COTABATO: TEACHING SCIENCE VIA TEXT AND SATELLITE

SERO CENTRAL SCHOOL, COTABATO CITY, August 25, 2003 (STAR) The giant replica of the solar system still dangles from the ceiling of the science classroom but it is no longer the centerpiece of learning at Sero Central School in Cotabato City.

A few weeks ago, teachers and students at Sero Central – and 39 other elementary schools across the country — have begun viewing educational science videos requested through text and downloaded via satellite right into their classrooms.

This classroom innovation is part of text2teach, the Philippine-based pilot of the Bridgeit Project, which was launched last May by global partners Nokia, the International Youth Foundation, Pearson and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The project is led in the Philippines by Ayala Foundation and is managed and implemented nationwide by Seameo Innotech and the Department of Education. Globe Telecom, Nokia Phils., PMSI Dream Broadcasting System and Chikka Asia provide technical support.

Text2teach enables Grade 5 and 6 teachers to introduce to their students more than 80 full-length science videos that bring to life key scientific principles. While the project does not intend to replace the need for traditional learning tools such as textbooks, it aims to give Filipinos as young as 10 years old a more informed understanding of science and technology through multimedia presentations. Proponents agree that a strong foundation in this subject can help bring progress to developing countries.

Eighty teachers from 40 schools in Cotabato City, Batangas, Laguna, Manila and Quezon City have already been trained to use the service. They have also been provided lesson plans that, while customized to include various text2teach videos, complement the national curriculum.

Changing attitudes

Since the project was introduced in elementary schools in June, teachers have begun to notice some changes in their pupils’ attitudes toward learning science. Accustomed to seeing only pictures in textbooks or drawings of well-meaning teachers, students are becoming more interested in the subject because of the videos. They ask questions after watching the videos and participate eagerly in classroom activities.

On the first day that Julie Latonero showed a science video to her class at the San Agustin Elementary School in Novaliches, Quezon City, the room was abuzz with excitement. "In fact, even before the installation of the text2teach program, the children were already looking forward to it," says Latonero. "They were very happy when they finally saw the video because they could now see how those animals look like in real life."

Grade 5 teacher Olivia Regalado of Sto. Tomas Central Elementary School in Batangas has no problem getting students’ attention in her four science classes either. "They listen attentively and they are quiet. Before, only half of the class listens or answers my questions. Now when I say that we are going to know more about animals by viewing a video, their eyes light up."

Moreover, the videos seem to help the students retain more knowledge from their lessons. Says 11-year-old Ralph Dequiro, one of Regalado’s students: "Dati hindi po namin masyadong naiintindihan yung sinasabi po ng teacher. Hindi namin matandaan kasi hindi namin nakikita. Pag sa video, madali pong maintindihan kasi nakikita namin yung nangyayari (Before, we couldn’t understand the lesson. We couldn’t remember our lessons because we couldn’t visualize them. With the videos, it’s easier to understand because we see things as they happen)."

Benefits to teachers

Even teachers claim to benefit from text2teach. Yolanda Gorrero of P.C. Hill Elementary School in Cotabato City notes: "It really helps a lot. It lessens our burden in teaching science because instead of preparing more teaching materials, we use the video clips." She encourages other teachers in her school to use the science videos in their classes and hopes that a similar service will eventually be made for English and Filipino subjects.

For her part, Regalado says she has more time to study the flow of the next day’s lesson and develop interactive exercises. Since text2teach has provided lesson plans, she can focus on preparing better materials for experiments and group activities.

For example, in addition to showing a video describing the different physical characteristics of animals, Regalado created picture cards of body parts that her students should match to the corresponding animals. On another occasion, she prepared riddles related to the lesson.

Text2teach may still be in its infancy but the project’s partners are optimistic that it will achieve its intended outcomes and impact on teachers and students. It helps that the mobile communications and satellite technologies used by the project are able to surmount physical barriers such as geographic location. But a bigger factor is the enthusiasm that teachers and students have shown in embracing text2teach as a way to improve their science education.

In the meantime, the UP National Institute for the Science and Mathematics Education Development (NISMED) and the UNDP are documenting and assessing the project’s implementation to determine whether the Philippine model could be replicated in other countries.

Says Ayala Foundation president Victoria Garchitorena, "Through text2teach, we hope to make a meaningful and sustainable contribution toward bridging the gap in the area of technology in elementary education."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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