Swiss Knife

By Niccolo Paolo M. Agcaoili

A long stick, Manila paper, textbooks, a map or a globe, a multiplication table, cartolinas of all sorts, flash cards, visual aids, a radio, a ball or any toy and a bag of candies were the common materials my teachers in grade school would always carry.  If you put all these materials together on a weighing machine it would probably weigh more than three kilos. At the end of the year, the teachers might look like three years older or maybe a body builder. But kidding aside, teachers during those times bear the burdens of teaching just for them to convey knowledge, touch the deeper core, and alter the lives of their students. Truly, it takes special people to be teachers.

When I myself became a teacher in La Salle Green Hills, I am blessed with technology-rich classrooms. Each classroom was installed with computers and televisions for audiovisual purposes.  Although during those times I still utilized flash cards and visual aids, one material that I always bring with me is a one inch 4 gigabyte electronic gadget called USB.  In this gadget I stored PowerPoint presentations, quizzes, and pictures of maps, movies or video clips about my subject matter, music and other digital educational materials. The USB became my savior in my first years of my teaching career. With the help of the computers installed in the classrooms and the USB, teaching and learning processes became more interactive and fun. This mini but powerful gadget helped me not only eased the toil of being a teacher but more so it made me widen my horizons.

Two years ago, to keep pace with the continued rapid advancement of technological change, La Salle Green Hills introduced the PEARL program. Thus, in simple words, the already technology-rich classroom has become more hi-tech with the inclusion of the E-tablet. Truly, these pupils are really lucky, back then the most hi-tech gadget we had were scientific calculator, brick game and Tamagochi, and the only tablets that we knew were the tablets available in the clinic. Initially, for me, the digital E- tablet will be just used as textbook, notebook or test pads or activity sheets. I was mistaken. Although there are a number of complains about the malfunctions of eBooks and the games in the tablet, I found the tablet very useful. For me the tablet is a “Swiss knife” of modern education. Before, if you want to emphasize a word or a sentence on a chalkboard, you may either write it with colored chalk or underline or italicize or write it in bold or maybe use your long wooden stick to point the sentence or the word. Now with the tablet you can forward the whole PowerPoint presentation to your students via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, email or through Edmodo. Then the students themselves can highlight the important words or sentences in the presentation. Using the tablet you don’t need to bring the huge map, all you need to do is go to the Google Map and in an instant you can show to the students the location of important places in your subject matter. There are also applications like Magistro and Extreme PDF Reader and Polaris that would help students write essays, create presentations and short documentaries if you empower them to report in the class.  Dictionaries and Thesaurus are easy access with the tablet thus students do not need to bring bulky books anymore.  You can also turn the tablet into scientific calculator. Also if the audiovisual facility in the classroom is not working you can just ask the students to open YouTube or just forward to them the video that they need to watch. There was an instance wherein I asked my pupils to watch excerpts of the film Joseph the Dreamer in their tablets because our computer got corrupted. You will no longer print pictures or maybe draw an image just to show to your students how a person, a thing and a place look like. With the tablet you can just ask the students to search for the image of a particular thing. With the tablet I showed to my students how the Shroud of Turin looks like.  With the tablet you don’t need to bring balls or toys anymore, there are a number of educational games available in the Google Play Store for free. Among these games are Math Attack and Bible Quiz bee. Now, although it is still in the works, the Pearl Project developed a program called E-ssignment. The E-ssignment will be used to post assignments and updates about the activities of the school. With the tablet you can empower students and make them more involved and interactive in the class discussion.

Truly for me the tablet is a like a Swiss Knife, it is handy, it is a tool with a number of tools and it can help you survive the “emergencies” of classroom instruction but sometimes if you don’t use it properly it may hurt you.  Truly, if you exploit the full potential of the tablet it will help you live your life fruitfully as an educator.

While eulogizing few of the benefits bought out by the tablet we must not ignore that not all students and teachers know how to reap the fruits of technology. Also because of the anomalies and corruption in the government, the sad reality is, La Salle is one of the few schools in our country that utilizes this powerful and innovative gadget. While we in LSGH used tablets there are students who can’t even afford to let go of their half inch pencil for they don’t have the means to buy a new one. I know it is too much to ask but it is my dream therefore that all schools, all students and all teachers in country will keep pace with the rapid development of technology.