My First TEDx Experience at Xavier School

Let me just start out by saying that TED talks have really caught on with me. I enjoy watching talks on various topics, especially talks that have to do with life, technology and health. I even have the TED app on my iPad!

Recently, a blogger friend, Jay Jaboneta, was invited to speak at TEDxMontpellier on his Yellow Boat Project – providing yellow boats for children in villages isolated by bodies of water and where children had to SWIM just to get to school. It was quite an experience for me to listen via livestreaming to someone I actually knew who was in the company of other illustrious speakers as well.

A few days after TEDxMontpellier, I got wind of a TEDx talk even closer to my heart. Xavier School, my boys’ school, was going to host its own TEDx talk in just a few weeks. I quickly registered for the talk which happened last Feb. 18, 2012.

Six (6) speakers were lined up for TEDxXavierSchool (click on their names to view their TEDx talks posted on YouTube):

  • Raynard Raphael Lao — a Xavier High School student, who is also a champion public speaker at both local and regional competitions
  • Brian Maraña — International Programs Coordinator of Xavier School who has transformed the way students learn from the world
  • Tony Meloto — Founder of Gawad Kalinga, providing countless homes to the homeless and building them into communities, and speaker at the World Economic Forum
  • Dodie Ng — Games and apps creator who also founded a robotics organization and team for the youth while also being a Xavier High School student
  • Mark Ruiz — Co-Founder of Hapinoy and Founder of Rags2Riches, providing social business enterprise and microenterprise development as a living means to some of the poorest people
  • Brian Tenorio — Internationally-acclaimed, New York-based designer who has altered the way development is done through Design

With Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga and Mark Ruiz of Hapinoy

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MINT College: Not Your Ordinary College

 

Mint College logo

I joined a group of bloggers on a campus tour of this fairly new college called Meridian International College (or MINT). This college is located in McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. But unlike the other schools in that area like the International School Manila, British School and the Chinese and Korean International Schools, MINT was not located in the usual kind of campus that had outdoor school grounds. It occupied the entire second floor of the Commerce and Industry Plaza Building.

A delightful surprise for me was discovering that MINT was founded by none other than my ex-boss at SGV/Andersen Consulting — Baltazar “Bal” Endriga. Bal has always been the kind of fellow who was not just nationalistic but always had the heart of a philanthropist, always wanting to give back after being given personal opportunities that brought him to where he is now. So while I was surprised that he was at the helm of this academic endeavor, it was not out of character for Bal to do so.

The aim of MINT is to provide a more creative environment for learning using the latest technologies available. Theory and practice are combined. The professors don’t just teach their subjects; it is their profession as well. Students studying film, for example, will have someone in the film industry as professor; and for those studying Music and Audio Production, they would have a music artist teaching them. MINT wants students to get their hands dirty with actual experiences, not just theory.

The entire college is an Apple school (there is an Apple Experience Center inside the school where you can actually buy Apple products) with students using iPads as notebooks.

To-date, MINT offers the following regular and short courses:

REGULAR (degree courses)

  • Applied Arts & New Media
  • Film & Communication Management
  • Music Business Management
  • Marketing
  • Entrepreneurial Management
  • Environmental Management and Sustainable Development
  • Finance and Commerce
  • Information Technology
  • Computer Science

SHORT (note: you need to check schedules with their office)

  • Film
  • iPhone/iPad App Development
  • Accounting for Non-Accountants
  • Stock Market Investing
  • Financial Management
  • Strategic Management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Strategic Marketing for Non-Business Graduates
  • Marketing Communication
  • IT Innovation
  • Photography
  • Digital Arts
  • Illustration and Fine Arts

FACILITIES

MINT was tastefully designed to be colorful, creative and learning-inducing. From the modern foyer to the space capsule-like case/conference room aptly called Space Odyssey, to classrooms that have giant, interactive boards instead of the usual blackboard or whiteboard, to the sound studio, theater-like room, MINT is something that students would love going to school for.

Let me give you a quick visual tour:

Space Odyssey (case/conference room)

The Apple Experience Center is the activity center-library-cafeteria of MINT. I was truly delighted by the play of colors, not just here but in every room.

