Interaction with learners

Farewell to the “wise man on stage”

“We don’t teach students what to think, but how to think, respectfully question, and listen to others’ opinions. We simply direct the flow of education and let students make the journey on their own.” – Anonymous

THIS sudden shift from teaching in the classroom to teaching on digital platforms will likely persist beyond this pandemic. How would this change education in the Philippines and other parts of the world and its impact on the education market as well? Unlike e-learning (another internet-based mode), which is solely from the teacher to the students, e-learning allows the teacher and the students to shape the learning process.

A new paradigm of teaching and learning. The new normal calls for a new teaching and learning paradigm. Farewell to the traditional lecture course descending from the teacher as an expert “who owns all the knowledge and passes it on to the usual passive students”. The age when teachers are fountains of knowledge is over; and the students, like plastic buckets of various sizes (some leaking from the sides or bottom), enjoy this wisdom flowing from the fountain. With online courses becoming the standard mode of instruction, we would expect “a more interactive and collaborative approach in which students and teachers shape the learning process together”. (Google – June 6, 2019). We teachers “facilitate” to “help learners discover knowledge and direct them in ways that help them”. (Google, September 29, 2017) Knowledge dumping (a one-way flow of talk) would not help achieve education goals. Thus, we can say that our role as a teacher is changing from ‘sage on stage’ to ‘guide on the side’ – a facilitator of learning. (https://faculty.washington.edu/kate1/ewExternalFiles/SageOnTheStage.pdf)

Communication tools. In my several decades of teaching, May 2020 was my first term to teach classes through the online mode. My experience of nearly two years made me deeply understand why this mode requires open communication channels. Since communication in online courses is the cornerstone for students to learn well, everyone involved will hopefully have an available, accessible, and working internet service (which, as we all know, cannot be true all the time). Online courses cannot be a teacher or student monologue. Teachers should communicate notices and instructions regarding the date, time and learning activities of virtual sessions, as well as other information that is easily accessible to learners, wherever they can be reached. Great if internet-based courses can access media support apps using conferencing software, including Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype. In February 2021, Google Workspace for Education announced the addition of applications in addition to Google Classroom, Meet, Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides. These support applications allow interaction between the students and the teacher and between the students themselves. They can use Messenger, Facebook, email, chat, etc. : (1) Messenger, a Facebook family, allows individual and group video calls with up to 50 people via Messenger Rooms. (https://www.the verge.com › facebook-messenger-room) (2) WhatsApp, also a Facebook company, may download the Messenger app for smartphones. (Google, Oct 5, 2021) WhatsApp allows us to send/share messages, audio or video with our students. As noted, WhatsApp has the most users across all platforms with 2 billion active users in over 180 countries. (Google, July 8, 2021). A third app in the FB family of companies is Instagram Direct through which we can send instructions or respond to student inquiries. (https://blog.hubspot.comservice/mobile-messagingplatforms-platforms) To maximize the good use of these Internet-based platforms, let’s examine the nature of learning in the context of today’s virtual classrooms.

The nature of learning. Learning, as it is generally defined, is “the process by which an individual acquires the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to meet the demands of life. An individual’s behavior is thus modified… caused by experiences commonly called learning”. (Google, November 18, 2014). Since students’ experiences are in some way the servant to learning what is taught to them, we teachers can ground our pedagogy in constructivism. “Constructivism is based on the idea that people actively construct or create their own knowledge and continue to learn, based on their previous experiences, beliefs and ideas.” Learners don’t just passively take in information. “Basically, learners use their previous knowledge as a base and build on new things they learn. Thus, everyone’s individual experiences make their learning unique to them. Thus, learning becomes a personal matter. This explains why students learn differently from each other. https://www.wgu.edu/blog/what-constructivism2005.html)

Constructivism and constructionism. The theory of constructivism anchors constructionism. That is, learning is most effective when we teachers “build something our learners can experience” just as important for active student participation online. An example: I ask my students to answer reflection questions (based on the modules/handouts and suggested references I have prepared for them) which they present using PowerPoint in a virtual session. Reflective questions are those that ask about the applicability of a learned concept. Such activity fires up their brain cells to read their deep learning material. For an effective presentation of their answer during a virtual session, I help them prepare a PowerPoint using the bullet style. I encourage them to learn the bulleted PowerPoint style, advising them that the style is an effective presentation of their research during the oral defense. The many virtual sessions where students used the bullet style on their PowerPoint presentation proved to be an effective learning approach.

Learning styles. Also accommodate student learning styles — visual/auditory/kinesthetic. Assign pandemic paintings/sketches, or complete partially drawn pictures, dot-to-dot worksheets, or puzzles to develop a visual style. Provide the development of auditory skills through musical performance, sound localization and identification, speech interpretation, etc. In this way, we teachers cease to be ‘wise on stage’, but a genuine and friendly ‘side guide’.

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts in the management of higher education institutions, studied at top universities in the Philippines and in Germany, Britain and Japan. She has held senior academic positions at Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan; was appointed by the president after the 1986 EDSA to standardize campus operations at state institutions and served 17 years later as president of SUC. She is the director of the internationalization office and a lecturer at the Liceo University of Cagayan. Awards include the CHEd Lifetime Professional Achievement Award, the British Council Valuable Services Recognition Award, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Ministry of Education Award for his initiatives as a pioneer member of the Philippine Teacher Education Council.