“For me, innovative teaching requires the students to use technology and by themselves, realize the significance of the lesson.” – Ernani S. Fernandez, Philippines
We’ve talked to hundreds of teachers here at Daily Edventures, representing every possible geography, perspective, educational philosophy and walk of life. But in spite of all that diversity, we’ve found that nearly every teacher has one thing in common: commitment. Educators work long hours, often for little pay, because they’re committed to shaping the next generation of global citizens. For Ernani S. Fernandez, that commitment made him return to a typhoon-ravaged community to help rebuild the school and ensure his students stayed on track.
Last November 8, a super typhoon devastated the village of Leyte, where Fernandez had lived and taught before he moved his family to Manila. He had planned not to return to Leyte. Prior to the tragedy, he had submitted his project (developed at his school in Leyte before his move to Manila) to the Microsoft Expert Educators Program, and the winners of a trip to Barcelona were announced on that same day.
Three days later, when Fernandez finally learned he was on the list, he had an epiphany. “I said to myself, if only my students knew about it, then they’d be happy and proud of themselves because they were part of the innovative project,” he tells us. “It became successful because they participated in the activities I had given them. Then I remembered what it takes to be an educator and that teaching is the noblest profession because you do more on service; teachers mold the minds of the students and prepare them for their generation. That’s why after the safe delivery of our second child and a month of staying in Manila, we went back to Leyte and continued our commitment to our students (because my wife is also a teacher).”
He returned to school with no classroom and limited faculty. But the teachers who were there worked together to, as Fernandez says, “manage the students and guide them to the right path… helping one another in Leyte.”
Fernandez went on to attend the Global Forum in Barcelona, presenting his project “What Makes Accounting Exciting,” and collaborating with educators around the globe as part of the first learn-a-thon. He continues to benefit from those collaborations by communicating with teachers he met via a Facebook group, and he frequently looks to projects shared as part of the Partners in Learning network for ideas to further his own innovation.
Ernani Fernandez has a devotion to his profession and to his students that’s common among Microsoft Expert Educators. But when that commitment was tested under the harshest conditions, he emerged a stronger and even more committed teacher. We salute that commitment today, and hope you’ll enjoy his Daily Edventure.
What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
I had the best teachers when I was in grade school and high school because I belonged to the top section. They influenced me to study hard and earn good grades in all subjects. I never thought that I’d be a teacher. I dreamed of becoming an architect or an accountant. To be a teacher was my third choice, however, I still enrolled in Business Education because I wanted to share with others everything that I learned. I wanted other students to experience the quality education I had from my teachers.
My teaching career started two years after I graduated with the degree of Business Education in one of the prestigious universities in the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines. When I graduated, I worked in a computer company where I learned the skills needed for different applications of Microsoft.
When I worked as an office staff, I noticed that there was no excitement. I looked for another job and worked as a Training Officer in a company that provided computers to private schools. I was assigned to train teachers in Palo, Leyte, which was (24 hours land travel, one hour by plane) away from my home in Manila.
Unfortunately, I did not train teachers — because the school made me their computer teacher. And that’s how my teaching career started. At first, it was really hard… dealing with different students, their attitudes and there were some students who were slow learners that challenged me to do better to create a strategy in teaching them. And I’ve realized that I am fortunate to be a teacher.
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
In 2002 when I worked as computer teacher in Palo National High School, I taught my students the basics in computer operation. I thought it was the best lesson I could teach them. Then, I met three of the most innovative teachers in the Philippines (Joy Bihag, Christie Anne Dagamac and Dean Earnest Paul Hermano) when I participated in the ICT training for public school teachers that they conducted. They were the Microsoft Innovative Teachers or the ITLA Awardees in the Philippines. They trained public school teachers on how to integrate technology in teaching through Partners in Learning.
In our training, I learned the difference between a teacher who integrates technology in teaching and a teacher who teaches computer education. Then, instead of teaching my students the basics of operating a computer, Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and Internet… I integrated all of those technologies in teaching Business Technology lessons.
Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?
When I worked in the Province of Leyte, in Palo National High School in particular, I met teachers who were really good and dedicated to their work. Teachers who are really committed and have done their best to attain the mission and vision of the school. I believe that students will learn best from teachers. The achievements of the students are the reflections of the knowledge imparted by the teachers.
Aside from being a Business Technology teacher, I am also the ICT Coordinator of the school. It is my special assignment because of some achievements of my students in ICT and the school believed that I best fit the task. As the ICT Coordinator, I see to it that my colleagues are updated with current trends in technology and how they will use new applications in teaching.
Even before my professional achievements, I have made it my responsibility to train teachers on technology integration in education. I am a Global Filipino Teacher in the Philippines and my role is to peer-coach teachers in other schools. As a Global Filipino Teacher and Peer Coach, I’ve used the Partners in Learning Network to find learning activities shared by other teachers in the world.
