2nd WiTeach at Bohol: Imparting the Purpose of STEM
Written by Charmaine Espinueva
Wi-Teach is one of the community development initiatives of WiTech that aims to TIE: to Teach, Inspire and Engage with students through sustainable outreach, education and empowerment. The first leg of the WiTeach initiative was launched last August 2-4, 2018 at Marawi City. Students and teachers of the Mindanao State University – University Training Center were taught how to code after computer modules and laptops were donated by the WiTech team. A year later, WiTech then conducted the second leg of Wi-Teach last September 6-7, 2019 at Tagbilaran City, Bohol.
The recently concluded outreach in Bohol is an extension of WiTeach’s initiatives at Lila National High School. In this mission were Audrey Pe (Founder and Executive Director), Jessie de Grano (VP for Community Development), Marla Abao (VP for External Affairs), Charmaine Espinueva (CommDev Outreach Officer and Networking Events Volunteer) and Jazmine Calma (ComDev Outreach Officer). It was a two-day mission wherein Introduction to STEM and basic coding workshops were conducted for Grades 9-11 students. Workshops on Technology for Education, Research and Office skills and basic coding were also conducted for Lila’s teachers. The educational resources for this outreach were provided for in collaboration with the Library Hub Philippines.
More than the workshops and donations of computer modules, what WiTech aimed for this outreach was to open students up to the various applications of STEM and to ultimately initiate in them a shift in perspective: that yes, a career in STEM is an option regardless of their background and that ultimately they have the choice to pursue it.
Tagbilaran is considered as the center of educational excellence in Bohol where most of its private schools are located. However, for most public high schools in Tagbilaran and across Bohol, their graduates only ever consider teaching or nursing professions as options. Furthermore, in the science strand of most public high schools, students are only ever exposed to livelihood and vocational careers in preparation for entry to tourism and service-oriented industries. Indeed this is a very limited view presented to students given the vast options and opportunities available to STEM graduates.
In addition to presenting students with a wider perspective, WiTeach aimed to introduce new skills in computer science and academic research that can be incorporated into Lila’s curriculum. In the computer classes of junior high school students in Lila, students are only taught how to assemble and disassemble hardware without being taught how to use the software of a computer. On the other hand, some senior high school students lack knowledge of Microsoft Office and how to search for credible research articles despite thesis-making already being incorporated into their curriculum.
Given these conditions, the talks and workshops for this mission were then arranged to address these concerns. On the first day, in a talk given by Audrey Pe and Charmaine Espinueva, students were introduced to different fields of STEM and the various opportunities available in them. They wanted to break the stigma that maths and sciences are solely for the gifted; the perception that science only exists in the laboratory, in the form of complicated equations with no tangible applications. The speakers broke this image by imparting the truth that science is a part of one’s everyday life, that its applications are woven into one’s daily life due to the human ability to question and ultimately find answers to these queries, that the art of science is only discovered should one choose to pursue it, that science is not purely a complex and intangible concept but rather something founded on purpose.
When asked how many of the students liked science, less than five students raised their hands. However, as the talk progressed, the students were faced with a light bulb moment as they were introduced to the design of software games and applications, electronics, medicine, agriculture, and satellite-operated security systems, to the manufacture of everyday items such as food and drinks, make up, engines and vehicles. Truly, science does not end in the discovery and understanding of the complex but extends further to solve everyday problems and improve the world we live in.
Basic programming workshops were then taught to both students and teachers by Marla Abao and Jazmine Calma. The logic and design involved in programming were taught using Scratch – which was a first for both students and teachers. Students showed great interest in the software but the language barrier became one of the struggles during teaching. Most students were only fluent in Bisaya and had trouble understanding Filipino and English. Nevertheless, for students, much time was spent exploring the features of this application and the logic behind basic coding. Teachers, on the other hand, were taught how to use Scratch under the context of incorporating it into their lectures to make their classes more engaging for the students.
On the second day, applications and resources were introduced to teachers to aid their teaching. At the start, teachers expressed that in addition to the lack of teachers for computer science, planning lectures and engaging students during lectures is a struggle for most of them. Regardless of the subject being taught, this is a problem that exists and can also be rooted in the language barrier especially when it comes to teaching complex science topics. Moreover, the lack of resources for a conducive and engaging learning environment proved to be limiting.
The WiTech team then introduced the use of XMind and resources such as Microsoft Office, Google Scholar, Crash Course and Khan Academy to aid their teaching. These are references that teachers can use to outline their lectures and teach their students since they have a better grasp of both English and Bisaya. The team also introduced tips on how to make successful presentations to engage students further. WiTech also shared the idea of using Facebook to disseminate lecture guides and important resources to students, as opposed to it being an avenue for leisure alone. Graphing and plotting software was also introduced to improve the teaching of math classes. At the end of the two-day mission, printed modules ranging from the use of Microsoft Office and Scratch to introductory courses in basic programming, research, and Technology for Education were given to Lila for the usage of both its students and teachers.
Indeed much has been accomplished by WiTech but a lot more has yet to be done by the rest of the community. In Lila, as is with most Bohol public high schools, there is a lack of sufficient infrastructure to house its resources. Though computers are provided by DepEd and a Starbooks unit is provided by DOST, the lack of space and wifi connectivity ultimately hinders students from fully maximizing the benefits of having a computer. Currently, the computer lab in Lila is being shared with the sewing vocational subject. Thus, as much as there are computers available, the teachers are unable to maintain them, which affects how computer classes are taught.
Information and Computer Technology classes are not mandated nor offered to the whole senior high school class. Rather, it is only open to the best students on a ‘per-choice’ basis. Furthermore, with the lack of internet connection, lessons are limited to basic applications such as MS Office, video making and hardware maintenance. This hinders students from learning about complex concepts in STEM and computing. The language by which these subjects are taught is also another concern given that the resources available for learning science are in English. Efforts must then be made both by the DepEd and supporting institutions to have basic sciences taught in a language that is understood by a variety of students.