Monday, March 31, 2014

DepEd and Valenzuela Local Government Officials Unite to Announce the 1st Alternative Learning System Connect Project in Valenzuela

March 2014, Quezon City, Philippines – - Officials representing the local government of Valenzuela and Department of Education’s Division of City schools-Valenzuela witnessed an important milestone in DepEd’s ALS (Alternative Learning System) on 4 March 2014 as the first ALS Connect Project was launched within the component of a live and working Virtual Campus, a social learning platform offering of 88DB Philippines. With this, Valenzuela can now offer ALS to thousands of out-of-school youth in their city, and help them graduate. The local government of Valenzuela and Department of Education’s Division of City Schools-Valenzuela applaud the move of e-learning development companies in actively pursuing online learning as an educational economic tool. 

This is expected to strengthen Digital’s commitment in adding value to the educational sector. With the growing acceptance of new technological developments, this online learning best practice is anticipated to be replicated in other key areas in the Philippines. Virtual Campus, one of the fastest growing e-learning platforms, aims to help schools, organizations, associations, and companies by providing them with an easy-to-use, effective, and affordable online, social, and collaborative learning platform. It incorporates innovative and creative approaches to teaching and learning to supplement the classroom environment and support learning communities which are not limited by time and place.

Present during the event were (from left): Dr. Felicino Trongco (ALS Supervisor), an ALS Representative, Mr. JM Aspillaga (Sales Manager, 88DB Philippines Inc.), Dr. Wilfredo Cabral (Schools Division Superintendent, Valenzuela City), Mr. Gelix Mercader (Program Manager, 88DB Philippines Inc.), Dr. Jenny Corpuz (Asst. Schools Division Superintendent, Valenzuela City), Dr. Fe Padrinao (School Principal, Malinta National High School) and Mr. Leo Tigla (Senior Account Officer, 88DB Philippines Inc.). For more details on Virtual Campus, you may call 466.4979 or visit

Reposted from

Facilitation of Knowledge Through Questioning: Engaging Thinking Faculties

Suppose you wanted to convey quite a bit of information to someone in front of you, with the objective of being able to make that person absorb as much of that information as possible. One thing you can do is state all the facts in the most interesting way possible, hoping this person will stay focused on your words. There are consequences, though. Your conversation has the risk of ending early, since the information may enter one ear and get out of the other, depending on the interest level of the person. With no processing, the flow of ideas stutter in mid air, and useful information may go to waste. We want the other person to take full advantage of the information that he is receiving.

Another way of doing it is through strategic questioning. What happens when we ask a question? First is we are able to stimulate conversation. This will allow a better flow of information between two or more parties. Secondly, when we ask a question, it can arouse interest, engage the thinking faculties of a person, sparking comments, sharing of personal experiences, and opinion from the other party. When we question, we can introduce an important and relevant thought without wasting any valuable information, craftily driving the conversation as we go along.

In the classroom setting, a teacher may want to cover one chapter of a certain textbook. If she throws that book at his sleepy students, tell them to read the whole chapter, and lecture about the same thing all over again, she might just be overloading the students with so much data that useful information is wasted. 

What if she extracts the essential point of the chapter, and asks a relevant, thought provoking question instead? If she is able to strategically construct that question well, she would be able spark interest, and get very interesting comments and opinions which she can use to facilitate the conversation. She can allow the class to listen to the experiences of other students about the topic. This allows them to think and dissect information. She can listen intently, aknowledge good points and correct inaccurate comments. She can challenge the class with follow up questions. She can refer to other points in the textbook or reference material, and use them to strengthen ideas generated through out the conversation. In some cases, she can also ask someone from the class to demonstrate a good point. She can allow students to rebute, debate and ask questions or even ask each other questions. This represents a good flow of bite sized information that students can chew well. 

By the end of the class, the teacher would sift, synthesize, summarize and would have covered the whole chapter without lecturing about the material, but just by engagement. More importantly, information is not wasted. Instead of a single source of information, the teacher becomes the facilitator and curator of knowledge.

To summarize, teaching by questioning goes through these steps:

Initiation - arousing interest by introducing important information by questioning strategically
Conversation - collect comments, experience, opinions and preference, engaging the student minds - allowing the students to question the teacher and each other
Demonstration - allow students to demonstrate how they interpret the material
Reference - cite facts and related information, going back to the source or core of the information
Synthesis - facilitate, sift and summarize information with the objective of covering the intended material

Are we maximizing information in the classroom by engaging the thinking faculties of the students?

Virtual Campus: Learning is Social

Learning and teaching online has to be fun, familiar and easy to do for engagement levels and participation to increase among teachers and students. Virtual Campus aims to do just that.