Even though all of our efforts were turned to nothing as a result of the super typhoon, the knowledge and skills in ICT are still here, and we only need to rehabilitate our school and start again for the progress of the students.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I use different strategies in teaching, and the most innovative way to support my work as a teacher is the integration of technology.
Since not all of my students have their own computers at home, I made TV-based instructional materials and I shared it with my students. This consisted of four lessons in computer fundamentals: history of computers, components of computer system, computer benefits and number system.
I used Office 2003 in doing the material, and it was 2010 when I developed it. Using PowerPoint I prepared slides for each lesson that I researched in the book and Internet. I converted the slides into JPEGs using Paint and recorded my voice for the discussion and incorporated all the files in MovieMaker to produce the video material. The video IMs were saved on a CD and can be played in a VCD/DVD player. In this case, they can watch the video lessons at home and understand more about it.
For my Global Forum project, I used all of these tools, as well as Facebook, AutoCollage and OneNote.
In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cellphones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work?
Education had changed and brought technology to a new generation of students. And the teacher’s role now is to guide the students on the proper use of technology. In developed countries, technological advancement is not a problem. In the Philippines, though we are not that behind in terms of technological advancements, the scarcity problem in computers hinder in learning the technology.
Most of my students have cellphones. Even before the Text2Teach Program of Globe Telecom, I used a strategy that made use of students’ cellphones. I recorded myself while discussing the lessons in Business Technology and shared it with my students. Instead of listening to MP3s, most of them listened to the recorded lessons. It interested them, because they still used their cellphones. I also encouraged them to use the camera to take photo of the lessons written in the board instead of copying for their notes.
Now, the greatest advantages are the designed apps that teacher and students use. Gaining knowledge in the lesson and at the same time improving skills in technology. I am glad to see that most of my students are now using tablets and I introduced to the some applications that they can use to improve their learning, like textbooks on tablet computers.
Since these changes in education because of technology, my work is easier. And I can still communicate with my students through our Facebook group. Submission and checking of students’ requirements are now online, and they can take quizzes at their convenience through Edmodo as long as they don’t miss the deadline.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
Now, for me, the exciting innovation is about the 21st century skills development of the students. I learned about 21st century skills when I attended ICT trainings. With Microsoft 21st Century Learning Design (21CLD), I was able to learn how to conduct activities that will develop 21st century skills.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
Critical thinking and problem solving because these are the highest of the 21st century skills. This is where students generate ideas and apply the knowledge they have learned in a new or different context. They are keen observers of problems surrounding them, but can easily find solutions to solve them. Hence most of the activities I give to my students require knowledge construction, and their experiences help them in solving real issues or problems.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
BrainPOP, because it is just one tool but it contains all the subjects and students will learn much from this tool.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
Now, the Philippines is having K12 education solve issues and align with other countries standards. Issues cannot be avoided, however, instead of complaining that the Philippine Government cannot sustain a K12 program in education, it is better to support the program and find ways and means to make it successful. As long as the goal for education will benefit the majority, I will always support it just like my country supported education for Filipinos.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
Technology must always be part of the education system to ensure that students are ready for the 21st century. Hence, the Government of the Philippines, together with private institutions, provided computers for public schools through DepEd Computerization Program (DCP). Other private companies such as Globe Telecom, Coalition for Better Education, Ayala Foundation, People Ignite and Microsoft Philippines provided ICT trainings for teachers to learn how to integrate technology in education and Internet connectivity for public schools.
Globe Telecom has their program for education which is Global Filipino Teachers (GFT). Teachers were trained by the Coalition for Better Education to be GFT and integrate technology in education. The top 30 GFTs were selected in the country and chosen as peer coaches who trained teachers in their respective regions.
Microsoft Philippines implemented the Microsoft Partners in Learning Ambassadors for Education. There were private and public school teachers, universities and college educators who were chosen to lead the Ambassadors program. The goal is to adopt schools and train teachers pertains to teaching with technology. The country is doing its best to align the new K12 program of education with the 21st century.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
There is no book for a Business Technology class. To ensure that my students are receiving quality education, I make materials for my students. Hence, I focused on requiring the students to make instructional materials as their output. I let them use technology in doing all the materials. Some of the materials are the accounting comics, accounting module and TV-based materials.
How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Teachers must understand their work. It is not just a profession, it is a service and commitment. Challenges may not be avoided. Instead of complaining, find better ways to solve an issue. It is also good to train school leaders in addition to teachers. Sometimes, teachers are hesitant to implement a program or project in their respective subjects. Just as I experienced, there are other school leaders who are not aware of the 21st century skills. Hence, some of the teachers I trained with regard to innovative teaching cannot apply what they had learned.
