School Is Not Always About Grades

MANILA, Philippines - Thirty-one year old Zamboanga del Sur high school teacher Shateen Seraña had a dream - to educate her students beyond the classroom, hone their skills in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and eventually encourage them to use what they have learned to give back to the community.

Armed with the desire to make a difference, Serana came up with a mangrove tree-planting project for her fourth year high school students.

"I did some research on what the students could do to help the community and I thought mangrove planting could be feasible because it would protect our coastal area from erosion. Since none of the students has ever experienced tree-planting before or used the Internet for school projects, this could be an interesting experiential project for them," shared Seraña.

Taking a page from what she learned from the Global Filipino Teacher (GFT) program of Globe Telecom, Seraña adapted the project-based learning (PBL) approach in teaching both Filipino and ICT skills via the mangrove tree-planting project. Seraña was selected by Globe Telecom and the Coalition for Better Education (CBE) to take part in GFT last year in Zamboanga City. GFT is an intensive 54-hour, six-day teacher training program that promotes the use of ICT via online collaboration and PBL approaches across different subject matters and teachers.

STUDENTS DISCOVER

WONDERS OF TECHNOLOGY

For the project, Seraña asked her students to write proposal letters to their local Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), and even to their local community leaders. "The best-written letter was translated to English and was used as a template for the letter we sent to the barangay, urging them to donate for the project and to join the students."

Seraña also taught the students the best way to utilize the Internet for the project.

"We created Facebook groups where they updated each other on the progress of the tree-planting project and the tasks they had to do. One group was assigned to document the project online using Multiply. My students became more excited, less passive. Since resources were limited, the team who learned how to use the Internet taught their other classmates what they know. They also asked for donations to purchase a modem and they borrowed laptops from the school to work on the project," she said.

The mangrove tree-planting project was recently hailed by Microsoft Philippines as the best project which used IT innovation for 2011 in their 7th Innovation in Teaching Leadership Awards (ITLA). Seraña is representing the Philippines in the regional Microsoft ITLA competition in New Zealand.

"I am glad my project was recognized. My students also became more confident because of their newly acquired skills. School is not always about grades but of new experiences and memories," she said.

Seraña, who has been with Taluksangay National High School in Zamboanga del Sur for only two years, is not the only GFT graduate who was recognized by Microsoft Philippines ITLA. Eight out of the 10 finalists of Microsoft Philippines ITLA are products of GFT.

"This speaks a lot about the impact of the GFT program and the training they receive on project-based learning and ICT integration. It demonstrates how ICT can provide teachers and students with more accurate and quicker access to information, tools for easier and faster learning, and a chance to collaborate with the rest of the world. It was proven that by using ICT, there is increased teacher motivation and improved student memory retention and comprehension of various subjects," said Rob I. Nazal, head of Globe corporate social responsibility.

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