25 ‘SMART Mentors’ to Master Creative Use of ICT in Philippine Classrooms

Apr. 26, 2007

MANILA — Many public school teachers manage 65 to 80 students at a time. Among the challenges of handling bloated class sizes is ensuring that everyone pays attention. This is where creativity, ingenuity and technology can make a big difference.

“It’s difficult to catch the students’ attention if the teacher only talks in front,” says Alfred Gonzales, a teacher from Bonuan Boquig National High School. But since he began using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the classroom, Gonzales has noticed a dramatic improvement. “Now, the students want to sit in front and you can hear them say ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’.” He uses PowerPoint, the Internet, radio, film, role-playing and music to teach his students about World War II.

Gonzales is among the 25 teachers from 100 SSP partner schools across the country who were accepted into Smart Mentors, a specialized training and development program. The teacher-scholars were carefully selected from a pool of applicants coming from public high schools. They were awarded with full scholarships to earn a Master of Arts degree in Instructional Design and Technology after completing an 11-month action research course.

With a total scholarship investment of P2.5 million, the DepEd-approved course will train candidates how to use ICT in enhancing the learning environment and their teaching strategies. Smart Mentors is being launched under Smart Schools Program (SSP), a community service initiative of Smart Communications, Inc. (SMART).

Fr. Jomar Legaspi, president of Learn.ph Foundation, designed the program for Smart Mentors using a two-summer research-oriented master’s program in Columbia University as a model. “For the content, I did a lot of research so we can develop our own,” says Legaspi.

Unlike most training programs, Smart Mentors also requires the teacher-scholars to pass on the knowledge by mentoring 15 other teachers.

“We launched this program because we realize that teachers are key to the transformation of learning in the classroom. We want to develop a core group of teachers who will lead this effort and make this program a success, explains Ramon R. Isberto, SMART Public Affairs Group head.

Since its inception, SSP has focused on teacher training, which is one of its three components. The other two are Internet access through the PLDT group’s wide range of communications solutions and support for educational online content. It is the first time, however, that SSP is holding an intensive training program of this kind. The goal is to develop a corps of mentors who will actively participate in training, developing and implementing SSP’s mentoring component.

Applicants who passed the initial phase of the screening process presented two ICT-enabled learning activities before a panel of judges. Panel interviews were held in Angeles City, Manila, Cagayan De Oro and Cebu to accommodate teachers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Applicants were evaluated based on their learning activities’ instructional design, their transformative use of ICT, the strategies and tools they used to evaluate student performance, and an essay they wrote.

The panel of judges consists of experts from SMART, Learn.ph Foundation and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). As one of the judges, Legaspi says he looked for trainable candidates who have good communication skills. “They should have the interest and initiative to use technology, and the desire to learn new things and embrace new strategies.”

The 25 teacher-scholars are:

* Andres, Daylinda Bayugan National Comp. High School
* Arriola, Cesar Camarines Sur National High School (NHS)
* Bakisan, Irene Sagada NHS
* Batan, Virginia Mt. Province Gen. Comp. High School
* Baylan, Norven Misamis Oriental Gen. Comp. High School
* Buenavista, Rolando Narvacan National Central High School
* Bulabog, Erwin San Juan NHS
* Cabanayan, Laurenza Baler NHS
* Carandang, Joretze Naga City Science High School
* Fontejon, Dave Ilocos Sur NHS
* Garcia Sy, Marinella San Miguel NHS
* Gonzales, Alfred Bonuan Boquig NHS
* Israel, Jenelou John Tagbilaran City Science HS
* Maguilao, Selalyn Baguio City NHS-Loakan
* Mangasep, Mary Ruby Agusan NHS
* Marquez, Jerome Dagupan City NHS
* Medina, Jacklyn Santiago City NHS
* Mistula, Alex Barobo NHS
* Nuesca, Nestor Olongapo City NHS
* Reyes, Ronaldo Tabaco NHS
* Rivera, Lemuel Al Alicia NHS
* Samson, Zenaida Eduardo Cojuangco National Voc. High School
* Santiago, Junar Alicia NHS
* Suyao, Charry Pacita Complex NHS
* Vera Cruz, Evelyn Ilocos Sur NHS

The course starts with a two-week face-to-face learning experience that covers 10 modules. “The modules fall under the program’s three main areasInstructional Design and Cognitive Theories, Research, and Human Relationship,” explains Legaspi.

Then, for the rest of the course they will be in their respective schools to implement their action research by perfecting or improving on existing teaching practices. An expert will continue to guide them through telementoring (e.g. email, text messages and discussion boards) or occasional face-to-face meetings.

“This methodology doesn’t take them away from the classroom,” explains Legaspi. It is unlike a lot of master’s programs, which are often “detached from what happens on the ground”.

During the course, each teacher-scholar will begin mentoring 15 teachers within and outside his school and division. Because of its mentoring component, Smart Mentors will benefit even more teachers, especially those who have yet to use ICT in the classroom.

Supported by DepEd, SSP is implemented in partnership with PBSP, Learn.ph Foundation and the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (SWEEP). SSP now counts 100 partner schools nationwide, from as far as Basco, Batanes up north to Bonggao, Tawi-Tawi down south.

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