“Bawal yan!”

We’ve been borrowing the school’s library for more or less three Mondays already. The more frequent our visits, the more unwelcome I feel. Ever since our first day at the library, every so often, a teacher or two would peek and ask the librarian who we are and what we are doing with the kids. Nonchalantly, the librarian would explain and the teacher would (seemingly) sneer at us. At first I thought I was being paranoid, so I didn’t give it much thought.

A while ago, though, we received more than the usual inhospitable glare from one of the teachers. “Bawal yan!” she told the librarian. “Bawal sila dyan!” she insisted. The librarian reasoned with her, telling her we have the permission of the principal, but she wasn’t convinced. Loud enough for some of the students to hear, she exclaimed “bawal yan!” for a second time as she stormed out of the library.

I don’t get it, really. I don’t get why she did that. If she wanted to drive us away, then she could have just talked to Teacher Thea or me privately. Assuming that she and her co-faculty members weren’t properly notified of our presence, then we could have discussed it diplomatically. I couldn’t help but wonder, didn’t it occur to her that by expressing her (for lack of a better term) anger towards us in front of the children, she could have discouraged, not only our students, but their tutees as well. If such is the case then the least they could do is address their concerns to us in a professional and civil manner. Not to exaggerate, but yelling in front of the children may be harmful to their psychological well-being. Moreover, it turns the school into a hostile and stressful environment for the children.

I really don’t understand why to some of the teachers, it’s as though we’re doing something wrong. Where is this hostility coming from? Are we intruding? Are we a burden to them? Isn’t it obvious that we simply want to help them by helping their students? Are we at fault for not making our intentions and objectives clear?

On the Group and Individual Assessment Tests

Not to underestimate the students of the school, but I was (slightly surprised and) impressed by the results of the group assessment test. Out of 225 students who took the test, only 14 scored below 50%. Although, I should remind myself not to jump to the conclusion that the results reflect the efforts of the school in maintaining quality education. After all, we only tested the morning sections. The grade level coordinator herself said that students in the afternoon batch have poorer performance than their morning counterparts. Had we tested both batches, we might have gotten a much different outcome.

Nonetheless, I guess it worked in our favor since we only have 6 student-tutors. Also, it’s our first time to partner up with the school. Logistically speaking, it made the course more manageable. But then again, I can’t help but feel bothered by the idea that there might be students in the afternoon sections who might need our help more.

On the way to the school, I had the chance to chat with one of our student-tutors. I asked how his students are doing. According to him, both his students could already decode words albeit slowly. One of his students, however, couldn’t differentiate the concept/idea between “pantig” (syllable) and “salita” (word). “Edi, anong ginawa mo?” I asked. “Hinayaan ko nalang po. Nag-note nalang po ako sa lesson plan, Ma’am,” he replied. I advised him to take the time to explain the distinction between the two terms next meeting. “We can’t let the child stay confused,” I added. Sensing that he would probably give a technical definition to the child, I suggested that he simplify his explanation. One way to do this is to explain by giving examples that are familiar to the child:

A word refers to a single idea, action, or object. This word can be  made up of one or several syllables. For instance, “aso” consists of two syllables but refers to one animal. “Upuan” consists of three syllables. There are single-syllable words and multiple-syllable words. I also advised our student-teacher to use the student’s name and his own name to illustrate the definition of “syllable” vis-a-vis “word”.

Knowing that he’s from engineering, I said, “parang sa Math lang yan, kailangan laging mag-simplify.” As I write this blog, it just dawned on me how that was such a lame attempt to relate to my student.

On Teaching NSTP-LTS

Lately, several friends and acquaintances have been asking me why I decided to teach at the College of Education. Some question my career choice; others (quite frankly) don’t believe I belong in the teaching profession because of my educational background. I’m often met with puzzled faces whenever I tell people that despite graduating from the Dep’t of Political Science and studying Law, what I really want to do for the rest of my life is teach. I couldn’t envision myself anywhere else, but in the classroom. Hence my decision to pursue an MA in Education.

