29 November 2011

Digital is the new vernacular in learning

The commercial portable tablet computer has come a long way since it was introduced in 1989, evolving from bulky and stylusoperated devices, to thin, light and finger-friendly gadgets.
Fast replacing computers and even notebook computers, the tablet is proving to be the future of computing. So it is no surprise to see tablet computers invading schools today.
Tablet computers are now important tools of learning. In the Philippines, La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) takes the cue from its counterparts in more progressive countries like South Korea and Singapore and last week launched the Personal Learning Device Project or the Pearl Project. Simply, Project Pearl aims to replace heavy textbooks with e-books.
Last October, LSGH distributed more than 700 tablets to students from pilot sections from Grade 3 to fourth year high school levels. LSGH is the first school in the country to use this technology inside the classroom.
“For this generation, the digital world is their vernacular. We need to guide this love for technology. So this is where the school plays a special role. There is no way we can avoid technology and its use in our day to day business, particularly in a school system.
The schools have to adapt in this new medium of communication of this generation and the next. We shall lead the effort to use the digital world as the new vernacular in learning,” shares LSGH president Br. Felipe Belleza, FSC.
Pearl Project was conceptualized because of the problem schoolchildren suffer from today — heavy bags. In their own research, LSGH found out that a student carries 10 to 20 kilograms of weight in his bag because of heavy books.
Studies have shown that carrying heavy bags lead to poor posture and even spinal damage. It is recommended that schoolchildren carry bags that are only 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.
“It all started with the simple and perennial problem of concerned parents, where students have to carry very heavy bags. We did our own weighing of the bags of the students, the weight range from 10 to 20 kilos, depending on their activities for the day. You can just imagine the effect of this on the students’ bodies,” Br. Belleza explains.
LSGH thus purchased the tablets from Samsung Electronics, specifically Galaxy Tab 8.9, which is only a 0.34 inch thick and weighs just a mere 0.98 pounds or only 445 grams. To compare, an average textbook weighs from one to three kilograms.
This tablet computer is actually lighter than one textbook! “There is no denying that this will be the direction, whether you like it or not. It’s just a matter of time. The future is really on e-books. Print publication will continue but if we go into e-books we will also be helping the environment,” Br. Belleza points out.
Next year, all LSGH students using tablets will be asked to use books in ebook format, which will turn out to be less costly, Br. Belleza further shares.
Jun Lozada, controversial whistleblower and now LSGH information technology consultant, is one of the people who spearheaded this endeavour which is now in its first phase.
In Phase 2, Lozada shares, the tablets will be used as replacement for notebooks and assignments. It will also be used in school presentations and other schoolwork.
Phase 3 will entail using the technology with other technologies that the school is currently looking into. The last phase will allow the creation of new learning content and strategies.
Lozada is also proud to say that the project is a homegrown concept and LSGH is creating a different approach in technology-based learning.
“We looked at different models that are being used abroad but we adopted a completely different approach. Most of the systems are applications-driven and they just feed it to schools. We asked our partners to make our plans and ideas happen,” says Lozada.
In a demonstration, each tablet computer of the student is connected to the tablet of the teacher. There will be a big touch screen LCD unit in the classroom which the teachers and students can use in presentations.
They have a system that also allows parents direct access to their child’s performance. Results of quizzes and exams will be sent to the parents via email.
Br. Belleza says that they will assess the outcome of the project by the end of this school year. If all goes as planned, they will implement the other phases of the project and every student in LSGH, from Grade 1 to fourth year high school will have a tablet computer in their bags.
In the future they also plan to put all student records in the tablets including clinic/health records and even payment records.
Like every new undertaking, challenges are bound to happen. In this instance, although most parents are receptive with the project, some also have their apprehensions.
“Of course majority of the students are excited. Some parents are apprehensive but that is just natural. So we show that it can be done and it will be for the benefit of the students because learning is made efficient and effective,” Br. Belleza shares
LSGH also plans to make the whole school a wi-fi hotspot, but with the appropriate firewalls installed to block specific websites. By next year, each student who has a tablet will also have some sort of security badge in his identification card that is linked to his tablet. A student will not be able to leave school premises once the security detected that he is carrying a tablet that is not his.
“This is just the beginning. It’s going to change everything. They way they’re going to go to school. The way they’re going to do their homework. The way they’re going to do their exams,” shares Raymund Maclang, Samsung Electronics Philippines Corporate B2B Group head.
Br. Belleza is hoping that this is the start of new education system in the country. In fact, other schools have already expressed their interest in the project.
“We are committed to this project, not only as a means for us to improve our pedagogy but also because of its tremendous implications on Philippine education. We feel that it is important as we celebrate our centenary, we also try to look forward as to what we can do to Lasallian education in particular and Philippine education in general,” Br. Belleza ends.




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