“My challenge to you is to think about how to place the evolution of learning technologies in comparison with the progress from technology‑aided theater to cinema and beyond. It’s almost inevitable that a new technology would be first used by grafting it onto existing practices. Thus, the computer gives rise to computer‑assisted teaching and the Internet to online teaching. In principle, these concepts are equivalent to technology-aided theater.”
|You will find more of Papert's thoughts in the Daily Papert|
Papert ends the article above with the following paragraph (I have made bold the important phrases, in my opinion):
In conclusion, I use a political metaphor to express my most profound points of agreement and of disagreement with Tyack and Cuban. Designing an alternative education is a Soviet-Gosplan-like enterprise whose ultimate fatal flaw is what made the Soviet system impossible. Tyack and Cuban spell out in the case of School reform how centralized social engineering inexorably goes wrong. Complex systems are not made. They evolve. Where I part company from Tyack and Cuban is when they turn from the book's historical theme of showing that reform will not work to give advice to reformers about how to do it better. My own view is that education activists can be effective in fostering radical change by rejecting the concept of a planned reform and concentrating on creating the obvious conditions for Darwinian evolution: Allow rich diversity to play itself out. Of course, neither of us can prove the other is wrong. That's what I mean by diversity.Taking this discussion to Philippine basic education brings me back to a town in Laguna called Paete. But before that, it is important to note that Papert's vision is so much loftier. Papert talks about constructing video games that introduce projectile motion, in which a student can correctly visualize that change in the horizontal axis is linear while in the vertical axis, it is acceleration that is constant. This is certainly one way of learning what a parabola is, but it is clear that even in this decade, this is still very much a dream. My excursion to Paete has a much simpler objective, to see how ICT can assist both teachers and students.
Nonetheless, my objectives in Paete were to introduce the computer and internet as sources of learning materials. The project started with providing personal computers in the elementary schools. At that time, there was room in DepEd's basic education curriculum that allows for incorporation of instruction on how to use computers. Initially, the computers were used to teach students word processors, spreadsheets, and slides. This, of course, is quite challenging since the above are all tools. These do not provide content, what to write using a word processor, what to tabulate and compute in a spreadsheet, and what to present using slides. In Kindergarten, where a pupil is taught how to write and draw, we start with the letters, we start with colors, we try to improve those fine-motor skills. What do we do with a personal computer? Do we learn to point and click? Do we learn to find and memorize where the numbers and letters are on the keyboard? The number of students enrolled in elementary schools presents an additional challenge. Where would we get enough computers to teach all the students. And similar to other places in the Philippines, we become inclined to deviate from "education for all". The computer classes will then be provided only to the cream of the crop, thereby contributing further to the learning gaps in primary education. Two years after the project was launched, I decided to be directly involved. I spent three weeks in Paete to sway the project into a different direction. DepEd has also changed its curriculum and there is no longer any room in the elementary curriculum to have specific computer instruction.
I found that the computer classrooms in Paete were all well kept. The principals were in fact using them to comply with DepEd's mandated school action plan where each school is made aware of their goals. An example is shown below:
Click the link to view some samples.
I came to Paete with a different agenda. The availability of computers in schools certainly provides an opportunity to teach pupils and teachers office software packages. But I had additional plans. It is not as lofty as that of Papert, but it touches on using ICT to facilitate learning in the classroom. The computer is a gateway to learning resources all over the world. Each classroom can become a computer classroom with a laptop, wireless internet, and a multimedia projector. And all subjects, except mother tongue and social studies, can benefit from presentations made by other educators in other countries. The National Institutes of Health in the United States alone has compiled a huge resource for health and science education:
Internet resources for kindergarten and first grade pupils are likewise available. The following are examples:
The resources are indeed available. And with an equipment grant from the Cisco Product Grant Program, a wireless network has been established connecting all three elementary schools, the high school, the municipal office, and the library:
|Internet for the teachers|
With this past week that I spent here in Paete, I am now a bit more aware of the day-to-day life of an elementary school teacher. Each day begins early in the morning with a flag ceremony and a short exercise session. Like the teachers, I also spent talking almost nonstop from morning until late afternoon. And with all the fumes coming from tricycles and motorcycles, my throat had taken a lot of punishment this week. I could only imagine the everyday life of an elementary school teacher in Paete. Unlike the teachers, I am served with a very good breakfast by my host family. During lunch, I also received a nice meal from the school that is hosting me. And in the evening, either the mayor, my host family, or someone from Sangguniang Bayan usually have something ready for my dinner. On the other hand, the teachers after working hard the entire day would still have to worry about the meals of their respective families. Yet, they do their job with such great dedication and sacrifice.Similar to the other posts in this blog, this article intends to highlight a central theme in addressing problems in Philippine basic education. We must consider the teachers. A teacher can only afford to embrace technology and find innovative ways to teach if given the time and ample support. A teacher whose pay is not adequate to support a family's basic needs will not have the time and energy to explore new learning resources. This is required. Browsing the internet already takes time. But even if links are provided so that only one click is required, we still need the teachers to actually read the material and evaluate how to incorporate it in the classroom. These efforts take time, energy and attention.
"...Worse, the prefabricated learning materials were designed by ‘experts’ in such a way that the only creative task required of teachers is to unpack them, follow the specific instructions in the kit, and then grade the students. Even the learning guides already contained exact examples and details of course content, teaching methods, and test sheets which teachers are required to use inside the classroom. Under K-12, teachers are subjected to a ruthlessly efficient reskilling and deskilling process...."