Virtual Campus is a cloud-based social learning system that allows social network-like collaboration, integrating the academic portion through its simple yet powerful learning management system. It aims to help schools connect the stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, administrators)  in one single platform.

Teachers and students can log in and collaborate using social walls, calendar, notifications, blogging, discussion boards, photos and chat. Teachers can manage their online classes with ease as well, incorporating grading, lesson modules, and even create their own online quizzes/exams.

The idea here is to create something that is already familiar to the web user of today. We all know that training or even helping teachers to use learning management systems can be painstakingly difficult and costly. This makes implementation and change management for the school easier.

Visit their website to schedule a presentation and demo for you.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Teachers as Curators of Knowledge

Have you ever been in an art museum? You go through hallways of original artworks created by many different creative minds, learning about each one as you walk by. The museum did not paint or create those works of art, but rather, just acquired, checked and managed them so that they have the potential to add value to their place. More often than not, you would need a tour guide to walk you through and facilitate the whole experience. In the absence of a tour guide, you're either on your own, or you chat with other people looking at the same artwork. Sometimes, you get the wrong information or different opinions about the artwork talking with people.

Now let us look at an online scenario. We know that on Facebook, Twitter or any other popular social network you use on a daily basis, the only real original content that are being posted everyday are status updates and personal photos or videos. Most of the time, we see posts pasted or shared from other sources such as news sites, video sharing sites such as YouTube, blogs, or public websites. So what we see everyday on our news feeds are unoriginal content captured from originally created sources. Just like the example we used earlier,  the museum creates the environment to showcase unoriginal works of art coming from different and original painters or sculptors. Online, we see comments and likes of other people, in order to get more information about a certain shared topic. Sometimes, a topic becomes true to someone because some friend said so, a celebrity shared it or it garnered more than a thousand likes. There is no "tour guide" that simulates any type of learning environment or to tell you whether a particular post is right, wrong, true or false. 

These two examples illustrate how the web is now. A large collection of original content made by different people, being accessed by millions around the world. It's so easy to get lost in the vast sea of information.
You are able to process this information by chatting with other people, or reading their comments about certain topics. Who, therefore, can synthesize all this chatter just like how a tour guide?

This is where the teacher comes in. He is the curator and the tour guide rolled into one. An online teacher must know how to select, facilitate and manage all the content that is being posted online, and how to effectively use them for his students. He carefully manages the content and conversations to make sure that something false doesn't become true.  In the absence of content, or the skills needed to create engaging online lessons, the free resource that the web offers becomes a very powerful tool.

In museums worldwide, whether large or small, curators may have the responsibility of acquiring and caring for available artworks and may also have the responsibility of being subject matter specialists, deciding on the potential of particular pieces. The modern day teacher, in a way, becomes a curator of knowledge. Carefully sifting, acquiring and updating content that is already available that fits his instructional design.

It may not be a coincidence that in Scotland, the meaning of curator is guardian of a child.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Social Learning: Construction of Knowledge Through Experiences

Knowledge, almost always, begins with a basic question, an inquiry, a problem or an idea - and when we seek the answers, we gain it. It's kind of like a little seed, and what I see inside this little seed is a potential for creation, innovation and evolution; to grow into a majestic tree of knowing, attaching its branches infinitely to other trees. According to Vygotsky's 1978 Social Contructivism theory, knowledge is contructed by being in contact with existing knowledge developed by experiences of other people. It says the learning is an active, social process - achieving maximum learning through interactions of different human potentials, experiences, strengths and skills. Since knowledge is a product of our human nature, therefore further knowledge is constructed by means of our social nature and actions.

 Somehow, it's similar to the way we bring in and share knowledge these days, whether trivial or relevant (trivial in most cases), through influential and addictive social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. Let's look at Facebook. Since we all know that you, me, the rest of the planet, and more recently my cool grandmother, are already on it. We have the latest "news" delivered conveniently each day to our social "walls" in the form of short status updates, photos, videos or links, in real time, posted by friends or people we didn't even know but they're part of our network anyways. By also sharing this information, we make it very convenient to others as well - and so on and so forth. Why, these days, students even get information faster than the average teacher who does not log on to his Facebook account as often.

 Instant notifications make information even more convenient. And to top it all, as if we are not already pampered crazy, Facebook uses a hidden algorithm to make sure what we see on our walls are the ones we are actively participating in, and how relevant the information and friend is to us. It gets even crazier. Even as personal as the perfectly cooked sunny side-up that we devoured for breakfast becomes public news, attaching professional looking photos or videos captured by our latest web-enabled devices. Actually, most of the time, everything you see on Facebook is about our perfectly Photo-shopped lives, duckface and all. I mean - for something so open and public, we wouldn't want to show the negative side of our lives, would we? So I guess you shouldn't believe everything you read or see on Facebook. I am therefore aware of the danger of a non-truth becoming a truth - just because a particular post garnerd thousands of "likes", "shares" and comments from self-proclaimed users.

