Educating and Parenting the Net and Next Generation

Yesterday, I attended the annual parent orientation at Xavier School. Unlike past years, there was something different about this year, I realized. I would be attending activities in this school for only one boy (my other boy already graduated high school and is facing a new life as a college freshie).

Ever since Fr. Johnny Go, S.J. took over the helm as School Director, I have seen vast improvements in terms of facilities, quality of faculty, curriculum, use of technology in academe and so many other aspects.  In a previous post, I described how the school turned virtual during Typhoon Ondoy when school was suspended for 10 days. While many schools lost school days, Xavier students continued to study and do assigned homework via the net.

At the orientation, I eagerly awaited Fr. Johnny’s presentation to the parents. His part is always something I look forward to. After all, when the School Director blogs, uses multimedia in his presentations, has a Facebook account and maintains his own YouTube channel, you can be sure his talk would be a very interesting one. I was not disappointed.

Fr. Johnny talked about how important it is for schools (and parents) to learn how to educate and parent this generation of tech-savvy kids.

He described the TV Generation I belong to (the age when baby boomers first encountered a television set and whose free time was spent in front of the boob tube watching episodes of popular shows). He also described the next younger set called Generation X (that age group between mid 30s to mid 40s that were schooled in classrooms where passive learning was the norm: teacher lectures and student “vomits back” what he absorbed during exams).

He next described the 2 generations that students belong to now: The Net Generation (kids from 13 yrs old and up) and the Next Generation (those below 12 years old). These two generations have absolutely no fear for technology; in fact they embrace it wholeheartedly. But with such wide access to information at the tips of their fingertips, schools face a new challenge in teaching them, something that Xavier is moving briskly into. Unlike the generations of parents where  a student WAITS for content before ASSIMILATING it, learning for 21st century kids must entail what Fr. Johnny calls the 5 “-ate’s”:

* LOCATE content (e.g., how to use search engines to find information)

* INTERROGATE the results (learning not to just accept search results as truth but to interrogate which is true, half-true, or false)

* CREATE and COMMUNICATE content

* COLLABORATE with others

At the same time, kids must learn 3 things that go along with ease of technology access and information:

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Xavier School Turns Virtual

Just five days after I blogged about how technology could be used by schools in the wake of the A(H1N1) virus, Xavier School suspended classes for 10 days after one student tested positive for the virus.

Was this a setback for the school? If you’re thinking in traditional mode, yes. Teachers & students could not come together in class for interactive learning. But did that stop Xavier? Absolutely not. The school turned the forced vacation into an opportunity to launch what we now call “virtual Xavier”.

From the time Fr. Johnny Go, S.J. became its School Director several years back, Xavier School slowly began transforming the school, the faculty, the curriculum, and the students into technology enablers. This move served the school well this week.

The day classes were suspended, the school’s official website crashed (probably due to the unexpected traffic on the server as parents and students alike went online to check the next steps.)

It was not long before an alternate site went up, Virtual Xavier (www.virtualxavier.ning.com)

Ning alternate site

Virtual Xavier as it looked the first time it was put up

Next thing we knew, Multiply sites PER LEVEL were created. By this coming Monday, June 29, parents and students alike can go to the Multiply site of their son’s level and download online lessons uploaded by their teachers. In fact, some of these sites already have some content in them like this:

Gr1 Multiply homepage

I believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg as far as what Xavier School (or any other technology-enabled institution) can do. What is important at this stage is the fact they are proving that learning does not stop just because teachers & students cannot come to school. Education can continue for as long as technology enables them to. There are many other things I can see evolving in terms of virtual schooling (podcasting, livestreaming, videoconferencing, online chatrooms, online collaborative projects, Skype-ing, and so on) and I predict Xavier School can be at the forefront of this.  At the moment, it already has some of the infrastructure: computer literate faculty & staff, excellent IT labs, students who are almost all techie savvy, and parents who are getting there (some probably forced to learn out of necessity).

Here is a screencap from an article posted just yesterday in their school website. It shows the forward-looking state of the school.

Effective online education

I am hoping that other schools in the Philippines seriously consider putting more money into technology-based learning. Not just because of the spread of A(H1N1). This, to me, was just the catalyst for Xavier School. But I believe that if we can equip the current and future generations of citizens for a tech world, we can bring this country that much closer to elevating the state of education.

There is another side to consider too. The Department of Education and Culture (DECS) has to modify its guidelines to include learning outside of the classroom.  Right now, for example, we count actual school days (read that as IN SCHOOL). On occasions like this when a school is actually allowing students to accomplish schoolwork during the quarantine period, doesn’t this count (to some extent) as school days? There is a need for paradigm shifts in mindset as to what constitutes learning.  Learning is no longer just classroom-bound. If field trips are considered learning time, online work (for as long as there are guidelines established in terms of hours spent) should count as well. I have other thoughts about virtual education that can address the sore lack of brick-and-mortar classrooms but I will leave that for another day and possibly another blog post.

For now, I am just happy to see Xavier School evolving, innovating and creating. If we can think out of the box and use all the tools available to us, school can be just about anywhere we can imagine it to be — even when we are in pajamas, propped up in bed, with our laptops.

2009 Kuangchi Awardees

Every year, Xavier School selects the Xavier-Kuangchi awardees from among its alumni who exhibit outstanding achievements in their respective fields.

I am very happy to find out that I know 2 out of the 3 awardees for this year.

2009 Xavier-Kuangchi Awardees

Joaquin (or Jake, as we fondly call him) C. Yap, Jr. is someone we consider a relative. His family and that of hubby come from the same town in China. His mother (whom we call Di-kim) calls us on every occasion (Mother’s Day, Christmas, New Year) just to chat and ask about the family. Jake’s sister, Janet, who is now in Australia, was someone I knew even when she was still single.

Jake obtained his Masters Degree in Theological Studes in 1995 from the Loyola School of Theology and his Doctorate Degree in Theology in 2003 from the University of Oxford in England. 

Xavier School calls him one of its exemplary alumni “for his devotion to the Catholic faith, consecrating his life to serve God through his long-term involvement with the university campus apostolate of the Servants of the Word and the teaching ministry of the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon Catholic Charismatic Community.”

Vincent S. Perez (or Vince as we call him) is a dear friend and confidante while we were taking our Masters degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. I have many wonderful memories of Vince and the group of Pinoys I went to school with. Vince always had this never-to-be-forgotten dimpled smile and a listening ear for friends (and as one of his countless friends, I remember hours and hours we spent chatting over the telephone with topics that covered the inane to the dreams). During United Nations Day, both of us managed to borrow 2 bamboo poles from the Philippine Embassy and danced the Tinikling for our foreign schoolmates. Yes, Vince was and still is, a great dancer. Even back then, Vince had always nurtured a deep desire to serve in government and I never really imagined that one day, this friend would return from a successful investment banking career abroad to serve as a Cabinet Secretary.

Xavier School gives him the Xavier-Kuangchi Award “for his commendable service to the country as Secretary of the Department of Energy, setting a high benchmark for achievement and professionalism in government service, and earning the distinction of being the first Xaverian in the Cabinet, and the youngest and longest-serving Energy Secretary to date.”

Congratulations, Jake and Vince. I am so, so proud to know the both of you and to see you accept this award you richly deserve. May this award only serve to spur you both to greater heights for His greater glory.

These exemplary alumni will be formally awarded in “by invitation only” conferment rites on March 13, 2009, Friday, 6.30 PM at the XS Angelo King Multipurpose Center. 

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