Apple Experience Center (library view)

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Reedley International School: Where Happy Students are Better Learners

For many years now, whenever I would pass Shaw Blvd (Kapitolyo area), I’d see this building that said Reedley International. It had always piqued my curiosity, with me wondering what kind of school it was. A couple of weeks ago, I got an invite from Carlo to visit Reedley, which by this time had transferred to the Libis area.

 

We were briefed by Jerome T. Castro, Reedley’s Headmaster, and Emil Ong, Director of School Development. Emil is the son of Nellie Aquino-Ong who founded Reedley.

Reedley started as a review center giving personalized teaching to students wanting to enter universities. The effectiveness of Nellie Ong’s tutoring prompted some parents to tell her that she should open up a school, which she eventually did. Reedley opened as an Upper School in 2000 with 80 students. A 250% growth rate in 2001, the opening of their Grade School and Middle School levels made them move to a larger building in Pasig and eventually to their present location. Now they cater to a current level of 500 students from 19 different nationalities.

 

 

My kids all went to traditional schools. In traditional schools, everyone is expected to go at the pace of the teachers who follow a lesson plan. Class sizes even in the Nursery levels are at around 30 and this could grow to almost 40 by the time they graduate high school. Some of my kids experienced bullying in school and I know that in many traditional schools, this has grown to large proportions. Teachers have their hands full teaching several sections with over 30 students each; it is really hard for a teacher to know a student closely enough to know his/her needs and personality. Luckily, the school where my boys go adopted a mentoring system to address this lack.

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Educating and Parenting the Net and Next Generation

Yesterday, I attended the annual parent orientation at Xavier School. Unlike past years, there was something different about this year, I realized. I would be attending activities in this school for only one boy (my other boy already graduated high school and is facing a new life as a college freshie).

Ever since Fr. Johnny Go, S.J. took over the helm as School Director, I have seen vast improvements in terms of facilities, quality of faculty, curriculum, use of technology in academe and so many other aspects.  In a previous post, I described how the school turned virtual during Typhoon Ondoy when school was suspended for 10 days. While many schools lost school days, Xavier students continued to study and do assigned homework via the net.

At the orientation, I eagerly awaited Fr. Johnny’s presentation to the parents. His part is always something I look forward to. After all, when the School Director blogs, uses multimedia in his presentations, has a Facebook account and maintains his own YouTube channel, you can be sure his talk would be a very interesting one. I was not disappointed.

Fr. Johnny talked about how important it is for schools (and parents) to learn how to educate and parent this generation of tech-savvy kids.

He described the TV Generation I belong to (the age when baby boomers first encountered a television set and whose free time was spent in front of the boob tube watching episodes of popular shows). He also described the next younger set called Generation X (that age group between mid 30s to mid 40s that were schooled in classrooms where passive learning was the norm: teacher lectures and student “vomits back” what he absorbed during exams).

He next described the 2 generations that students belong to now: The Net Generation (kids from 13 yrs old and up) and the Next Generation (those below 12 years old). These two generations have absolutely no fear for technology; in fact they embrace it wholeheartedly. But with such wide access to information at the tips of their fingertips, schools face a new challenge in teaching them, something that Xavier is moving briskly into. Unlike the generations of parents where  a student WAITS for content before ASSIMILATING it, learning for 21st century kids must entail what Fr. Johnny calls the 5 “-ate’s”:

* LOCATE content (e.g., how to use search engines to find information)

* INTERROGATE the results (learning not to just accept search results as truth but to interrogate which is true, half-true, or false)

* CREATE and COMMUNICATE content

* COLLABORATE with others

At the same time, kids must learn 3 things that go along with ease of technology access and information:

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College Entrance Tests: How To Prepare Your Kid for Possible Setbacks

It has began. The results of college entrance tests for schoolyear 2010-11 are being published beginning this month. De La Salle University’s (DLSU) college entrance test results started everything off by being the first to release their results last January 2. Over the next few months, high school seniors in different schools around the country will experience extreme highs and/or lows as each university publishes its admission results.