 There's more. We have unknowingly grown accustomed to just being able to digest little bite-sized information instead of reading long, verbose texts. In fact, one of the most used online communication tool now is the social wall of Facebook, with email and blogging trailing behind. By scanning our walls for hours in a day with ninja eye skills, and quickly selecting like a robot what we want to spend our time on, we are able to retain personally interesting data in our heads, probably sharing it with people on our network as well. Our discrimating brains decide on what to read based on several factors - such as the number of comments from the community, number of "likes", who shared the information, how interesting the photo or video thumbnail is, whether I was tagged or not, and how relevant it is to my current life situation. Also, the more I read the comments, the more I learn about the topic, and the more I find it compelling to contribute as well - if I can relate to it. Sometimes, I see hightened emotions and tones coming from the comments, because of disagreements. This just means that communication between humans is somehow getting more and more likened to brick and mortar, face-to-face conversations.

 Let's talk about relevance and context. Do you know notice how our eyes quickly choose content on our social walls, despite the thousands of wall posts that appear each day. We may choose based on the number of likes, number of comments, who shared the information, how interesting the thumbnail is whether it's a photo or video, or how relevant it is to our lives such as health or inspirational posts. If it affects me or other people, I actually put my comments or share my two cents worth. Those posts that we really don't care to look at, we just ignore. I have come to realize that the information that we digest during the day retains in my mind more when it is relevant to me, the more it is taken into content, and the more I can participate in a particular conversation, the more I can learn about something. However, I would like to point out the danger of what I call "distorted universal truths". So many rumors, untruths and lies spread on Facebook, because sometimes, people perceive information as a universal truth, based on the number of likes, shares, comments and how credible the sharer of the information is. Of course, the danger of this, is a corruption of knowledge, because there is actually really no one we can rely on to correct this, other than other users online.

 I'm always thinking how this generation's online behavior can help in education. I'm not an educator, nor am I person with any type of degree in education. However, I've been intensely studying and experimenting on eLearning for a few years now through our different failed and successful attempts at creating online learning environments, both for public and private schools, as well as corporate organizations.

 Social Learning starts with a basic idea, that is formed by an initiator. An initiator can be a teacher that lifts an essential block of text from a book, or a student who just saw something interesting on TV. We are all initiators, because we all have stories to tell. If an initiator throws a textbook at a student, and tells him to read it for next day's class, chances are, with today's kids' attention spans, it will be less effective. So in social learning, the teacher chooses an "essential text" or "learning block" from the textbook, and grow the discussion from there through conversation, showing of preference, collaboration - and all these things, will be synthesized by the intiator. until the entire idea of a chapter or a lesson is fully covered. The role of the teacher in this aspect, has changed dramatically. Instead of becoming the only source of information, he or she has to manage now the wealth of information and experiences coming from all the participants. The question is, how can they be trained so that they can keep up with the "speed of thought"?

 Initiation - The Initiator is the one with the basic idea, and initiates a social learning object. A status post, a video, a photo, file upload, or link sharing demostrates a person who can initiate any particular thought.

 Conversation - reflection, opinion, feedback and contribution of a user within a particular learning object. This can be in the form of comments. This allows users to become "experts" themselves based on their own experience, and share with other participants. Each one becomes a mentor and a student.

 Preference - Rating the basic idea allows the intiator to know the general view of the learners

 Collaboration - discussion in real time about the basic idea, using collaborative tools that allow simulation of face to face engagements. Following - Saving the activity for future review Sharing - revealing it to others, and making it convenient for others to find relevant information

 Synthesis - a summary or rationalization of the learning object, including its conversations, preferences and collaborations. The initiator brings everything into context, which is very important in learning. This is important, because in social networks such as Facebook, there is no one to synthesize the information.

Sometimes, a thousand likes or a thousand comments may dangerously turn that information into a distored universal truth. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense, that today's social applications can be powerful tools in education, not only because of it's convenience in sharing information, but because behavior of online users, and how they use the web, has to be taken into consideration. It makes sense, that learning is no longer about absorbing knowledge from a single source of information such as a teacher or a video-based material, but a convergence of our experiences and expertise, because of our social nature and culture, providing there is a mentor that synthesizes this information to prevent distorted truths.

 This generation's social networks and collaborative tools have achieved this in the social context, how can we achieve this in the context of education? Jason dela Rosa, Virtual Campus