I’m not really sure how to convince them. All I know is that I’ve always wanted to work in an environment that encouraged creativity and made me feel like I could make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve always wanted a job that would not only challenge me intellectually and push me to study and research, but also allow me to share my knowledge and skills to others. All these were satisfied when I pursued teaching as a career.

Perhaps, one of the reasons I decided to be part of the NSTP-LTS team is that I wanted to find others like me — students who, albeit coming from non-Educ colleges, have developed a genuine love for teaching. I wanted to reach out to the “outsiders” and give them an opportunity to explore the practice of teaching. Don’t get me wrong, though, it is not my intention to persuade them to shift to an Educ course or recruit them into the College. All I wish to do is to help them realize and appreciate the beauty of the profession — share with them the sense of fulfillment a teacher gets after each successful lesson. And in so doing, perhaps, there’ll be more people who’d understand me — more people who’d understand how a non-Educ graduate like me could have (inexplicably) fallen in love with teaching.

Issues in Educational Technology

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(Note: Since I’ve already discussed the digital divide in a previous post, I shall concentrate on the issues of cyberbullying, internet addiction and plagiarism.)

The thing with issues like cyberbullying and internet addiction is that these involve a scenario where both teachers and parents cannot fully monitor the online interactions students engage in. This, however, should not preclude them from taking steps to prevent and mitigate the harm caused by cyberbullying and internet addiction.

Before enumerating these steps, I think it is apt to establish the assumption that our students, especially those under the age of 18, are not mature in their understanding and ability to interact appropriately online; thus, it is within our prerogative and duty as their guardians in school to put safeguards in place to protect them.

We, teachers, should also realize the importance of working hand in hand with the parents in addressing such issues. Parents are in the best position to detect irregularities regarding their children’s computer use and behavior. We can keep them involved by doing the following:

  1. either via workshops or one-on-one consultations, inform the parents of the signs that will help them identify if their kids are addicted to the internet and/or are cyberbullying; of the ways to address these problems; and of the risks posed by these issues;
  2. advise them to supervise the computer activity of their children at home as you do while they are in school; and
  3. encourage them to talk to their children about these issues.

With that said, once in the classroom, we should never lose sight of the fact that we, as teachers, are role-models in the eyes of our students. Therefore, one effective way in preventing the issues mentioned above is modelling appropriate computer use. We should be able to demonstrate to our students that we can use technology without abusing, overusing, and causing it to inflict harm on other people. We should emphasize to them the importance of striking a balance with respect to using technology.

Finally, here are the steps we can take in tackling the issues of cyberbullying and internet addiction according to Roblyer:

Cyberbullying

  1. Have students sign internet safety pledges promising they will not cyberbully
  2. Educate students about what cyberbullying is and how to best deal with incidents they either notice or are victims of
  3. Without being intrusive to your students’ privacy, reach out and let them know tat they can count on you
  4. Let them know that you will not tolerate any form of cyberbullying in your classroom and tell them why.

Internet Addiction

  1. Differentiate internet addiction from normal use of the internet;
  2. The moment you sense your students showing signs of spending too much time with the internet than normal, suggest to their parents to seek the assistance of a counselor, psychologist or support groups that deal with internet addiction;
  3. Encourage your students to participate in social activities like book clubs, sports teams, and hiking groups to keep them from spending too much time behind the computer screen.

Moving on to the issue of plagiarism, just as we would not tolerate cheating or any other form of traditional academic dishonesty in the classroom, we should implement policies that sanction digital academic dishonesty as well. We can do this by using those online anti-plagiarism softwares that detects “copied-and-pasted” works when checking our students’ papers. We should let our students know that we have such measures in place and that we, teachers, are also aware of websites that that sell essays to students. A simpler way to address plagiarism is by assigning unique topics that will compel students to write creatively on their own.

Here’s fun way to teach kids on how to avoid plagiarism using Harry Potter – a quick and graphic guide on citing sources by Kate Hart:

A Teacher’s Guide for Using Social Media

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Instead of discouraging students to use social networking sites, why not encourage it? We need to keep up with the times, as they say. Of course, the use of these sites during class hours should solely be for legitimate educational purposes such as those outlined by this diagram.

