Metro Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It’s not easy being a teacher in this new era of blended learning. On top of the usual lesson plans and lecture preps, our teachers now also have to successfully make the move to online learning platforms in order to reach almost six million Filipino students who are enrolled this school year but prohibited from physically attending classes.
To help our teachers cope with the herculean demands of this digital shift, several initiatives have surfaced with education channels on YouTube, complete with recorded lessons and teacher tips.
If you’re a teacher or parent looking for easily-digestible lessons for your kids, then you should go check out 21st Century Teacher, a channel with videos that reach more than 18,000 views and gets positive feedback from users who value its “caring teachers” and crystal clear presentations.
This may have something to do with the group’s work in remote areas. Before 21st Century Teacher was a channel, it was first a Facebook fan page in 2015 started by Dr. Athena C. Ceniza and her Ed.D and Ph.D graduate friends from the Philippine Women’s University. Their vision was to make education as free as possible, and they posted free learning materials online for other knowledge givers, whether teachers, parents or guardians, to use.
“We promote 'naked teaching' — the method of using the barest of all resources available to both the learner and the knowledge giver,” said Ceniza. “So we coined the term Third World Classroom Tech, which means using whatever indigenous materials are available.”
This lent itself well to teaching in remote communities, using materials as simple as leaves and garbage bags or technologies as advanced as computers and the internet. The group does outreach work in calamity-stricken areas, donates part of their publication income to these communities, and also provides these materials all for free use. Used primarily for learners in Kindergarten to Grade 3, the materials, which have a familiar logo of a sitting teacher with yellow hair, were a familiar sight in schools in the countryside.
Today, their YouTube channel features animated storytelling sessions, dotted tracing names, and how to make DIY playdough at home. Many of their new videos also feature recordings of teachers giving actual classes, thus lessening the burden on parents guiding their children at home.
When it comes to equipping fellow teachers, the channel also hosts webinars on coping with the new normal, earning 21st Century Teacher a fanbase even among educators abroad.
“To a great extent, we always try to align our materials to the Department of Education (DepEd) standards so that we can support government efforts better,” said Ceniza.
21st Century Teacher believes that the way to overcome the new normal is to define policies and methodologies for it, and that the first step to doing so is to equip knowledge givers. Ceniza said: “At the center of this new normal are the direct knowledge givers: the people at the homes and the teachers who are trying to use all kinds of learning delivery models to get the knowledge through.”
It’s one thing to take care of your students via online learning materials. But how about the need for teachers to take care of each other in these times as well? Enter the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) vlogs, which one can liken to a virtual lounge where teachers can exchange tips and techniques.
The YouTube channel is launching a new series called “Scholar Speaks Vlogs,” which are bite-sized videos featuring teachers discussing topics that are relevant and timely to them, in the hopes of supporting other teachers this new school year. Many of them were actually their scholars, said Zarina San Jose, Scholarships Program Manager. Topics range from tips on teaching for the better normal, caring for oneself, or sharing a specific skill, like graphic design or multimedia work.
Like content creators, the featured scholars pick their topic and write their own scripts, following general guidelines from PBEd.
A teacher who has viewed these webinars, Michelle Nerona Espina, raved about the resulting webinar topics.
“Yes, this time talaga mabibigyan na ng kahalagahan yung relationship ng teacher, parents, students, and community pagdating sa education/learning. #PBEdScholarSpeaks,” she commented on a video.
For their part, the organization hopes their YouTube channel can be a place for teachers and learners to visit so they can take care of their emotional well-being while maintaining academic rigor.
“Not only do we want to attract the best and the brightest into teaching, but we also want to make sure that they get the best education possible,” San Jose said. “If we can set high standards for our doctors, engineers, and lawyers, then we must also do so for our teachers, who train our next generations who will eventually build and rebuild our economy.”
Well aware of the lack of stable Internet connectivity, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) launched Bayanihan e-Skwela, an initiative with three parts: a gadget donation drive, community learning hubs, and an instructional video series.
“The term distance learning is unfamiliar to many, and the fear springs mainly from the perception that it means learning will be done entirely online,” Vice President Robredo told CNN Philippines Life. “Understandably, this is a cause of concern for many households, especially those that cannot afford gadgets, computers, or even a decent internet connection. But more than this, there are many areas in the Philippines that have little or no connectivity, leaving the use of technology as a distant aspiration for students and schools there.”
Together with the Kaya Natin Movement, the OVP first sought to provide the assistance that was most requested of them — gadgets and internet connection, which are unaffordable for many families already struggling in this pandemic. But having recognized that these would not be enough, they then set up community learning hubs, which are learning facilities set up in areas with a high concentration of learners who need assistance in terms of materials, gadgets and equipment, and tutoring.
But it seems these weren’t enough. After consulting with public school teachers and the College of Education of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, they found one more glaring gap.
“From these conversations, we realized that aside from gadgets, equipment, materials, and assistance for learning, one of the most apparent fears in the transition to distance learning was how unprepared the adults felt — teachers and parents alike,” VP Robredo shared.
She recounts how the teachers considered themselves unprepared and unskilled for the giant shift to tech, and were confused which among the whirlwind of webinars would be the easiest to understand and to juggle with preparations for school opening. For parents, it was the anxiety of having to suddenly take over the role of teacher at home.
This was how the Bayanihan e-Skwela Instructional Video Series was born.
On their YouTube channel and Facebook page, teachers and parents will find how-to videos on teaching them techniques for online learning, modular learning, and TV/radio-based instruction. Through bright animations and celebrity teachers such as Janine Gutierrez, Enchong Dee, and MacoyDubs, Bayanihan e-Skwela’s episodes offer insights on why education must continue amid the pandemic, how to take advantage of teachable moments at home, and designing formative assessment through simple exercises.
To make sure that these episodes are accessible to Filipinos from all walks of life, the Bayanihan e-Skwela modules were tailored to fit different learning scenarios in homes and communities. Each video also has a summary in its caption, to accommodate those using Free Facebook, and there are plans to deploy the same materials to areas without internet connectivity.
“I am proudest of the fact that this initiative is a fruit of bayanihan — the power of collaboration.” VP Robredo said. After the OVP posted a request for reinforcements, numerous creative agencies and talents volunteered to produce these episodes in partnership with subject matter experts and teachers. “And as we move forward, we actually welcome partnerships with other platforms that offer online education tools,” she said.
The channel has raked in a lot of positive reviews since its launch, many of them focusing on the clarity of the lessons presented, or even just the voice of the teacher.
“Ang galing sobrang linaw magsalita mo Janine. 💖💖💖,” commented Erlinda Santos.
But the Vice President said there is so much more to be done to reimagine education in the Philippines.
“I believe that reimagining how we educate our youth also presents an opportunity for us to reassess our education system,” she said, outlining an inclusive and actionable checklist that has come to be associated with OVP:
1. Revisiting core competencies and assessing why many learners still do poorly in basic math, science, and reading;
2. Equipping our teachers to reduce their insecurity about using technology and providing them access to these materials;
3. Rethinking and customizing curriculums at local education systems to better match the jobs available per area;
4. Preparing our youth for the next generation of jobs (especially those that might be replaced by Artificial Intelligence); and
5. Making education receptive to our strengths as a country (for example, making agriculture a viable source of livelihood seeing that it was the sector least affected by COVID-19).
“Education, as many Filipino families believe, is the single most important gift that we can pass on to the next generation,” VP Robredo said. “In order to help realize this dream, we need to work together, expand our reach, listen to and address the needs of our schools and communities, so we can ensure that no student, no teacher, and no family is left behind.”