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Underserved schools gain digital learning tools

It may be hard to believe, but there are still places in the country where children have never seen a light bulb, much more a mobile phone. Without digital tools and connectivity, they do not have access to the world of knowledge available to most people.

But with the help of kind-hearted individuals, the private sector, and public agencies, several public schools all over the Philippines—many from places without electricity—received digital learning packages this year that will make learning more fun and effective for students.

These come in the form of a TechnoCart and School-in-a-Bag, both created by PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications. The TechnoCart, which can be wheeled from one room to the next, contains 20 tablets, a projector, a laptop-tablet, and a pocket Wi-Fi with starter load. The tablets and laptops are preloaded with fun educational content.

Meanwhile, the School-in-a-Bag is a waterproof backpack that can be brought to far-flung areas like islands and mountains that have no electricity. It has a solar panel along with digital tools and learning content. Both the TechnoCart and School-in-a-Bag come with training sessions for teachers and yearlong monitoring.

Smart, organizations, and individuals have sponsored these packages and brought them to underserved schools in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, including those catering to indigenous people. Units have also been donated to the Department of Education, for use in the Alternative Learning System.

One team of PLDT and Smart employees trekked for six hours through muddy trails and difficult slopes to bring a School-in-a-Bag to the off-grip mountaintop Kibungan municipality in Benguet.

Former Urbandub frontman Gabby Alipe and his record label MCA Music also sponsored a School-in-a-Bag and traveled all the way to Palawan to deliver it to an island school.

Criselda Daculla, a teacher at Banuang Daan Elementary School – another school in Palawan that received a School-in-a-Bag from an individual donor – hoped that the digital learning package would inspire students to learn more and set life goals.

“Right now all they want is to marry early or fish for a living. They can now start to dream,” Daculla said.

Smart developed the TechnoCart and School-in-a-Bag after a study it had commissioned showed that the managed use of tablets in the kindergarten classroom – only 30 minutes per session, three times a week –boosted literacy. 

Students who used tablets to learn the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors showed higher improvement in cognitive (88 percent difference in test scores) and psychomotor learning domains versus students who did not have access to tablets.  They also had greater interest in lessons.

The experience of earlier recipients supported these findings. Smart public affairs senior manager Stephanie Orlino said, “Teachers have reported a decline in absenteeism among students. One teacher in Albay shared that even after classes were suspended because of heavy rains, some of her pupils still went to school because it was ‘tablet day.’ Our focus here is really not just to provide technology, but to make learning enjoyable for kids.”

Since the launch of the programs, Smart and its partners have brought digital learning units to more than 100 schools all over the country. 

But the job is far from done, as there are still about 6,000 schools without electricity. Smart is thus calling on individuals and organizations to sponsor a TechnoCart for P200,000, or a School-in-a-Bag for P100,000. For more information, please email [email protected]

Topics: digital learning tools
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