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Fast, reliable internet connection can make online learning work

The new Filipino classroom

By May Dedicatoria Published Nov 05, 2020 3:00 pm

They say the hardest school subjects to teach online are those that require hands-on training, namely, Technology, Vocational and Livelihood (TVL) courses. Yet, months before the start of SY 2020-2021, the teachers of Lagro High School have proven that it’s possible to teach Home Economics and Industrial Arts. Their mock trial videos even reached viewers in other countries, prompting them to transfer from Google Meet to Facebook Live.

When the government announced the lockdown in March, the heads of Quezon City public schools beganbrainstorming the possible online learning setup and surveying their students to identify who had gadgets and internet connection.

In Lagro High School, in particular, students and teachers were already used to utilizing the internet for home-based classes before the pandemic, according to its principal, Dr. Maria Noemi Moncada, who also presides the Principals and Supervisors Association (PRINSA) in Quezon City.

“This is not new to us. When there’s a typhoon, we do online classes because we have to finish certain topics every grading period,” she says.

Upon the approval of the home-based learning this school year, the city government donated 170,000 units of tablets to public schools and teachers have been equipped with PLDT Home Wifi Prepaid units.

“We were lucky because the tablets from the city government have the software that we use for the modules. Students can choose between full-online classes or blended learning, while some will still be using full-print modules for the first two months,” says Moncada, adding that they’re working on 6,000 more tablets to transfer all remaining students in the full-print system into blended learning.

Students and teachers in San Francisco High School in Quezon City are now powered by PLDT Home Wifi.
Lagro High School welcomes the PLDT Home Wifi prepaid units.

Pure online, blended learning & full print

“Full print is for independent learners who can study on their own using the modules, with no intervention of teachers except for the checking of works and written outputs. To make sure that what students understand is according to the competency being expected from them after learning the lessons – that is the hard part,” explains Ms. Edna Banaga, principal of San Francisco High School and vice president of PRINSA.

The Department of Education has yet to release a memo on how schools can evaluate and grade the students. Moncada says that at present, they plan to require each student a reflection on the lessons as a new form of exam. In other words, students will show how the lessons apply to the lives.

“We have to devise assessment tools. Some suggest non-graded performance, but it’s not advantageous,” she says.

Banaga explains that the students’ answers to exams should not be searchable in Google. “We have to make sure that the activities are according to the competencies and the students will really be able to apply their learnings. We have to assess their authentic learning.”

The San Francisco High School has created a horizontally mapped enrichment activity, where all eight subject areas can measure the required competencies and grade each student with just one submitted output.

“What would you look for if you’re a Science teacher or English teacher, without compromising the competencies required from them? That’s authentic assessment. It’s not really essay type because it’s also searchable online. For example, the topic on plate tectonics for Grade 10. We ask students about their learnings and insights related to the Taal Volcano eruption,” the principal shares.

In Lagro High School, classes will run for four weekdays; the remaining day is for uploading and downloading assignments. There are two subjects per day for Grades 7 and 8, while four subjects daily from Grade 9 to Grade 12.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco High School, classes are spread out from Monday to Friday.

To prevent eye strain among children and help them save on internet data, the schools will only allot 30 minutes per subject for real-time online classes and the other 30 minutes for quizzes or other activities.

Every quarter, the assigned ICT coordinator in each school will upload the additional online modules in the tablets, which contain all the lessons, including the asynchronous activities.

“We’ve always heard about the 21st-century classroom, but there’s no actual application of that before the pandemic. Now, we can say we really are in a 21st-century classroom because anywhere we are, we can conduct faculty meetings, we can attend classes,” Banaga says.

Aside from honing the teacher’s digital skills, Quezon City schools are also taking steps in nourishing their mental health, as well as the students and parents’. Since July, the schools have been holding webinars on mental health awareness.

“We taught the parents how to use technology, how to troubleshoot, but more importantly, how to guide their children to have a stronger and resilient attitude because they’re still adjusting. We teach them how to spot anxiety symptoms in their children,” says Banaga.

“We are strengthening our guidance program. We have two very efficient guidance counselors in our school, and we tell them, ‘Now is the time that you shine.’ Our students are in their houses and they’re prone to stress and anxiety, even their parents. And both should be catered by the guidance counselor.”

Classroom shortage is no longer a problem

The two school chiefs agree that the Philippine school system will no longer go back to the old normal, as home-based learning will solve the persistent problem of classroom shortage. Only, the government should instead focus on improving the internet speed and availability in the country.

“Give one to two months, and everyone will get used to this new system,” says Moncada. “When things normalize in SY 2021-2022, there will only be 20 students in a classroom, still with social distancing and masks. Then the other 20 students will study online.”

She relates the country’s “new normal” to Japan’s “new life model.” “We should accept this new reality. You live with the COVID-19. You shouldn’t just wait for it to disappear because it will be here to stay. What students should do is observe the health protocols.”

Banaga adds, “For the students, parents and teachers, I wish them a stronger body in the midst of pandemic and a stronger mindset to embrace the unforeseen changes. I hope all the children adapt to these changes.”

She stresses the importance of high-speed internet for every home. She adds, “Internet connection in every home is now a basic need. I hope that help would be extended to students who don’t have the means to have strong internet at home.”

Moncado reiterates that most applications require fast connectivity to run,thus the need for fast and reliable internet. Teachers are able to save time in developing learning modules and become more efficient with the help of a fast internet connection.An educator for more than four decades now, she explains that “no matter how rigid the training is for our teachers to prepare, internet connectivity plays a vital role to get online learning to work. Online learning had become a reality we should all adapt in this new era.”

Learn more on how PLDT Home’s fastest internet connection can help your children’s learning at home. Visit www.pldthome.com.

Editor’s Note: BrandedUp is designed to provide you with insightful, inspiring and educational content created by PhilSTAR L!fe in collaboration with brands like PLDT Home.