By Ellson Quismorio
Smartphones will do in facilitating learning among students once classes start under the new normal, said Tarlac 2nd district Rep. Victor Yap as he noted that distributing laptops may be too costly.
“We don’t really need expensive laptops to be given out to every student. Kahit smartphone lang pwede na eh (Smartphones will suffice),” Yap said during a recent virtual hearing of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology, which he chairs.
The former provincial governor argued that two-way communication between teacher and student remains the “best format” as opposed to the one-way communication offered by broadcast television and downloaded lessons or modules.
In the hearing, Department of Information of Communications Technology (DICT) Assistant Secretary Emmanuel Caintic floated the use of the agency’s “Tech4ED” centers as a viable access point for online-based learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Kahit hindi sila pumasok technically, by scheduling pwede sila pumunta sa mga Tech4ED centers namin to download the content, go home, do your assignments, do your work, go back, then upload (Even if they don’t go to school, they can schedule visits to our Tech4ED centers where you can download the content, go home, do your assignments, do your work, go back, then upload),” he said.
Yap said teacher and student interaction could still happen via teleconferencing applications like Zoom, which incidentally has been the app of choice by the House of Representatives for its hearings since the public health crisis began.
“Ito over a hundred in attendance itong meeting na ito, malinaw naman naririnig ng lahat (There are over a hundred in attendance in this meeting, everybody is heard clearly). This is two-way. So why can’t those that have very good cable or Internet especially in the cities where there’s a density of population…ay hindi magawa itong Zoom classes? (why can’t they have Zoom classes?)” he asked.
Last week, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones said they were coordinating with the private sector for possible donations as far as electronic gadgets for students were concerned.
“We are also urging them, through our ‘Brigada Eskwela’ program, to donate gadgets instead of the usual school supplies,” she was quoted as saying.
Some local government units (LGUs) in the country have already begun to distribute laptops and tablets to school teachers ahead of the slated August 24 reopening of classes, particularly for school year 2020-2021.
The DICT is a close partner of DepEd in the effort to introduce blended learning methods in the new normal, since the new coronavirus makes face-to-face learning impossible.
Caintic said three things may be done right now to improve the learning experience of children at home. First, he said, is decreasing latency, which–using the example of Zoom–means placing the servers closer to the users of the app.
“That takes up investments in data centers within [the Philippines],” he said, noting that the main Zoom server is situated in Hong Kong.
Second, Caintic said, is ensuring the teachers’ readiness for digital education. “The challenge to digital education is training. So the DICT will invest heavily in training the teachers.”
“It’s hard to scribble [equations] on a mouse. We have to invest also in devices. We have to teach our teachers how to teach but we also have to give them teaching paraphernalia. Hopefully, we can give them tablets next year,” said the DICT official, who is a former educator.