From Where We Sit

Could educational technology be a ‘holy grail’ amid Covid-19 crisis?

Among the family of viruses, such as those that cause the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome and the Middle East respiratory syndrome, the one that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) — and its outbreak — clearly made the biggest impact on global education. As of March 16, the Department of Health (DoH) has tallied at least 140 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines.

According to the latest report on the impact of the coronavirus on education issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 73 countries have announced or implemented school and university closures, affecting almost 516.6 million youth worldwide.

Schools are one of those places where a large number of people in proximity to one another can easily spread respiratory illnesses. The suspension of classes can be an  effective and key response against the spread of transmissible viruses.

In a televised address on March 12, President Rodrigo Duterte announced the nationwide suspension of classes on all levels for one month in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

The President said all students should continue to fulfill their educational requirements during this period. He also advised students to make use of their time to study, instead of tinkering with their mobile phones.

The President’s message to our youth to spend their time wisely by studying in order to improve was also directed at our schools to ensure that learning remains uninterrupted during this period.

So how do our schools support and assure the continuity of learning during disruptions?

Schools need to plan virtual learning solutions during temporary disruptions that includes assessing their readiness and decide on the appropriate technology to use based on the reliability of local power supplies, internet connectivity, and digital skills of teachers and students.

There are many ways schools can leverage technology to support and assure the continuity of learning during disruptions. We have seen how modern technology has helped revolutionize various industries. Unfortunately, education is the sector of the economy that is least transformed by technology.

Could educational technology be the holy grail of education? Could Covid-19 be the turning point that will drive educational technology into the mainstream?

There are many useful platforms, tools and resources available for schools and educators to use in order to prevent education from grinding to a halt due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Google Education provides free productivity apps that include Hangouts Meet, which can be used to monitor student attendance, and Google Classroom, which allows teachers to upload learning resources and homework, and for students to submit their work for marking and feedback by the teacher.

Teachers can use a blend of synchronous and asynchronous communication and collaboration tools for remote teaching and learning. When real-time communication is required, synchronous communication tools are available within a learning management system environment, as well as stand-alone apps, such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom.

Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, is more flexible than real-time communication and has a pedagogical advantage: it encourages critical thinking. Examples of asynchronous communication tools include discussion forums, blogs and email.

A mobile app called Book Creator allows teachers to combine text, images, audio and video to create their own teaching resources for any subject or education level. The app also allows both teachers and students to unleash their creativity and collaborate, helping to keep the virtual classroom connected and engaged.

There are also a wide range of free mobile apps that allow teachers to create online assessments, such as Socrative, Schoology, Kahoot! and Recap, to name a few. The use of digital assessment tools help teachers deliver a better learning experience in a remote classroom by “gamifying” the answers, giving instant feedback, tracking student progress, and creating survey-based assessments.

The schools can use social media platforms to create communities that will connect schools, parents, teachers and students, ensuring that there are regular social interaction and address possible psychosocial barriers that students may face during remote learning. Schools must also support teachers and parents by organizing orientation sessions on the use of digital learning tools.

Without a doubt, a sustained increase in the adoption of educational technology can be a permanent solution or a crisis response tool in a world where global emergencies and disruptions are increasingly becoming the norm. Hence, it is imperative that educational institutions map out a detailed digital transformation strategy and consider putting in place the necessary digital infrastructure, tools and resources to support virtual teaching and learning.

Amid the current challenges, it is high time for our government leaders, lawmakers and school officials to seriously consider building virtual schools to provide equitable and inclusive quality education, particularly to those who are unable to study, because of poverty, to those living in remote, are underserved, and live in war-torn areas, and to those disrupted by school closures due to recurrent flooding, monstrous traffic jams, and now, the Covid-19 crisis.

Jess Obana is a senior managing consultant in the Advisory Services division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 23 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to jess.obana@ph.gt.com or pagrantthornton@ph.gt.com. For more information, visit www.grantthornton.com.ph.

 

As published in The Manila Times, dated 19 March 2020