Change of heart

From April 9 to 10, I was fortunate enough to attend 2 different webinars. The first one was hosted by APACALL, an international research organization, and other one was organized by my former review center CBRC and Panpacific University. Both have talked on the ways on overcoming challenges amidst online learning however, both gave me different perspectives.

Let me start off with the APACALL webinar-symposium.

I was so happy my technical writing professor, Ms. Wina (please check out her scholarly blog here), invited me to attend an international webinar to gain more insights for our next research paper. Since it was free (which is very important for my hobo-purse) and was held on a free day (Day of Valor), I registered and look forward to it since this was my first webinar-symposium. The speakers were (on my perspective) world-class teachers on the field of Languages and the use of Computer mediated learning. However, though the webinar was info-rich, I only selected the ones I think could be applicable for my school, and here were some of it (in no particular order but on my order of what I think has left a mark on me):

1. Mr. Vance Stevens' Minecraft discussion: He researched on the use of Minecraft as a tool to develop student's English language proficiency. His team found out that it could help as long as the teacher provides tasks aligned to the game. I never thought that such could be done. I do know that some of my students play computer games during their free time but I was thinking, can I also do the same? Since most of my students were playing League of Legends and other games like 'One of Us'... maybe I can instruct them to talk in English during the game play. I see Mr. Vance's talk as synergy between what students wants and what we want... they learn and have fun. Mama told me language learning comes naturally once there is a constant use of the language... hmm... better prepare myself when I present this though because not all academicians would see this as a benefit, especially in my school.

2. Ms. Claire Siskin's talk on the misunderstandings about CALL: GAWD I CAN RELATE! Not to brag about it but am pretty tech-savy too. I try to incorporate my school tasks with anything 'digital' like the use of online blogs, even pioneered the use of Google classroom on my 4th school, and have somewhat mastered Canvas as my school's LMS. However, as Ms. Claire did mention, whenever I suggest something to my school admins that we need this or if I could use a certain platform and they be like "but we have MS Teams?" or "how much is it?" or "is it even necessary?" and it even ended up with "please prepare a short seminar on how to use Google classroom" or now on my current school "could you teach us how to use the other features of Canvas?" At first I thought it was just digital divide between me and my co-teachers but after seeing Mr. Vance, I think it boils down to acceptance. Just like what Ms. Claire mentioned, people must be informed of what CALL is and its importance to language learning. Also, one should be willing and enthusiastic enough to learn or else, both teacher and student will get frustrated with computer mediated learning tools and will end up hating online classes.

3. Mr. Phil Hubbard's talk on technology-mediated listening: Since I am not a 'real' language teacher (took up Communication Arts) and I would often say under my nose that "it was due to circumstance that I became a teacher", now everything changed after I listened to this talk... one must listen to learn more. Well, the previous statement does not make sense yet, however to put this in the context of teaching, one must focus on listening and then, language learning follows. If Mr. Vance's amazing Minecraft is the application of language communication, Mr. Phil's talk is into learning through listening process. He even introduced soft wares that could help the teacher identify if the audio clip is appropriate for the students' level to learn a language. Pretty cool right? Right now, I think due to listening as well, I get to know why I became a teacher, because I'm a natural-born learner. I love learning! 

4. The use of chatbots*: This is an amazing study too! The research presenter talked about the use of chatbots to help students learn how to use language without being judged. I mean, like the Kdrama 'Start-up', the students are safe to converse without the lurking Grammar Nazis. This I can totally use for my Grade 7 students! 

*I will have to search who presented this... lost some of my notes due to mental-amazement on what I learned so far haha!

My final thoughts? Most of my students hate (take note not like.. but hate) online classes. It gave them anxiety to the extent that they do not do their best — worst not even attend classes. If we could, and can integrate, and find ways to make learning fun and engaging, like the practical use of technology that I have previously stated, I think students will be motivated to learn. It was such a day full of information that if I can absorb everything I would have done it, but to be honest as a Millennial trait, I have a very short attention span plus, I was too engrossed with everything that I only selected those topics that I think I could use for now. But all in all, my perception towards academicians changed. I noticed that even if the participants were mixed (some were PHDs and others MA, while I think I am the only living participant in the webinar who is still completing my MA), but they talk like equals. I have never seen such in my whole entire life! No joke! I mean, I've been immersed in an environment were labels are important, ranks are recognized, yet seeing these people converse and even sharing their learnings from their research so openly with no reservations — how great schools would be if this would be practiced! I feel no competition between the presenters and no brag-ups as to who performed best — just simple sharing. And also, Mr. JB Son left a good mark on me too — as organizer, be on time :)

(I will post my thoughts about my second webinar later, I need to digest those further so I can give justice to it too)

-To Be Continued...

Panpacifc University X CBRC webinar   

I so looked forward for this one too. You see, as mentioned previously, I have so many challenges both in my MA and with my students. Even if I only took 3 units for MA and had a few students at work, still everyday is a constant battle. If I were to count how many "war of the chats" I had with my students (well not the gruesome ones but more like, we always hit the high roads of Q&A that were explicitly discussed earlier and count up to 5 and poof, brain blasted), gawd today is my nth war. Well, we can't blame them, times have changed due to pandemic...

Well, as for this webinar, it is a bit of a challenge. You see, I need to accompany my mom and dad to my promised "nail spa day" for them, and being senior citizens, they needed my serbisyong totoo — pay their spa day AHAH! So far so good, got my hair cut too for being nice to them hahah!

This seminar had 5 speakers, but out of the five, I only liked the second presenter, Mr. Ringo Blanca, a Philippine Normal University alumni and an assistant principal. He talked about the real challenges schools face and provided real solutions. This is what I was looking for, teachers providing solutions to challenges we teachers face. His talk was simple: he stated the following challenges and corresponding solutions:

Screen grab during the webinar feature Mr. Ringo
Screen grab during the webinar feature Mr. Ringo

His simple talk make me realize something — face the music, then plan and execute. Identify the needs, then do your own pedagogy that fits the scales — that way, both student and teacher will adapt to the new normal set-up and, there will be a smooth transition from online to face-to-face classes once everything seemed to be okay. 

My thoughts in this webinar? No offense but, some of the speakers used too much jargons that it deficits the purpose of the webinar. Going back with what I mentioned before "we go for ranks..." I do get some of the speakers were in authority and had gained their positions and knowledge from their years of hard work but, that is the problem. We look at these labels as "privileges" and when we do not understand them, some would even be little the listener. Wouldn't it be better to step down a little, feel the grass, and let your fingers get dirt? 

In conclusion, both webinars are great. Both webinars help me understand what I can do to help my students and adjust to what needs to be addressed, however not criticizing us Filipinos in conducting such webinars but why don't we be more 'equal' in terms of treatment? We must be open to face our challenges, do radical changes in the educational system, and as what Ms. Wina would tell me "be human". We are all humans. Lemme qoute what she said regarding the APACALL webinar: "This could widen your pedagogical perspective and inspire you to think outside the box by becoming more resourceful with the technological trends that are most appealing to your students" (Bensal, 2021) — imagine the possibilities of making fun lectures without the students feeling the pressures of learning. Everything comes naturally. Also, we can help lessen their stress and mental fatigue. As for teachers, let us be open to all kinds of discourses and accept each other's thoughts — who knows, we could create a pedagogy that is uniquely Filipino and helpful for society.

I know my years of teaching does not equate to their experience, their ranks, and their knowledge. I've been told before that little knowledge is dangerous however, meager is my experience, my heart as a human remains — we must all act as humans... "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" — this is, I think, the golden rule of teaching.


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