Remote Learning, FPVI way
(in the absence of photos, we invite the readers to create from their mind’s eye
images that would go with this narrative)
With school classes suspended when the quarantine was enforced in mid-March, two weeks away from the end of the school year, FPVI sessions were also suspended, as was the FPVI Summer Program that the children were looking forward to. Gone too was the 10-day Summer Camp for 60 elementary pupils in a small barangay (village) where they were to be reading mentors. COVID-19 has brought the realization to FPVI that the ubiquitous mobile phones are not created equal, or more specifically, not all mobile phone users are created equal. If you think touchscreens are the norm in this day and age, think differently, for in this remote hinterland town where FPVI is located, the antiquated flip phones are more popular than smartphones due mainly to economic and practical considerations. The mobile phones used by the families of our FPVI fellows are the basic tiny flip type, with the keypad and screen, and no internet access. Short text messages are what they are good for; rarely are they used for calls, and therefore not very useful to conduct online lessons. Or so we thought.
The absence of a learning environment and structure in dire circumstances at home under an extended period could cause the children to lose a lot of the learning momentum at school and at FPVI. In re-calibrating the idea of effective learning remotely, FPVI has devised a way to make the antiquated phones work for the children: by putting a regular credit on each family’s phone, FPVI is able to reach out to each child by text message or call; they then are encouraged to text or call if they have questions and need clarifications. Very basic form of distance learning but this system has ensured continued contact between the children and their parents and guardians, and the FPVI Center. Each child received a care package plus materials for their assignments: milk, chocolate drink, biscuits, bars of soap, hand sanitizers, journal and drawing notebooks, bond papers, crayons and colored pencils, pens, pieces of multi-colored clay, origami papers, and vegetable seeds requiring short turnaround time to grow that they can plant in their backyards. Their assignment includes journal-keeping to record their thoughts, experiences, and observations under quarantine not just to keep them occupied but to some extent help them process this disruption in their lives and routines. They were to keep a sketch/drawing notebook of their surroundings, an attempt to make them more mindful of nature around them. And to sustain their reading and comprehension skills, they have short essays to read and work on (one each week) with questions to answer at the end. They also have a book that they picked to prepare a book review on---the assignment they took home at the start of the quarantine.
The opening of the new school year is now being contemplated for August 2020 instead of June. Meantime, FPVI’s improvised remote learning will continue. The children have also been assured that when the quarantine is lifted and when it is safe enough to resume the weekend sessions at FPVI, they will come back to their learning routines, the camaraderie they enjoyed and the nutritious weekend meals they shared.