not one jeepney in sight yet. I fought down the panic and just refused to think that I will be late for my flight.

Luckily I was right, and everything went well for our trip. Better yet, we were able to get some sleep before leaving for Bulacan early the following day. Moreover, the review was a success. I was ready to fall asleep again on my feet but I knew I still had to fight it off for at least 2 more hours (I was awake for 24 hours straight, and slept for 4, so go figure). However, seeing the enthusiasm and excitement of the participants was like watching the final piece of the puzzle fall into place. Somehow, it all finally made sense – the design requirements, the language and the tone, and the impact that the modules can make on the lives of the learners.

After that, we somehow had a better understanding of what we should aim for. It also became easier to manage our time to accommodate any last minute changes or adjustments. Furthermore, we expanded the team to include a number of selected students to help us in the development.

Like a rollercoaster ride, the e-Skwela experience had its share of highs and lows. However, I now understand that the only way to get to the former is to go through the latter. To date, all of our 20 modules have been certified by the Department of Education, making us the first SUC to have all their modules certified. Knowing that and looking back, I find myself grinning like a fool because well, yes, it sure feels good to know I was able to make it through alive, in one piece, my sanity intact, and with two or three new skills to boot. Best of all I have come to know and made friends with a lot of people – Ma’am Nida and all the reviewers from DepEd BALS, Ma’am Lydia and the members of her team, Doc Lloyd and his team of experts, and of course Ma’am Mel, Jops and the rest of the e-Skwela team.

In one way or another, I believe I speak for the entire WMSU team when I say that although the e-Skwela project has initiated a paradigm shift in our way of teaching and learning, we prefer to think that through the project we were able to make a difference in the lives of other people.

Mel Sheena Carballo, student developer

This eSkwela project started when some of the modules were given to us as part of the requirements for the Software Engineering subject. Instead of doing the usual softwares, I decided to be part of something new so I volunteered to be in one of the groups that would handle the assigned modules. At first, I thought that it would be very difficult since we had to make a software that teaches instead of keeping records, but I took it as a challenge.

As we were developing the module assigned to our team, I have learned the importance of education, that not everyone is given the chance to formal education. Upon knowing the objectives of the eSkwela project, I have realized that through this project, the out-of-school learners can also be educated through this type of learning system that employs the use of softwares as instructional materials. That is why our team really did the best that we can to be able to present our topic in a way that can easily be understood especially by the out-of-school learners. I also learned to be patient and be cooperative with my team because no matter how difficult things get, as long as there is patience and cooperation, everything will be alright.

As the saying goes, “Success is a journey, not a destination; the doing is more important than the outcome”, and for me, how we developed this project is more meaningful. Through this project, I was able to do things for the first time. Together with my team, I lived in a house for a couple of months, had sleepless nights, acted and did voice-overs. And, the most meaningful of all are the memories that I have shared together with my friends and teachers. I was able to have good friends through my team. I really enjoyed their company. Some of the things that I cannot forget about them were when we had to be actors for our own scripts and would end up laughing just by seeing ourselves in those videos, when we had to conduct meetings at midnight regarding our presentations to the client for the next morning. All of these were thanks to the eSkwela project.

My eSkwela experience is one of the things that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity to be part of it.