We should take note, however, that we have to ensure equal access to online media among all our students. So, for instance, if we’re going to require our students to submit a project that necessitates the use of the internet, we should give them ample time to complete this in the school’s computer lab during class hours with all their other classmates. We should remain mindful of the possibility that not all our students have the means to go online.

Reclaiming my brain from the internet age

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Here’s a good read: Una Mullally’s “Reclaiming my brain from the internet age“. It points out some of the detrimental effects of the internet on our cognitive performance. It also reminds us that multitasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We develop such an ability at the expense of our attention levels and memory. So, it really pays off to break away from all our gadgets and gizmos every once in a while and take time to appreciate a much more basic way of life. Somehow, I find it emancipating to go through several days without having to fuss about charging a phone or finding an internet connection and still be able to function normally, more so productively.

Personally, I think I’m in desperate need of an intervention of some sort. It has reached the point where my mind has not a scintilla of idea what “concentration” is anymore. I highly doubt if it even knows the concept of “retention”.

Here’s a quote from the article that definitely made me go, “OMG! IKR!”:

I began to see a correlation between myself and others who are online too much; an over-consumption of coffee; a wide knowledge “about” things but not actually “of” them – Cliff notes as opposed to wisdom; an “early adopter” shame attached to not knowing about something the minute it happened; and, most of all, the collapse of concentration levels caused by distraction.

All of these things caused a mental buzzing that was hard to turn down. I found myself crashing more, mini episodes where my brain would shut down like a dodgy laptop, and experiencing an odd manic fatigue at the end of the day caused by the amount of information stimulation.

An Overall Reflection on Prof. Clavio’s EDCS 101

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On the first day of class, I reserved my expectations about the course since I knew little to none about Curriculum Studies. After all, I came from a field different from Education. I thought to myself that I was not in a position to put forward a list of (high) expectations. To be honest, among the reasons I took the course is that it was simply required by the CPE program. So, I admit I was slightly disoriented in the beginning. Whatever confusion I initially had, though, was dissolved on the day Ma’am Clavio presented to us the course syllabus.

The course syllabus laid out everything. So much so that skimming through it will already give you an overview of all the components and structure of the curriculum process. (Actually, the way it is organized makes it a great exam reviewer.) Albeit the fact that the syllabus is easy to navigate, mind you, it is quite detailed. And as a class we did our best to follow it down to the tee. However, due to unforeseen circumstances like frequent class cancellations due to the inclement weather, we had to make adjustments. I find it impressive that in doing so, we did not skip or depart from any topic in the syllabus. Rather, Ma’am Clavio would integrate and compress several subject matters that were supposed to be discussed in 2 or more meetings into 1.

As a way of fast-tracking the lessons, instead of holding a typical lecture as what most professors would do when pressed for time, Ma’am would hand us activities and games from which we’d draw the lesson/s of the day. She seemed to be fond of such a dynamic way of teaching that I can’t recall having a meeting where we didn’t take part in some sort of exercise. Not that I’m complaining. As a matter of fact, I think these games and activities offered us ample opportunities to interact with our classmates, Ma’am Clavio herself and even the authors of our references like Ornstein and Print. So, one could surmise that there never was a dull moment in class.

Moreover, while Ma’am gave us individual homeworks, most of the activities in the classroom were done by group. I remember during our first meeting, for us, students, to get to know each other, Ma’am devised a game wherein she asked us to group ourselves depending on our opinion on a given current event. We were given time to discuss our views with the people in the same group as us before she would present another news bit. We would then have to regroup with other people and repeat the same process.

Not only do activities like these foster cooperative learning, but these also help us develop our critical thinking and problem-solving skills. For instance, another activity we had to jumpstart our discussion on the social issues and trends of the curriculum involved a short movie. Ma’am asked us to watch it all together in class and asked us to list down the different issues we noticed in the film. Afterwards, she asked us to share our individual answers with our groupmates and rank these according to importance. The process of deliberating together helped broaden our perspective and actually put our critical thinking and problem-solving skills to test as we had to consider the various and (more importantly) conflicting opinions of all the members of the group in deciding which issue to prioritize.

