By using the tools contained in the Smart School-in-a-Bag and the teaching method of the Dynamic Learning Program, teachers under the Alternative Learning System can handle students with different skill levels at the same time.
Long hours, low pay, endless paperwork: these are teachers’ most common woes. That’s on top of dealing daily with a roomful of hyperactive individuals or uninterested, distracted teenagers, to whom they must also be second parents, social worker, psychologist, spiritual counselor.
Gretchen Linaac is a teacher, and the challenges she faces are far more daunting than her counterparts’ in a traditional classroom setting.
Every day she rides her motorcycle to get to her classes in the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro. In each class, she teaches a mix of students from different age groups and backgrounds, with literacy skills ranging from zero to high-school level.
Linaac is a mobile teacher under the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education. ALS is a free educational program available to school dropouts or those with no access to formal schooling.
ALS learners are generally aged between 18 and 55, with diverse needs. They could be street dwellers, prisoners, working mothers.
Linaac handles six ALS communities.
“My learners walk six kilometers just to get to the ALS center. It breaks my heart, knowing some of them have not even had any breakfast. As a teacher, I wish I had more to give,” she laments.
Fellow ALS teacher Rose Facurib adds: “We’ve conducted classes by the river, in a billiards hall, or on the floor of a barangay captain’s living room.” It’s not easy, she continues, but they persevere because their dream is to see their learners graduate and become good, productive citizens.
Recently things got a little better for the mobile teachers. Smart Communications donated a School-in-a-Bag unit to their learning centers, along with training in the Dynamic Learning Program (DLP).
School-in-a-Bag is a portable digital classroom designed to facilitate learning in remote areas, using mobile technology coupled with innovative 21st century teaching pedagogy.
Created by Smart, the School-in-a-Bag is an oversize backpack containing a laptop, tablets, TV, pocket Wi-Fi, and digital and printed educational content aligned with the official curriculum. The donation also includes teacher training and yearlong monitoring.
For schools without electricity, a solar panel with batteries are also included in the kit.
Teachers say that with its videos and interactive learning apps, the Smart School-in-a-Bag is effective in holding students’ attention.
Linaac uses the tablets and laptop to show videos and photos to her classes. “Through these devices, we can show concrete examples that support their lessons.”
The DLP is a scientific teaching method that focuses on student activities rather than lectures. It is designed to promote independent learning and to improve academic performance. It was developed by physicists and Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Dr. Christopher Bernido and Dr. Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido.
Under the program, students are given specific, localized activities with clear learning targets and progress-tracking tools. They write down the lesson for the day and express how they understand it. The teacher then explains the lesson.
By distributing learning activity sheets designed for each learner’s level, ALS mobile teachers are able to handle students with different skill levels at the same time. While the learners at the elementary and secondary levels are working individually, the teachers can give more attention to those who do not know how to read and write.
And with literacy apps contained in the tablets, basic learners are more engaged.
Smart donated two School-in-a-Bag units to the Cagayan de Oro ALS in 2017, and conducted DLP trainings for the 13 mobile teachers and nine coordinators there. The bags are brought by the teachers to the 60 ALS community centers in the area.
Stephanie Orlino, Smart public affairs senior manager, encouraged individuals and organizations to sponsor School-in-a-Bag units for more learning communities, both under the traditional and alternative learning systems. “ALS teachers and students face so many challenges. We hope that our combination of tech tools and the Bernidos’ innovative teaching pedagogy would help these communities hurdle obstacles to their learning,” she said.
Linaac is one of the few members of the Higaonon tribe in Cagayan de Oro to finish college and become a teacher. She vows to show them that “if I could make it, they can, too, especially now that ALS has reached more communities.”
(A Smart School-in-a-Bag is worth P100,000. Email LearnSmart@smart.com.ph and visit Smart Communities on Facebook for details.)