“Adults often ask us why we’re always on the Internet. To us, that’s like asking why we breathe.”
So said Scott Lee Chua, high school student, native technology user, and workshop presenter at the first Frontiers and Innovations in Teaching (FIT) Conference held last April 23 to 25, 2014, at Xavier School, San Juan.
Indeed, many high school students these days can be identified as “digital natives,” the term coined by author Mark Prensky to describe anyone who has grown up using Internet-based technology. Digital natives spend much of their lives connected – using the Internet not only to interact and socialize but also to stay up to date with information and to express emotions and opinions. These young individuals, mostly born in the late 90s and early part of this millennium, adapt quickly to new technologies. Moreover, some researchers have found that this connection to a constant stream of information may make this group of young people one of the most knowledgeable generations that the world has ever seen.
So what can schools do to take advantage of the skills of digital natives, while preparing them with the traditional (and valuable) skills that have been taught across the ages? How can teachers adapt and take advantage of technology, just as their students do? These are the questions that were discussed by over 300 teachers, administrators and education students from various schools in the region came together for conference entitled: “Learning at your fingertips.”
Organized and hosted by Xavier School, the conference served as a venue for educators to explore, experiment and converse about the changing education environment. Each day was highlighted by keynote sessions with Apple Distinguished Educators and experts in their fields. David Larson, a design technology teacher at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong, shared his experience on adapting to the changes in technology and exploiting the possibilities that these changes offer to his classroom.
Day 2 was opened by Ms. Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler Philippines, who led a comprehensive discussion on the evolving online media environment, citing emerging phenomena such as crowdsourcing, big data, and the widespread participation in social media. Ms. Ressa challenged educators to think of how they could use crowdsourcing in education, just as citizens use social media to organize relief efforts during calamities.
Crowdsourcing, Ms. Ressa insightfully opined, is a kind of “21st century bayanihan.”
Ms. Melinda Alford, teaching and learning coordinator at Cebu International School, discussed the importance of something quite basic yet often forgotten: having fun in the classroom.
“It really is more fun in the Philippines,” Ms. Alford reminded the group. “And so there’s no reason why our classrooms can’t be more fun too.”
This brought home the message that behind all this technology, the most important connection is still the one we make with our students, and that we must keep the sense of wonder alive in our classrooms.
The last day was opened by Br. Dennis Magbanua, President of De LaSalle College of St. Benilde and former president of De La Salle Zobel. He shared about De La Salle Zobel’s journey of being one of the early adopters in using tablets in the classroom, and the school’s ultimate vision of enabling students to take part in nation building. This was further reinforced by DepEd Assistant Secretary Rey Laguda, who outlined government’s plans of improving public school education through various IT initiatives.
In between plenary sessions, participants took part in various breakout sessions, which provided an intimate venue for sharing effective teaching strategies, changing pedagogies, and various hands-on tech skills that teachers can easily apply in the classroom. Each day ended with synthesis sessions to give participants a chance to reflect on the past day and, more importantly, to identify concrete plans of action for their respective schools.
Much like the interconnectedness of the digital age, the 3-day FIT conference allowed the participating schools to break down the barriers for closer and more effective collaboration. Hopefully, this forum will serve as a jump-off point for schools to continue working together in this shared journey of exploring new frontiers and innovations in teaching.
photos by Mark Esquibel and Robert Bonifacio