Another interesting group activity we had was creating a curriculum as our final project. It really isn’t as easy as it seems. If anything, I’d say we had our work cut out for us since none of us in the group had a background in Education. In spite of that, however, I think we managed, (nay, we did a pretty good job if I may say so myself). I’m shamelessly proud of that because (well, for me) the PREP curriculum that we produced in the end was a result of pure team effort and equal hard work. The entire process was egalitarian. Each member of the group was involved in every step of conceptualizing and concretizing PREP. What is odd, or rather fascinating, is that it wasn’t something we explicitly agreed on. I don’t think it’s because no one wanted to take the lead, but it was more like we respected and recognized each other’s opinion and capabilities so much that we all wanted everyone to take part and have an input. So, what we usually did was, after doing our own research work, we would meet as a group before and/or after our EDCS 101 class or any time during the week. Together, we would deliberate and discuss what had to be done and plot it all out on paper. Perhaps, the most blatant division of labor we had was articulating the parts of the final paper. (Note: the content/substance thereof was thought of and unanimously agreed on by all members of the group.) I was in charge of the situational analysis and intent. Dot wrote the content. Learning activities was assigned to Celeste. Miriam wrote the implementation. And Kat was in charge of the evaluation. Other than that, we pretty much did everything together including the powerpoint presentation and revision of the paper.

Feedback on our group’s curriculum was fairly positive evident in the grade they gave us which ranged from 40-50, if my memory serves me right. The main concerns of our classmates mostly revolved on the question of whether or not there will be significant demand for the PREP curriculum considering that our target students belong to the middle to the upper class. We answered this by asserting that there is a growing interest among middle to upper class couples from today’s generation to be actively involved in their children’s lives as manifested by the prevalence of parenting magazines, TV programs and other media that cater to the same market. Also, our curriculum can easily be replicated for the lower class as long as it will be subsidized by the government or other organizations. In the first place, what only prevented us from extending the PREP curriculum to the lower class was the availability of funds and resources since implementing it will cost a lot of money.

Another thing I noticed in class is that we were not reliant on a single type of activity and material. In addition to the movie I mentioned earlier, we also used powerpoint presentations, text cards, drawings, and a ball. Yes, a ball. But regardless whether Ma’am used traditional or digital media and whether or not she used any at all, our class meetings were always engaging and meaningful. We actually had a meeting where members of the class just talked — a pure discussion on the models of the curriculum, if I remember it correctly. Despite that, I can say for certain that we all took in the lesson well.

Ma’am Clavio was not remiss in providing us with a variety of resources. Personally, the resources on the Philippine K-12 curriculum were a big help to me as I was able to use and include these as my references for my EDCS 223 class wherein I had to report and write a paper on the Politics of Curriculum. (If anything, I’d go so far as to say that I exploited the materials provided to us.) Access to these resources was never a problem as well and Ma’am made sure of that. During the first 2 to 3 meetings of the class, she took the time to ensure that everyone was a member of and had access to Edu 2.0 where she would upload all the files we needed and used. Edu 2.0 was also where we would submit our daily reflections, consult with Ma’am and see our grades.

Speaking of reflections, aside from a written exam, we had to write daily reflections on the topics that were recently tackled in class. Perhaps, it was a way for Ma’am Clavio to assess if we learned anything — if we truly absorbed and understood the subject matter.

To some, having to write these reflections every week may seem taxing. But I really think it paid off in the end. Not only because it trained (and forced) me to write and tested what I knew, but because I found it quite gratifying to read and revisit them in the end. More so, when Ma’am would give the grade (which by the way she’d give just a meeting after we’ve submitted our reflections. Talk about speedy.), she would also comment on them which I highly appreciate as it gave me an idea on what she expected from each of us in the class and what I had to work on the next time I had to write an assignment. Her comments also kept me from being clueless and from constantly wondering if what I wrote was substantial or if it made any sense at all.

