BRIDGEIT, TEXT2TEACH: TEXTING FOR EDUCATION
The project utilizes commonly used applications of digital technology in a three-step process. A teacher uses a cell phone to request a science video from Pearson’s huge science library via satellite to a digital recorder connected to a television in the teacher’s classroom. (For the project, the technology is provided free to each participating teacher for his/her use in the classroom).
"The project puts together three commonly available elements–the cell phone, the recorder, and the television–in a novel way. These elements are commonly used in one’s personal or business life. Now, these will be used in the field of education," said Nokia senior vice-president for corporate marketing Martin Sandelin.
In choosing the Philippines as the pilot site, Bridgeit took note of several pluses, such as the country’s comfort level for digital technology, particularly the cell phone, and its English proficiency.
"Being an archipelago was a minus factor that became a plus factor. If we took out all the minuses, the project may not be representative of developing countries," said Sandelin.
Another minus factor that became a plus is the consistently low science scores of Philippine students compared to their contemporaries elsewhere in the world.
"The project has a developmental goal as well," said UNDP resident representative Terence Jones. "Bringing kids a broader range of information that’s more up to date, more user-friendly, and more exciting will not only keep them engaged, it will help keep them in school."
Getting to work
The control group of 80 teachers from 37 public schools and three private schools. The schools were chosen to represent both urban and rural areas–Quezon City in Metro Manila, Batangas-Laguna, and South Cotabato.
"This project allows teachers to control how to teach. It gives them a sense of ownership," said Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology director Erlinda Pefianco, who took charge of the one-week training of the teachers in Manila and the selection of videos from the Pearson library applicable to Grades 5 and 6 students. The short videos, which contain answers or explanations to the most commonly asked questions in science, supplement the national curriculum set by the Department of Education.
"At the end of the one-year pilot next year, we would have tested assumptions such as the training and technology mix. We would have evaluated the enthusiasm of both teachers and students for science. We would have measured increased knowledge gains among students," said IYF vice-president Alan Williams.
Replication will also depend on cost issues. The start-up investment for the one-year text2teach pilot is conservatively placed at $1.5 million. Future implementing costs are, however, expected to go down because of one-time, non-recurring costs such as research.
"There are no magic bullets for everything," said Jones.
After everything is said, however, the organizers of Bridgeit and its local partners in text2teach are practical men who like to dream.
"Our reputations are on the line," said Zobel. –MJGrey
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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