Senen’s Speech—Teaching and learning in the Internet era

We love this speech made by one of our Social Studies coaches, MyReviewCoach alumni, and LET topnotcher Senen Pineda. He recently graduated as summa cum laude, Master of Arts in Social Studies Education at the UP Online University with a GWA of 1.00! His insights as an educator in the 21st century while teaching students who grew up with the Internet, coupled with his passion as a lifelong learner himself are very interesting. Read on below to get inspired in harnessing technology for lifelong learning and teaching.

Photo by Senen Pineda

Photo by Senen Pineda

UPOU@21: Critical Reflections and Inflections by Senen Niño T. Pineda II

To the University of the Philippines Open University Class of 2016, today is our day. Today marks the end for us of an extraordinary journey in the cyber-halls of the premiere university in the country. The experiences of each Open University student here mirror the intricacies and challenges of the educational platform with which we chose to acquire our graduate or undergraduate degrees. We all had these experiences to share: that time we had a paper due on the 55th minute of 11pm and it was already 9pm but we still had 800 words to wrestle with; that moment when we needed to upload our FMA and the course site was down; that occasion when we were looking for a computer shop that would still be open at 2am since our pocket wi-fis were out of load or Internet at home was down; that time when we even clandestinely had to use the office computer to check out our learning modules, the office being the only place where Internet connection was semi-reliable.

These experiences were coupled with the embarrassing speed of our country’s Internet connection, the countless pages of readings in PDF at the end of a long work day, and the amazement of people who wonder how we survive in a school where we do not meet our professors face-to-face. We have these 3-minute scripts we use every time someone asks us what distance education is and what open universities are. In this age and in this country when and where bricks and mortar still define what a school building is, we are the students who have laptops and the Internet in our arsenal.

But today does not only mark the end of our journey in distance education. For the undergraduate students, this is your time to shine and outshine others in the “real world”. This is your time to prove to everyone out there that a UP degree, no matter where or how earned, remains to be the greatest weapon that life has equipped you in facing corporate battles and everyday trials. You can call it your own lightning mark on your forehead, your direwolf by your side, your deerstalker hat on your head: in short, that thing which makes you stand out in the world – a well-earned UP diploma. For the graduate students like me, this is likewise a time to be proud of what we have achieved amidst the superhuman challenge of juggling work, school, family, friends and socio-civic pursuits. We are now bolder, more knowledgeable, and readier than ever to share to the country and the rest of the world the insights, comprehensions and awareness we gained after several semesters in UPOU.

But what sets this occasion apart from other graduations is the fact that our triumphs are achieved in an educational platform that is yet to be understood by many people. UPOU is our ecosystem. It is our shared consciousness. It is the uniqueness that we celebrate today.

Education is changing. Soon, gone will be the models of education that treat students like goods in an assembly line or like factory workers spoon-fed of basic skills needed for jobs in emerging cities. Students who came in batches were trained to do repetitive tasks quickly, retain modest amounts of content, and were awarded for making the least amount of mistakes. The individual teachers in schoolhouses may even be obsolete. The economic landscape needing mid-level knowledge workers to produce and manage information in large organizations hungry for profit will soon pass, too. In the era of knowledge workers, our education model rose to meet the needs of a rising industrial economy. What companies and industries demand today are the “smart creatives” who will extirpate models that kill the creative spirit and confidence in our youths.

I have been teaching high school Araling Panlipunan and Research for almost nine years now. I am also teaching college Economics. As a teacher, I often see this challenge in my students. With their gadgets, they literally have knowledge at the palms of their hands. We almost made the textbook obsolete and put an end to the traditional chalk-and-talk style of teaching. But we still fail in producing the “smart creatives”; many of my students still fail at thinking critically and creatively. They mistook Google for research and Facebook for news. They believe everything they read in social media posts and accept as gospel truths the words of false evangelists who are fervent enemies of intellectualism and logic. Their creativities are limited to selfie poses and #wokeuplikethis creations.

I believe that this is a challenge that UPOU has welcomed and triumphed over. In an era where digital natives outnumber the digital migrants, we need to adapt to changes quickly, effectively and efficiently. In this age when everything can be typed in the Google search bar and knowledge is as ubiquitous as technology, we need to stay relevant as integrators of knowledge. In this time when we are barraged with so much information from so many sources, we need critical thinkers who will always ask questions and not swallow everything that Facebook posts offer as the truth. Now we easily know the “what”, “when”, “where” and how”, but we need more of those who can ask and answer the “what now?” and the “so what?”

I believe that this is what UPOU has instilled in its students and graduates. We are independent lifelong learners who use technology to our advantage. Open University students are independent learners whose intrinsic motivation to grasp knowledge stems not from hanging out with classmates at the end of the day or from getting allowances from their parents, but from a sincere desire to gorge on readings and writing assignments on our own. We enjoyed the opportunities to test our resourcefulness in researching and finding ways to get materials for our papers since the traditional physical library is not always a viable and accessible option.

Years from now, we will recognize this time as an inflection point in the face of Philippine education, the time when we stepped up and made wholesale changes on how we educated the Filipino youth and people. We will realize that this was the time we capitalized on individual strengths, creativity and entrepreneurship to minimize or totally erase the chronically unemployed or underemployed Filipino from the face of our resurging economy. By then, this time would be marked as the moment that technology became more than a communications protocol to a powerful ally for educators and learners alike. By then, career options for creative problem-solvers – the “smart creatives” – would be everywhere, while demand for “hoop-jumpers” would no longer be abundant.

For all of us here who took the opportunity to study and earn our undergraduate and graduate degrees through open and distance education, we are living testaments that there is no challenge nor distance nor dimension too insurmountable for us to brave. For all of us here who are self-confessed lifelong learners who will not stop learning and finding new things to learn about, we are proof that we should not be content with what traditional books and “old-school” schools offer. For all of us here who juggled work and school, sometimes at the expense of a “normal” life or time we could have spent with family and friends, this is the product of our toil and sacrifice.

The Class of 2016 expresses its sincerest gratitude to the faculty and staff of UPOU for making this journey with us. I thank you for affording us the chance to learn under the online auspices of the University that made it possible for Filipinos working and residing abroad, full-time employees, stay-at-home mothers and fathers, and students from the so-called peripheries of the country to access a democratized UP education. Even if distance separated us, we will always keep UPOU close to our hearts. When we sing UP Naming Mahal, we intone the line that says, “Malayong lupain, amin mang marating…” But UPOU overcame this by reaching out to the rest of the country, to those who are far from Diliman, Los Baños, Manila and the other campuses, and bringing to them the world-class education UP is known for.

Finally, let us acknowledge that we are indeed blessed because we graduated from UPOU, the leading institution in open and distance e-learning. But this blessing comes with a call to arms, a destiny we are endowed with today. We are sons and daughters of the premier state university that values honor and excellence, love and service to our country. I am asking, no, I am begging you, my fellow graduates, to continue on the trails we have blazed in UP. Do this with honor at a time when honor is sold to the highest bidder and vended to self-gain and personal interest. Do this with excellence, at a time and age when mediocrity is awarded and “pwede na” is the standard. Serve the country and help our fellow Filipinos at a time when they pin their hopes on empty promises flung to them by administrators whose positions were gained through patronage and personality politics.

Ngayon, higit kailanman, hinihingi ng panahon at ng kasalukuyang estado ng ating mahal na Pilipinas, ang mga cyber iskolar na maglilingkod sa ating bayan. Humayo’t itanghal, giting at tapang! Congratulations! Mabuhay ang mga iskolar ng bayan!

Original post may be found here.

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