ICT and DepEd K to 12: Different Angles, Same Conclusion

“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.”
-Seymour Papert

"Seymour Papert is a mathematician and one of the early pioneers of artificial intelligence. In addition, he is internationally recognized as the seminal thinker regarding computers and pedagogy for children. A mathematician by training, his collaboration with Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva led him to consider using mathematics in the service of understanding how children can learn and think"

You will find more of Papert's thoughts in the Daily Papert
I recently read from an email that the Philippines is currently looking for a well-published researcher to advise on design, implementation, and evaluation of information and communications technology (ICT) interventions in public primary education in the country. Rainier A. Ronda also writes in the Philippine Star, "DepEd to Use ICT to Enhance K to 12 Basic Curriculum". The Department of Education (DepEd) in the Philippines has partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to assess the current state of ICT in the primary and secondary schools. This review supposedly aims to help DepEd integrate ICT into its new K to 12 curriculum. The study begins with an inventory of resources and includes a survey of how these are being used in the schools. ICT is expected to assist in learning and teaching as well as in the school's administrative functions. And counting resources is certainly an important step in evaluating ICT usage in Philippine schools. However, as in other cases, the one important factor in education may be totally taken for granted. 

This topic will surely take us several years back. The dawn of personal computers and the internet was in the early nineties. And as early as the introduction of ICT to schools, critical reviews have been published. Below is an example from the Journal of the Learning Sciences:

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.

Efforts to assist elementary schools in Paete occurred before the following paper of Clark et al.:
Indeed, ICT can serve various roles in basic education. The chapter above arrives at the conclusion that the choice of media does not influence learning or motivation. Media only deliver instruction but do not influence learning. Studies that evaluate the impact of technology in the classroom need to be carefully designed. It is important that assessment zeroes in on the exclusive effects of the choice of medium and as Clark et al. have found, if these careful considerations are made, no contribution on the learning of the students comes solely from the medium chosen.

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:


Fitting the above in one table and maintaining a "portrait" orientation could be challenging. And it is quite a feat to place all of the above within one spreadsheet. There is one teacher in each school who seems to have mastered the details and have conquered the mouse. Knowing which part of the menu to click certainly adds a magical aura on the exercise. In a way, the scene reminds me of the "Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy" sketch of Saturday Night Live:

Dowloaded from  http://techhelper.com.au/fun-stuff/nick-burns-your-companys-computer-guy/
Click the link to view some samples.
Each school has a "Nick Burns", who not only is in charge of the computer instruction for the pupils, but also the administrative functions of the school that is attempting to use ICT in their daily functions and reports.

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:

Science Education
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Microscope Imaging Station External Web Site Policy

Explore a tiny universe. The Microscope Imaging Station at the Exploratorium in San Francisco lets visitors take control of powerful microscopes. Take an up-close look at stem cells, sea urchins, and immune cells bent on destruction. The station is funded in part by an NIH Science Education Partnership Award.
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Office of Science Education

Free resources for science teachers. NIH’s Office of Science Education coordinates science education activities at NIH and helps to develop programs that serve elementary, secondary, and college students and teachers, as well as the public.
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NIGMS School Resources

Free interactive games, posters for the classroom, and other science education tools are available online for students and teachers. Order full sets of some publications using the Educator Order Form. These fun and informative materials are produced by NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).
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Environmental Health Science Education

Teachers: Get easy access to an array of classroom activities and curricula. Students: Discover the links between human health and the environment. Scientists: Need to give a presentation to your child's class? Get some ideas and reliable materials from NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
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NIDA Goes Back to School

Find free materials geared to K-12 students, plus parents and teachers. Teachers can access colorful curriculum materials, as well as fun and educational games, quizzes, and other activities from NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
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Health & Education

This website includes health and educational resources for students, parents, and teachers. From NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
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Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA)

From science museums to K-12 classrooms, NIH’s SEPA Program supports exciting and innovative educational programs that boost understanding of health and science research among students and the general public. Sponsored by NIH’s National Center for Research Resources, SEPA projects are created through partnerships among researchers, educators, and community groups.
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Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award (SEDAPA)

NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse funds innovative science education projects to teach varied audiences about neuroscience and the biology of drug abuse. Projects include interactive web games and materials to enhance middle school curricula. SEDAPA projects reflect partnerships between educators, researchers, and community groups.

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:
All the necessary ingredients do seem present. The facilities may not be as extensive as schools in the United States, but the backbone required for delivering learning materials has been made available. A collection of links to educational resources has likewise been compiled. But as hinted near the beginning of this post, there are additional important factors. I spent three weeks in Paete, giving demonstrations to both parents and teachers. For each hour, there are five parents and five teachers, with whom I share ways in which we could use the internet to facilitate learning. I knew that I needed support from both groups to integrate the internet into learning inside the classroom and at home:
Internet for the parents
Internet for the teachers
In 2005, about a year after Facebook started as a social network among Harvard students, teachers and parents of Paete have registered for an online forum for Paetenians worldwide. It was hoped then that we would start sharing pictures, stories and lessons. Years later, Facebook has grown immensely and Filipinos are among its active users, but lessons and resources on the internet still rarely cruise through internet cables and air waves.

What did we miss? As Clark et al. have pointed out, the choice of medium does not influence learning nor motivation. During the time I was inside Paete's classrooms, I wrote: 

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.

How does DepEd K to 12 relate to this discussion? First, it is wrong-headed since it neglects an important factor in basic education, the teacher. Congressman Palatino describes K to 12's treatment of teachers as:
"...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...."

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