If one Philippine organization gets its way, videoconferencing will soon be used in high school classes throughout the country to improve learning and at the same time, build national unity. To make this goal a reality, the not-for-profit PeaceTech Inc., is holding its first of several teacher trainings on classroom videoconferencing this week at Far Eastern University in Manila with the Department of Education.
“For us, this is the obvious solution, which education can provide in the 21 particularly in the Philippines,” says PeaceTech president, Atty. Gianna Montinola. “Videoconferencing engages students more than traditional teaching. And it builds national understanding because it bridges children separated by distance and background, particularly in Mindanao, NCR and the Visayas. “
At the trainings, more than one hundred DepEd teachers are being prepared to facilitate videoconferencing, which if all goes to plan, will be integrated into the Araling Panlipunan and Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao curriculums in the 2013 school year. Videoconferencing would then be integrated into more subjects in 2014 and beyond.
The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) funds the program. The DepEd and the Office of the Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process (OPAPP) are partners. PLDT is a program sponsor.
This is how the videoconference program works: Dozens of classes across the Philippines, first of all in Araling Panlipunan and Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao, are paired for two grading periods. Every time a class has one of the subjects, it is connected with its pair using Skype through a large screen at the front of the classroom. The teachers at both sides of the videoconference then facilitate the session so that the students in the Mindanao school learn with their brothers and sisters in the Manila school.
The DepEd and PeaceTech have revised the learning modules for this new learning method so that students learn more than what they would have without the videoconference: “With the DepEd, what we have done is included Mindanao perspectives into what the student learns,” says Monica Mabaylan, Program Manager for PeaceTech. “So now, for example, when the Grade Seven Class in Araling Panlipunan learns about Jose Rizal, it also learns about Mindanao’s heroes.”
PeaceTech’s objective is to make what the DepEd is doing a model for other education departments in Asia. The longer goal is to enable classrooms to learn together across the world.
But for now, approximately one hundred DepEd teachers are blazing a new trail for learning and teaching. And if they continue, they might even help their country come together!