Integration of Technology in the New Normal Learning Landscape

Some things come unannounced that you will never see it coming until it will strike you, and it will strike hard indeed. That’s what happened when the COVID-19 pandemic spread like wildfire in many parts of the globe, causing governments to employ drastic measures to flatten the curve of infections. These measures include the closure of industrial and entertainment establishments, imposition of physical distancing, and at worst, the community quarantine, instigating residents of affected areas to be quarantined in their houses away from everyone else.

In the verge of physical separation from others, we turned to the thing that will bridge the distance – technology. As the days passed since the first community quarantine, we have integrated technology more and more to their daily lives. Gadgets which have been cursory then, now played an important role as a means to deliver  tasks at work, as a way to be physically present during the blitz of online meetings in offices, and the tool to cope with the tons of work that everyone has to deal with as a consequence to the changes that the pandemic has brought. Now, more than eight months after the first infection was detected, we are still struggling to adapt to the so-called “new normal” way of life. On the personal scale, the pandemic has already caused so much changes in our daily activities. On the larger scale, the effect is staggering, especially on the Philippine Educational System.

The Philippine Educational System, in general has been defined by its traditional classroom setting where the teacher facilitates learning in the four-walled physical classroom environment. Although more innovative, technology-driven approach to teaching has been emerging such as the flipped classrooms and the 21st century science laboratories, the most modern classroom technology in public schools are mostly limited to non-virtual, low bandwidth technologies, such as television screens that also act as LED screens for presentations and discussions.

At the onset of the pandemic, public school classes were left with no choice but to prematurely halt its classes. Everything went on a limbo until the Department of Education has slowly recovered its stance. With the Secretary Briones’ statement that amidst the pandemic, education must continue, all functional units were put into full gears to ensure the continuity of education for the new normal. All great minds across the country were gathered to plan for ways to deliver education to the learners without face to face interactions. Distance learning modalities were conceptualized, and learning resources were developed. These distance learning modalities were mostly centered on synchronous and asynchronous online, modular, and blended learning schemes.

To deliver instructions, online platforms such as Google Classroom, Quipper School, and Schoology could help science teachers a lot in organizing their classes such as giving and retrieving assignments, posting of reminders and instructions, and in streaming discussions for the class.

Learning resources could also be developed and tailored fit for online learning using softwares and online websites such as Kotobee, Articulate Studio 13, and Canva. Learning could also be made more fun, exciting, and competitive by using assessment applications such Quizlet, Padlet, and Mentimeter.

Apart from the usual challenges that every subject faces, the complexities of some competencies in Science and TLE such as laboratory and manipulative skills were especially difficult for Science education since it requires standard laboratory settings to be done. In such cases where physical experiment will not be possible, the use of computer simulations such as the PhET would be most helpful so that learners may fully grasp the concepts and processes without having to conduct the experiment in the real-life setting.

However, teachers should also take into considerations the limitations of their learners such as poor internet connectivity, availability of gadgets, and knowledge in operating the online applications. Using these applications also requires high bandwidth internet connectivity, which may not be available in various locations and rural areas here in Malaybalay.

Taking these into considerations, teachers may opt for low bandwith technologies such as Facebook and Messenger chat groups where they can give instructions to students through posts and fora, add video playlists that the students may access through Youtube, and enable students to answer worksheets using Google Forms. These technologies may be more accessible to majority of students who have at least an android phone available at home.

There is no single effective approach of integrating technology in the teaching and learning process in the new normal learning landscape. Teachers and school administrators need to continuously explore the possibilities of using these technologies in various contexts of the learners. What works best for one learner may not work for the other, so a teacher needs to be reflective in delivering instruction. One should give varied pathways for learners to proceed depending on what is most applicable to their situation and what is suited to their capabilities. May it be low bandwidth or high bandwidth technologies, the success of the learning experience is still largely dependent on the teacher’s creativity in delivering the instruction and the full cooperation of the parents and the learners to make learning more effective.

Regardless of the choice of technology, the teacher must not forget the most important formula in the delivery of instruction, and that is the humane connection between learner and teacher- this is the single thing, that even the most elaborate technology could not duplicate. The teacher’s tender loving care, constant follow-up, motivating words, and open communication will go a long way especially in these difficult times for the learners.

Gretchen V. Catane
Education Program Specialist II