Needless to say, although I was compelled to take the course, I don’t regret enrolling in it for a moment. EDCS 101 gave me an opportunity to discover and understand the rudiments of curriculum studies — a field I’m seriously considering as an area of specialization for my Master’s degree. Without any intention of sucking up to the professor, the class also inspired me to be creative when it comes to teaching. It made me realize that in choosing a teaching method or instructional design, as a teacher, I should make sure that it innovatively enhances my students’ learning experience and constantly engages them in the classroom. Since ultimately, paraphrasing Dewey and McLuhan, what students do in a classroom is what they learn and what they learn to do is the classroom’s message.

On the Foundations of Curriculum

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Curriculum development is founded on different subject areas. In the words of Oliva (2005), “it requires the use of an amalgamation of knowledge and skills from many disciplines.” The working knowledge involved in the process of curriculum development is derived from various fields of study which include philosophy, history, sociology and psychology. Principles and concepts from these disciplines heavily influence curriculum making which is why they are regarded as “foundations” by curriculum specialists.

Philosophy for instance, provides a framework for determining the aims, means and ends of the curriculum. More often than not, curriculum decisions manifest the belief and values system of curriculum makers. Their own views on reality and on what ought to be taught dictate their actions and attitudes towards setting the elements and structure of a curriculum.

History, meanwhile, enlightens curriculum makers on the evolution of the curriculum and the changes different curricula have undergone through time. It gives them insight into the events during certain periods in history that could possibly explain why people designed their curriculum in a particular way at that moment. Curriculum makers can learn from such past experiences and treat these as guides for their decisions.

By providing explanations on how people learn, psychology also serves as a basis for deciding on what methods, materials and activities should be best included in a curriculum. It gives curriculum makers theories and ideas on how the curriculum can effectively influence learning.

Social issues are also important considerations in developing a curriculum. Curriculum decisions do not take place in a vacuum, rather these occur in a complex social context. Therefore, these have serious implications on society and are conversely affected by social institutions and agents. Curriculum makers take into account the demands and needs of society as they work on a curriculum.

How do I envision myself as a teacher now given the different foundations discussed in class? Quite frankly, I do not wish to get ahead of myself and declare a sort of official personal vision and mission without further analyzing the principles and approaches I could say I adhere to. Suffice it to say, I’m still in the process of constructing my self-perception as a teacher. I’m still in the “getting to know” stage with respect to the different foundations of curriculum development. So, I still find it difficult to decide on which theories I will use in the future. It’s not that I’ll choose one over the other, on the contrary, I’ll most likely combine them. It’s just that I’m still debating the reasons I’m choosing to combine this specific feature with that. As much as our class discussions and readings have enlightened me, I admit that these have also (slightly) overwhelmed me. Perhaps it’s partly because not only do I want to be acquainted with the foundations, but I actually want to “know” them. Thus, this has compelled me to research and study more on the various foundations of curriculum development to further deepen my knowledge and strengthen my views. So, by the time I am already confident to proclaim my personal ideals with respect to teaching and curriculum development, I know I’m speaking with substance and can stand up to what I’ll be saying which shall be supported by sound arguments.

Sources:
Oliva, P. (2005). Developing the curriculum. New York: McGraw-Hill.

