COVID-19 has fastracked education by leaps and bounds in a manner that we were caught unprepared, off guard. Hence, what it brings about right now and right here is confusion, distress, trouble, and the like. As a teacher myself, my head is underwater, but I should be breathing fine. And I’m so dizzy, but I’ll be alright. (Daanin sa kanta, why not?) It should be fine since what is currently in school has been a long-time dream and is now coming (drastically) to reality. It must be alright in view of the gains that the present set up should provide not only for learners, but for all stakeholders including family and educators themselves.
With or without the wretched coronavirus, online learning has indeed come to age. Just how many have already been at an advantage out of the Distance Learning (computer-based education and online courses)? There is also that so-called Open University which has already been giving diplomas through distance-online learning programs and modular classes. These two have been functional and beneficial long before the onslaught of the pandemic. Several who have undergone and have earned their degrees have wished that this form of learning could also be made common, affordable.
When I was yet in school, I was made to realise that classroom instruction is only 10 percent of the learning process. The rest is facilitated outside of it – library, laboratory, workshop, group study, lakbay-aral, exposures, among others. One professor of mine would remark, “One hour in the classroom is equivalent to two hours or more in the library.” In other words, there is not much to learn in the classroom compared to the multitude there is in books, in real-life experience, by way of personal encounter with people that matter, and by one’s one personal reflection of all things and anything in between. That saying, how I love (wink) to assign to my students bulks of books for them to devour every page. Maximization of potentials is the name of the game in education. If classroom is mere 10 percent, the teacher, as we already hold as valid, has also become mere facilitator. With social distancing now, the physical structure of a classroom has banished, but just the same the teacher continues to facilitate, albeit virtually.
Where is classroom now in the COVID period? Or specifically for me, where do I meet my students for class? I meet them in Facebook – we have GC (group chat), we also interact through Closed Group, some of them ask questions by PM (private message), etc. They submit assignments to my email inbox. I give instructions in Google Meet. We likewise heard that many schools are considering to teach over radio frequency or/and TV channels. What do these platforms mean now? If classroom setting has been vanquished, schedule of classes has also been evaporated. Gone are the MWF and TTH; gone too are the one-hour to three-hour fixed time. Real-time has become too real. Technologies permit both teachers and learners to communicate to each other anytime and in no time. Only recently, while in wait for something, I was tinkering with my smartphone only to have found myself entertaining clarifications from my students in our GC until it has turned out that I was already giving them further homework.
That said, and to state what has already been made obvious, school, has already transcended physical space and fixed time. No more classroom, no more class schedule. The new normal?
Going back to preparation, or being unprepared, struggle is also real, to say the least. The problem with fastracking is the tendency of railroading. More often than not, marami ang mapag-iiwanan. As in the usual circumstances, some people are simply more equal than others.
Last time, I was invited to a lecture in a webinar. The organizers would like to be assured of internet signal since I am in Palawan. For their piece of mind, I guaranteed that it is not too bad at all. In other words, puede na rin. To make the story short, the webinar went along so long so well… until “brownout!” How can we be online when powerlines are yet unpredictable, or worse, as unreliable. Mapag-iiwanan talaga.
With nothing to the fore yet as regards solutions to the current crisis, the road to learning is but paved with good intentions with a caboodle of confusions including disorganization in the powers-that-be. While we are at it, we must indeed feel fine even when heads are underwater lest all hell will break loose.