By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) has authorized the school heads to release electronic and communication devices for teachers to use in conducting online training and classes during the COVID-19 crisis.
DepEd Undersecretary for Administration Alain Del Pascua, in a memorandum dated April 8, Thursday,issued the guidelines on the use of desktop computers, laptops, tablet PCs, and smartphones at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pascua said that the principals or the school heads (SH) shall ensure that the devices, which are government property, are “properly used, cared for, safeguarded from natural and human elements.” These devices, he added, should be “recorded upon turnover to teachers.” Teachers, Pascua said, can “bring home the said devices to enable them to attend online training courses and conduct online classes for their students” using various tools.
Currently, Pascua noted that teachers can make use of DepEd Commons which is an online platform for public school teachers to support distance learning modalities; LR Portal and other websites “during situations when face-to-face instruction is no longer possible due to quarantine restrictions” brought about by the COVID-19 situation in the country.
Meanwhile, Pascua stressed that the “teacher is liable for any losses or damages while the device is in their custody if it is determined that there was negligence on the part of the teacher.” He added that the teachers will be “required to return the said devices upon the resumption of regular classes.”
While there is no final decision yet on the opening of the coming school year (SY) 2020-2021, DepEd assured that it is looking into various contingency plans to ensure that learning of millions of students will continue. In an earlier interview with the Manila Bulletin, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the DepEd is currently inclined to implement online learning for the coming school year if schools will remain closed due to the threat of COVID-19.
“I believe, under the circumstances, we’re moving towards that direction,” Briones said – adding that DepEd is seriously considering online learning which is also being implemented by other countries affected by the pandemic. “We’re looking into the use of ICT [Information and Communications Technology] given these circumstances,” she explained.
However, Briones recognized that there are major challenges in implementing online learning such as “equity considerations” to both learners and teachers. Online learning, she said, required devices and equipment such as tablets or laptops and access to the Internet which may not be available for all.
“If we are to accelerate the use of ICT tools in learning, we need to attend to these considerations,” Briones said. She also noted that DepEd has been taking initiatives to shift to online learning. “This is not only for this time or during disasters… even if we make it through this crisis, there will be a need to implement this in the future,” she ended.