On the Roles of Teachers in EdTech

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One of my biggest misgivings about some teachers is their lackadaisical attitude and approach towards teaching. I could say that I have had my fair share of their type: those who merely read out a textbook; those who ask students to copy verbatim whatever is on the black/white board everyday; or those who love to indulge themselves with excruciatingly boring monologues that usually have nothing to do with the lessons. Not to sound arrogant, but I do believe that they are a complete disgrace to the teaching community. For me, teachers have the duty to provide their students with the best learning experience and environment to the best of their ability and knowledge. Yes, they are obligated to make both teaching and learning as engaging, effective and meaningful as possible. One way to fulfill this obligation is to learn how to use different instructional tools and explore their application. To not take advantage and maximize the use of different media in the classroom is to neglect this responsibility and disregard the needs and interests of students. Teachers must bear in mind that they take on the role of “developers of resource materials“, that is, “activity builders [and] creators of new learning environments.” (Ravet and Layte as cited in Harden and Crosby, 2000) Thus, it is imperative for them to continually further their technological literacy. Teachers need to keep up with the accelerating development of technology and learn to integrate the emerging types of media into their instruction and productivity. Their lesson plans must then be adaptable and flexible. These must evolve and change as technology does to ensure that these, along with the teachers themselves, remain relevant. As Lever-Duffy and McDonald (2011) mentioned in their book, “we cannot imagine a teacher unable to read and write. We should no more be able to imagine a teacher unable to use technology. Educational technology skills are, for today’s educators, essential skills.” This is why I think educational technology must be a professional requirement that should be assessed regularly.

More importantly, teachers have to fully realize that they are role models in the eyes of most, if not all, of their students. By virtue of their position in the classroom, they have the power to shape, not only the abilities, but the dreams of their students. They set an example to each and every child. So, it actually saddens me whenever I hear or I’m reminded of such instances wherein a student beats his teacher to figuring out a simple task like turning on a computer. I’m not saying that teachers should always know more than their students, technology wise. My point is that they should, at the very least, exert some effort into upgrading their knowledge base and media competence. Otherwise, they get left behind by and end up as a big disappointment to their students.

It is in this light that I believe teachers must never lose sight of the fact that teaching is not a right. Rather, it is a privilege with corresponding responsibilities which require their full commitment. Teachers must be able to prove that they deserve to teach and can live up to this privilege. They should never grow complacent and be contented with what they have learned in college. Some of the things they have learned during that time might even be obsolete already especially at this day and age. With respect to educational technology literacy, it is “a dynamic and fluid requirement” that needs to be continuously complied with. (Lever-Duffy and McDonald, 2011) Hence, great teachers, for me, are those who have the initiative and energy to be lifelong learners. To be one nowadays, teachers should never lose the drive to learn. They should keep on studying and discovering different ways to make their classrooms more exciting and effective. They should embrace technological change and use the knowledge they have gained to enrich the learning experiences of their students.

Sources:

Crosby, J. and Harden, R.M. (2000). The good teacher is more than a lecturer – the twelve roles of the teacher. Medical Teacher, 22 (4), 334-347.

Lever-Duffy, J. and McDonald, J. (2011). Teaching and learning with technology. Boston: Pearson.

On Learning Theories

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It’s time for me to admit and address the fact that my study method sucks. My study method mainly involves rote memorization (i.e.continuously repeating then recalling the material) and rewarding myself after each successful attempt. So, it’s basically characterized by a Behaviorist approach to learning. The problem is that I hardly retain  the stuff I study through this manner. I would only keep them for a short period of time which lasts until a few days after the exam or recitation on the concerned subject area. Ask me about the stuff I studied months later, and I would hardly remember anything. Also, as much as I’m embarrassed to admit it, I tend to simply parrot what the readings say. Perhaps these are among the inherent flaws of Behaviorism. Incorporating some Cognitivist principles would probably be a good start in reforming my study method since Cognitivism provides explanations on how our brain sends information and events from the short term memory to the long term.

However, I wouldn’t want to get rid of the rewards system entirely because it does have some advantages. Particularly, rewards drive me to study; thus, studying becomes a form of delayed gratification. Rewards, not only make studying worth it, but they make me feel great afterwards.

This leads me to speculate that I might use an eclectic approach when I start teaching. Instead of limiting my instructional method to being guided by a single learning theory, I’ll combine different principles by choosing parts of those learning theories that will best match my students’ needs, interests and characteristics. This means that prior to designing my lesson plan, I’ll perform some sort of diagnostic to determine my learners’ preferences and abilities. The combination and arrangement of the learning theories I’ll use will then depend on the outcome of that diagnosis.