KISSAH AND DAWAT: Technology in Education

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“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” – David Warlick, author and programmer

EL NIDO, Palawan (MindaNews / 11 April) – Citizen monitors from all over the country converge in this tourist town to share update and learning in the DepEd Computerization Program (DCP) as implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The meeting is also a segue from the local monitoring of DCP-recipient schools in El Nido and surrounding areas.

The DCP as implemented by UNDP represents Batch 34, Lot 1 of Batch 37, Lots 2 and 3 of Batch 38 of the program. DCP recognizes the value of technology in promoting accessible and quality education. Technology access for the DCP’s Batch 34 is specific to unenergized schools or schools without access to power grid, i.e. 3,694 schools nationwide. The package consists of Solar PV Power System (SPSS) and ICT equipment: The SPSS consists of 3 units of 120 Wp Solar Panel with standardized solar panel framing model, 1 unit Inverter/Charger, 3 units of 100 Ah battery, 2 units 7w LED light and 1 lot balance of power. The ICT equipment includes 1 unit laptop, 7 units tablet, 1 unit wireless router, 1 mouse and 8 units carrying bag.

Technology and Education

Conventional thinking about technology views the utility of this package as limited to teaching Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills under Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) subject. However, the interaction between project implementers and teachers allowed the latter to consider technology integration across subject areas. Heidi-Hayes Jacobs, a recognized American education leader, once said, teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event [1].

ICT skills training is now a must for teachers. It is not anymore an option, but a necessity. For example, in the United Kingdom, the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are planning to develop new national standards for basic digital skills – “needed by all individuals in order to safely participate in and contribute to the digital world of today and the future” [2].

These are crucial elements of technology relevance and consequently, positive impact on student learning. I heard from Director Abraham Abanil during the ceremonial switch-on in Lantawan, Basilan, that they are in the process of crafting an omnibus policy towards this direction. Without clear-cut institutional policy, the utilization of technology in teaching and learning continuum would be left to teacher’s creativity and initiative; and school head’s deep appreciation of technology relevance in education and school management. It is apt that school managers be reminded that it is not technology per se. Marion Ginapolis, an American schools superintendent reflected, “it is not about the technology; it’s about sharing knowledge and information, communicating efficiently, building learning communities and creating a culture of professionalism in schools. These are the key responsibilities of all educational leaders”[3].

Technology, Education and Culture

Because the target is unenergized schools, expectedly, many of them are in remote areas and remote areas are often populated by cultural minorities, such as Subanen in Zamboanga Sibugay; Teduray and Lambangian in southern Maguindanao; Tagbanua in Quezon, Palawan, etc; Bajaw in Tawi-Tawi. For most of pupils from cultural minorities, the program provided interaction with technology for the first time. In one Subanen school in Zamboanga Sibugay, we can see the sparkle of amazement in their eyes.

Let us be clear, there are two matters at hand – how can technology improve learning for students from minority background? How can technology be utilized to promote cultural learning? These two matters are brought together by an observation: “minority students may be discouraged from accessing online content because of an absence of exposure to computers in general or because of a lack of racially and ethnically diverse information on the internet.”[4]

Implementation

Like all program implementation, the very nature of targeted schools informs us that there are inherent challenges. Geography, peace and order, weather situation, school and community readiness, are among the common ones; with variance in intensity and extensiveness.

Two unique features of the DCP as implemented by UNDP are: (1) public procurement practice according to international practice and policy reform; and (2) citizen participation in governance (CPAG) through citizen monitors engagement in school assessment and readiness, package installation and utilization, and follow through monitoring and satisfaction survey. The UNDP’s open bidding policy resulted in about 3% savings which went to supporting the second item on engaging local citizen monitors throughout the implementation process.

Is DCP an attempt at education equity and is it able to impact positively on the digital divide? In one paper, the digital divide is defined as “the division that exists between the information rich and the information poor.” It is observed that advancement in technology has resulted to easy access to information. Accordingly, digital divide (also called inequity) “can exist along racial, economic, academic achievement (low-achieving versus high-achieving classes), and geographic (rural, urban, and suburban) lines. A student in a rural school who lacks fast Internet connections does not have the same access to information as a student in the city [4].” How about then unenergized and cultural communities?

Sustainability

Sustainability is a developmental concept close to heart. I would like to believe, any project or program should be make this integral in its vision and process. The US Government’s Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) described four barriers to technology integration in instruction: inadequate teacher training, a lack of vision of technology’s potential, a lack of time to experiment, and inadequate technical support [4]. These barriers need to be recognized and addressed properly. It is not enough that the computer package is delivered. The return on investment is assured by its utility and the positive impacts on teaching-learning continuum.

According to OTA, “underlying these obstacles stems in part from weak or inconsistent financial support for technology. Much of the money used to support technology in schools has been provided through special governmental appropriations … but rarely become a part of the regular, operating budget of school systems” [4].

Finally, I am reminded by a statement of Caroline Belisario, the project manager, “indeed, it requires a village to make the difference” as she observes people from DepEd, LGUs, NGO partners, military, media and local community moving around to deliver and secure the package in schools.

References:

[1] Heidi Hayes Jacobs – professional background – http://www.ascd.org/Publications/ascd-authors/heidi-hayes-jacobs.aspx and quote – http://www.ourict.co.uk/famous-technology-quotes/

[2] “Basic Digital Skills” – https://www.thetechpartnership.com/basic-digital-skills/basic-digital-skills-framework/

[3] “Technology in education quotes” – http://edtechreview.in/news/2112-technology-in-education-quotes

[4] Read more: “Technology in Education” – StateUniversity.com http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2495/Technology-in-Education-SCHOOL.html#ixzz5CKXLDWUa

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