Genine S. Torres
The pandemic struck at a time when we least expected it and it has ultimately forged a reality that is far different from our imagined futures. The presence of Covid-19 in the Philippines brought with it many unforeseen challenges for various sectors in our economy. Sharp economic decline, instant job losses, and large-scale outbreak– these are the words that are quickly becoming our new normal. Although it is true that only uncertainty is certain at this point, a significant thought dawned on me– the virus threat served as a rite of passage, which has significantly fast-tracked vital shifts in technological integration in the field of education.
With only a month before the end of classes, I remember teachers being livid back in March about the announcement relating to the Luzon-wide lockdown restrictions. The initial question on their mind is how they can establish new ways to deliver lessons and ensure that the students are still engaged and meeting the required competencies. More importantly, teachers were forced to face a choice between e-teaching and traditional teaching, which also highlighted a stark divide: younger teachers embraced online technologies while seasoned teachers focused on supplementing traditional activity sheets. I firmly believe that it was at this moment when the Department of Education realized that it was essential for the schools to adopt the idea of moving from a culture of teaching to a culture of learning. With this in mind, desperate measures were put into action.
Seeing how grave the limitations were in the educational sector, various institutions made an early call by immediately motivating educators to turn to remote learning technologies. For instance, local publishing houses spearheaded Facebook Live webinars, which conveniently equipped teachers with relevant skills that formed their confidence in facing the crisis. Several speakers from all over the world also paved the way in equipping the teachers and administrators with using engaging technology mediated instructions as an alternative to the customary face-to-face based education.
Guided training programs via Zoom were also deployed for free in order to ensure that teachers will be given undivided attention if ever they encountered a technical difficulty. Who would have thought that the current crisis would unveil the potential of mobile applications, video conference software, and web-based solutions in teaching? The key takeaway here is that educators are willingly allotting time to attend these online sessions and it has become a clear manifestation of their grit to transform their practices and mindset towards rich and flexible learning.
There is no denying that, at first, the sudden shift to remote learning and work from home set-up was indeed demoralizing and challenging for most teachers at first. The idea is further echoed by teachers sharing sentiments related to both frustrating technical difficulties and limited internet access. Despite these challenges, the Department of Education is standing firm on its belief that learning does not have to stop, it simply must evolve.
In the span of three months, a sizable number of teachers who participated in various webinars and training sessions have already shown improvement in their ability to use educational technologies. For instance, my mother, who is still a teacher at age 54, is already sending me tons of personalized emojis which she learned from one of her webinar training sessions. I have also seen how she seemingly masterfully used those to personalize her Google Slides on her own Google Class. Likewise, she has also excellently created her own Google website complete with video backgrounds.
To fully establish interactive blended learning, teachers were advised as early as June to have their setup for internet access. It is no secret that the biggest threat in e-learning is the poor internet connectivity in our country. It is a good thing that more and more internet providers are giving cost-effective alternatives and promos especially for teachers and students. Even the local government is aiding the teachers and students by trying to find calculated ways to provide free internet access for all.
With more teachers being empowered to search and utilize the vast repository of knowledge on the internet on their own, I saw them making alternative activities and projects by using print-ready materials for those who have limited internet access. There was one teacher who also pre-recorded her lessons so that the students may copy the video discussions via flash drive or view it a mouse-click away on YouTube.
Despite enduring many upheavals concerning the life-altering threat that is Covi-19, Filipino teachers remain resilient. It is about time that we recognize their collective effort in trying to establish a more transformative Philippine educational system. The amount of willingness, self-sacrifice, and support to dive in and do whatever is needed to ensure quality education is truly inspiring.
To be honest, I have never been prouder to be a teacher at this desperate time because I am surrounded by so many passionate and dedicated teachers in the field.