As a parent of two older children (in college now), I have rejoiced and likewise, been saddened as well as they got their exam results. I am just grateful that in the end, they did get into the school of their choice. Now, it’s the turn of our third child to go through the stress of waiting it out. Again, I sit it out with him, knowing he is sometimes stressed at the thought of whether he will make it or not. Once again, I ask myself: How can I support my child if the results do not turn out favorable for him?

I’m sure this thought has also crossed your mind if you are in the same situation I am in.

There is a philosophy that I have always tried to remember and adopt in disappointing situations:

When things do not go the way we want it to, it is not a sign of failure.

It is just God’s way of closing the door so that our eyes, which had been focused solely on that door, will veer away and see that He has opened a window.

We cannot shield our children from everything bad. We can’t stop them from bruising themselves. We can’t prevent mishaps. We cannot prevent their hearts from breaking due to rejection from friends or from a broken heart. And we surely cannot prevent them from a possible rejection by the school they most wished to go to.

So what can we do if our kids are not accepted by the school of their choice? Here are some things we can do:

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Xavier School Turns Virtual

Just five days after I blogged about how technology could be used by schools in the wake of the A(H1N1) virus, Xavier School suspended classes for 10 days after one student tested positive for the virus.

Was this a setback for the school? If you’re thinking in traditional mode, yes. Teachers & students could not come together in class for interactive learning. But did that stop Xavier? Absolutely not. The school turned the forced vacation into an opportunity to launch what we now call “virtual Xavier”.

From the time Fr. Johnny Go, S.J. became its School Director several years back, Xavier School slowly began transforming the school, the faculty, the curriculum, and the students into technology enablers. This move served the school well this week.

The day classes were suspended, the school’s official website crashed (probably due to the unexpected traffic on the server as parents and students alike went online to check the next steps.)

It was not long before an alternate site went up, Virtual Xavier (www.virtualxavier.ning.com)

Ning alternate site

Virtual Xavier as it looked the first time it was put up

Next thing we knew, Multiply sites PER LEVEL were created. By this coming Monday, June 29, parents and students alike can go to the Multiply site of their son’s level and download online lessons uploaded by their teachers. In fact, some of these sites already have some content in them like this:

Gr1 Multiply homepage

I believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg as far as what Xavier School (or any other technology-enabled institution) can do. What is important at this stage is the fact they are proving that learning does not stop just because teachers & students cannot come to school. Education can continue for as long as technology enables them to. There are many other things I can see evolving in terms of virtual schooling (podcasting, livestreaming, videoconferencing, online chatrooms, online collaborative projects, Skype-ing, and so on) and I predict Xavier School can be at the forefront of this.  At the moment, it already has some of the infrastructure: computer literate faculty & staff, excellent IT labs, students who are almost all techie savvy, and parents who are getting there (some probably forced to learn out of necessity).

Here is a screencap from an article posted just yesterday in their school website. It shows the forward-looking state of the school.

Effective online education

I am hoping that other schools in the Philippines seriously consider putting more money into technology-based learning. Not just because of the spread of A(H1N1). This, to me, was just the catalyst for Xavier School. But I believe that if we can equip the current and future generations of citizens for a tech world, we can bring this country that much closer to elevating the state of education.

There is another side to consider too. The Department of Education and Culture (DECS) has to modify its guidelines to include learning outside of the classroom.  Right now, for example, we count actual school days (read that as IN SCHOOL). On occasions like this when a school is actually allowing students to accomplish schoolwork during the quarantine period, doesn’t this count (to some extent) as school days? There is a need for paradigm shifts in mindset as to what constitutes learning.  Learning is no longer just classroom-bound. If field trips are considered learning time, online work (for as long as there are guidelines established in terms of hours spent) should count as well. I have other thoughts about virtual education that can address the sore lack of brick-and-mortar classrooms but I will leave that for another day and possibly another blog post.

For now, I am just happy to see Xavier School evolving, innovating and creating. If we can think out of the box and use all the tools available to us, school can be just about anywhere we can imagine it to be — even when we are in pajamas, propped up in bed, with our laptops.

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