The challenges of implementing digital education are explored in this blog post. Discover the key issues faced by teachers and how a lesson-centric...
Ampayon Elementary School: Overcoming Challenges in Digital Education
Discover how Ampayon Central Elementary School overcame challenges in transitioning to digital education and the benefits they experienced with the ProScola educational hub.
The Educational Landscape
ProScola arrived in the Philippines in August 2022 at the invitation of the Caraga Region Regional Director, Ma. Gemma M. Ledessma, CESO VI. Our host school, Ampayon Central Elementary School, is committed to high quality education and had been attempting to transition from analogue to digital/hybrid education for some time.
The shift to digital is extremely important to the school, not only to modernise but also because the quality of lessons plans and adherence to curriculum are subject to stringent review and measurement. This transition is also important to the school because digitization goals are linked to government funding, with the results in ICT and English particularly important in securing additional funding
Challenges in Shifting to Digital/Hybrid Education
The school had had been trying to shift to digital for some time but faced three major hurdles.
The first was the difficulty in adopting digital classroom tools such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams. As we will see later in the article, these are complex systems that originated in business environments and because of their complexity and reliance on internet stability/performance, adoption was severely compromised.
The second challenge was that whilst even the most tech savvy teachers find it challenging to get Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams working for them, those from older generations struggle even more. After a painful first start grappling with folder structures, access right for students, filing and retrieval, the most senior of the teachers had no interest in trying digital again. This is a risk for many of our most experienced and talented teachers and can act as a deterrent to stay in the profession.
The third challenge was that laptops and devices already owned by the school were not being used outside of the IT room. This was simply because there was no clear plan on how to incorporate these into the classes. As a result, the principal had lost confidence in getting value from these devices.
What the school, principal, teachers and students all needed was a way to bridge the gap between analogue classes and digital, whilst keeping things as simple as possible. This is exactly ProScola’s mission.
Attempts at Digitization
The school had tried to use Google Classroom but this was not successful. Low internet bandwidth prevented classes operating simultaneously, so the rollout was immediately compromised and the principal was not prepared to extend the digitization of the school.
This was compounded by problems with Google Classroom and Microsoft 365. Faced with setting up complex folder structures, providing access right for students and managing filing and retrieval, the teachers soon reverted to their old methods of teaching.
The filing problem started with the curriculum, which in itself requires a complex folder structure. Multiple classes add to that complexity – as do student exercises. The Teachers have to set up the filing structure, which even if set up really well quickly becomes hard to manage. Unfortunately, many teachers have yet to acquire those skills, which results in less than optimal structures. These quickly become ‘digital dumping grounds’, compromising teacher’s and student’s ability to find stored materials.
The Trouble with Folders
The diagram below shows the suggested method from programs such as Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams, which from a teacher’s perspective is complex and potentially confusing. Unfortunately, this only gets more complex and confusing over time as files are added.
Teachers Current Folder Management:
More Trouble with Folders
Though some students are tech savvy digital natives, they still don’t have an easy time. They have to navigate complex folder structures and access rights to ensure they are filing and accessing the right materials at the right time. Worse, students have ten subjects, each run by a different teacher, which means that the student has to understand and file their work in ten different filing structures. As a result, files or assignments are often misplaced.
The Complexity of Student’s Digital Learning Structure:
We found that students had to work with more than 100 folders between subjects and assignments. Students were regularly submitting homework and assignments into the wrong locations and then asking the teachers for help to correct these issues.
Teachers reluctantly became technical support providers which made them compare the new system unfavorably with the older analogue way of working, concluding that the new digital world was actually more time intensive.
Back to the Printer
This unfavorable view was made worse by reliance on the cloud, which in turn depends on the constant availability of both and power and internet, neither of which are completely reliable. When either of these was unavailable the whole school could not work. This forced teachers to put analogue backup plans in place, so that they could revert to printed materials when the failures occurred. This doubling up of work made the new digital world even less attractive.
The ProScola Educational Hub
Unlike other digital educational tools, which have been repurposed from business applications. The ProScola educational hub was designed by teachers for teachers and students.
The set up of the hub was guided by the questionnaire completed by the school, after we which set up the system according to their requirements. We had advised the school on the specifications for the battery pack, a small solar array and a low power internal Wi-Fi system. These were brought in to work with the ProScola hub. As part of the installation, we implemented an ‘always on’ digital library that referenced multiple useful internet resources with the ability to download resources when full internet was available.
Teacher’s training was limited just a single one-hour session and they were ready to go! All that was required for student training was 5 mins by the teacher at the start of the first class. Training does not need to be extensive because the structure and context for both teacher and student are both clearly visible and intuitive to work with. You can learn more about how we accomplish this here on the product page.
A surprising aspect of the education required was getting everyone at the school used to the fact that the ProScola educational hub is always available regardless of the state of power and internet!
The Benefits of The ProScola Implementation
For the School and School Principal
The school has now seen the value of digital education. This is demonstrated by the increased adoption and investment in digital devices. Since the ProScola implementation the school has also been awarded further funding due to the progress made in English and ICT and has won multiple educational awards. As a result of this progress, the school principal investing in digital with confidence.
For the first time, the teachers were able to confidently make the transition to digital. They were able to use their existing lesson plans, distribute them to students and present them digitally in class. A significant contribution to the newfound digital confidence was that Teachers no longer needed to concern themselves with the complexity of folder structures or filing and retrieval, including managing access rights for their students. All the teachers needed to know was the time when their lesson plan was going to be presented.
Overall teacher preparation time was reduced by 30% the first year. By reusing the lesson plans from the first year, the reduction in the second year increased to 80%.
There was a 60% reduction in class administrative work (absences, student coaching, disciplinaries) that the teacher needed to perform. Automatic mark calculation made a significant contribution to this saving, reducing the amount of work needed outside of school.
Lesson plans submitted in advance or on time, as monitored by the school as part of governance, increased by 45%.
Teachers expressed greater confidence in their ability to facilitate independent learning for the students.
Students no longer had trouble locating their lesson materials and were able to get straight into the lesson, effectively extending the active learning time. They were also grateful that they no longer had to request technical assistance from the teacher.
Students found it easy to delivers their exercise, take exams and stay up to date with their marks and progress online.
Awards and Testimonials
Two teachers at Ampayon Central Elementary School were presented with the Philippines awards for teaching. Educational District Superintendent Marilou Dedumo acknowledged the contribution the ProScola implementation made to the results that generated the awards.
A quote from Madam Guerrero, master teacher:
“At first, I asked myself, Can I do the tasks at hand, considering my age and sometimes experiencing a memory gap? Those were my negative thoughts, but in reality, I was able to make it. I was able to learn new technology with “PROSCOLA.” This program I consider useful, to me and to my co-mentors.”