Contributed by Muhammad Khairi Uda, a MENDAKI Tuition Scheme educator for SingTeach Virtual Staff Lounge
The Singapore education system has always been at the forefront of innovations, especially when it comes to the use of ICT in teaching and learning. Our teachers have been making use of ICT tools and blended teaching approaches since the late 90s. Even though the education landscape has undergone several changes since then, ICT remains a key enabler in developing our students academically and equipping them with 21st century skills to help them grow into future-ready, global citizens.
A Shift in Teaching and Learning
In the past few months, the world’s war on COVID-19 has brought about a different kind of battle in our schools. As several countries move to close schools and halt learning for the safety of the children, schools in Singapore put together comprehensive plans to ensure that effective learning can still continue from home.
Yayasan MENDAKI runs the MENDAKI Tuition Scheme (MTS), which is a beacon of hope that provides essential academic support for Malay-Muslim students. Any national shifts in the way teaching and learning is done during this period would need to be translated into actionable plans to ensure continuity of learning for the children of our community.
Within days, the team at MENDAKI put together a slew of resources and strategies to move forward. The team, together with input from some MTS educators, curated resources on Home-Based Learning (HBL) microsites, complemented by educational videos and postings on social media. New platforms like ClassDo, Zoom and Google Meet augmented these static HBL resources. Messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp were also explored to engage the students during tuition hours. This was followed by the process of contacting parents and onboarding the students on these e-platforms so that tuition could continue in the digital realm without much disruption.
The Importance of Active Participation in Digital Teaching
“The digital teaching materials such as e-books, digitalized data or contents presented with other digital means shared by the teachers forms the basis in shaping the students’ thinking and makes for a rich learning experience when accessed by the learners.”
As educators put in place their class routines and new formats of teaching and learning, they remained fully cognizant that even online, students need to be engaged using different modes and not just through frontal teaching. Knowledge acquisition is not a one-way process. Students look to their teachers and peers to make sense of new knowledge. The digital teaching materials such as e-books, digitalized data or contents presented with other digital means shared by the teachers forms the basis in shaping the students’ thinking and makes for a rich learning experience when accessed by the learners (Keane, 2012).
Beyond the materials prescribed, digital teaching aims to involve active participation of the students in the learning activity to achieve the set learning outcomes (Pai & Tu, 2011). This can be achieved through interactions by asking questions or having discussions with their peers. Indeed, it was a joy to see our MTS students fully participative during live video-conferencing lessons. Even when this mode was not possible for some due to pre-existing constraints, students and educators were actively involved in discussions through messaging apps, complete with audio notes of their responses, photos of their work and videos of how they arrived at their answers. The process of providing and receiving instant feedback and guidance remotely was invaluable in developing clear understanding.
Our educators have been using varied approaches in the classrooms even before crisis hit and technology has always been proven to be an effective leverage. The current situation just serves to highlight the importance of starting them young so that the students are adept at manipulating these tools on their own for the purpose of learning. It is a known fact that children of today are digital natives in that they are able to work the devices without much support from adults. The challenge is letting them see these devices as conduits of learning apart from being solely used to access social media, play games or watch videos for leisure.
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
HBL has also taught our students to be disciplined and independent learners. Remote learning brings along with it some inherent challenges and opportunities, which need to be embraced by our students. The concept of autonomous learning focuses on the learners engaging in online and/or offline learning activities by themselves. Personal autonomous learning requires the participation of learners with autonomous learning to precede learning activity (Keane, 2012).
Given a timetable and materials to learn for the day – barring live lessons – our students have been given the autonomy to peruse the content at their own pace. The materials for online learning, though carefully crafted, may not suit all learner profiles. Herein lies the chance to turn the obstacle into an opportunity as students now find themselves in the driver seat of deciding how they would want to delve into the materials and make sense of the learning. Over time, given the timetable that they have to adhere to, the students pace their learning so that they would be able to submit the deliverables and keep up with the pace of the class. Being thrown into the deep end of taking ownership of one’s own learning bodes well with inculcating the right values in our students and to build resilience in them over time.
Whether we like it or not, HBL is here to stay. The HBL period has taught us several important lessons and skills to build our capabilities to ensure teaching and learning continues no matter what. MTS, as a system, has grown by leaps and bounds in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. One thing is for sure, when it comes to the ability of our MTS educators and learners to rise to the occasion, the sky is our limit.
Keane, D. T. (2012). Leading with Technology. The Australian Educational Leader, 34(2), 44.
Lai, Y. H., Huang, F. F., & Yang, H. H. (2012). The Effect of Nutrition Education System for Elementary School Students in Nutrition Knowledge. Journal of Oriental Institute of Technology, 32, 115-123.
Pai, J. C., & Tu, F. M. (2011). The acceptance and use of customer relationship management (CRM) systems: An empirical study of distribution service industry in Taiwan. Expert Systems with Applications, 38(1), 579-584.
Published 15 July 2020