How have you incorporated mobile devices/apps into your classroom and have you seen any improvements?
In the Philippines, most of my students have cellphone. Sometimes, it annoyed me to see students listening to MP3s during free periods instead of studying. The department of education released a memorandum for students to not bring their cellphones to school to avoid distraction of focus in the class. But we cannot avoid students doing that. Their parents need to have constant follow-up with their child, even through SMS.
So using my cellphone, I recorded my voice while discussing the lesson and I shared it with my students. I even encouraged them to use their cellphone to record the discussion in their class just like media reporters conducting interviews. It had a great result. I cannot stop my students from listening to music, however, gradually, they realized the other importance of their cellphones.
Describe your most innovative teaching and learning practices and how they are supported by technology?
For me, innovative teaching requires the students to use technology and by themselves, realize the significance of the lesson. This was how my students acquired knowledge and skills; the knowledge in the lesson and the skills in using technology. Acquiring 21st century skills is vital for the students’ success.
As an educator, I have to be innovative. I made project-based learning in Business Technology (“What Makes Accounting Exciting?”) that motivated my students to be more collaborative and developed a sense of responsibility.
This innovative teaching was used because students found accounting lessons in Business Technology difficult to understand. The confusing equations, analysis of transactions and the systematic procedure of the accounting cycle were made more exciting and enjoyable. What made accounting exciting were the ICT-integrated activities that helped students acquire 21st century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, knowledge building.
Describe how you use your favorite Microsoft technology in the classroom and how that impacts 21 century skills development?
I’ve observed that the most difficult lesson in the subject is Basic Accounting. Students really found this confusing and difficult. Because there are only a few who are into numbers, motivating them is a must for me. They also feel burdened with the financial reports that they need to produce after journalizing, posting, balancing, etc. Let us add the journal papers, ledger and worksheets that they used in doing the accounting process.
As a teacher, I observed that they are just doing it to pass the subject and not because they like it. In that instance, learning is difficult to attain. I let my students work on the manual process of accounting in the early phase of the lesson. Then in the second stage, I let them watch YouTube videos about the usual work in the office. And students have seen the use of Microsoft Excel as a spreadsheet program. Then we used the magic of Excel in the accounting process.
Students were so amazed by the cells in the Excel worksheet — that each cell is a calculator that computes any value. The best thing in Excel is the linking of formulas, from one sheet to another, and from one file to another. That in the accounting cycle, once you change an amount from the journal, then changes will be applied automatically in the other sheets or files in Excel.
There are other Microsoft technologies that can be used in the classroom, however my favorite Microsoft technology is Microsoft Excel. Microsoft Excel made my students EXCEL in all of the lessons in the subject until they integrated other technology in the lesson to produce more excellent outputs.
Describe to us your role as a leader for technology in your school, community or among other educators?
I initiated computer education in school for the students and as well as for teachers. The scarcity of computers in the school was not a problem, even if the ratio is 1:5 (one computer, five students sharing), my students managed to win ICT competitions that made the school popular in the division.
With that, the government had seen the needs of the school and donated additional computers for the students. ICT became part of the teachers’ professional development. Computer literacy is always part of the In-Service Training (INSET) for teachers.
Currently, I am one of the Microsoft Expert Educators, and in the Philippines, I am a Microsoft Ambassador for Education. Being who I am now has great impact on other teachers. That’s why I take the opportunity to train more teachers to use Microsoft programs for teachers, such as Microsoft Digital Literacy, Teaching with Technology, 21CLD, Windows in the Classroom, etc.
About Ernani S. Fernandez, Business Technology Teacher, Palo National High School, Microsoft Expert Educator
- Birthplace: Cainta, Rizal, Philippines
- Current residence: Bgy. Cavite East, Palo, Leyte, Philippines
- Website I check every day: Facebook, YouTube, PiL-Network.com
- Person who inspires me most: My family inspires me most… even if I’m busy in school I manage to have a good bonding with my family at home. My wife is also a teacher and I teach her how to use the PC Tablet and navigate Windows 8.1 to make some materials for her pupils. I let my son (seven years old) use the applications I downloaded from the PIL-Network such as Fotor, Freshpaint etc.
- Favorite childhood memory: I was usually called by my teacher to help her in designing the bulletin board because I am good in arts and design. There were some excess materials like cardboard, art papers of different colors, other papers that have good texture and quality that instead of throwing it in the trash, I gathered it all and used it in making bookmarks. The bookmarks were the names of my classmates which are also like a name tag. Letters were manually illustrated in a colored paper and cut it out and pasted in a colored board paper. It was just a hobby, however, I thought of something which compensated my effort. I was only 10 years old when my entrepreneurial skills started. I sold the personalized bookmarks/name tags for P1.00 (1Peso) per letter. With so many orders, and with the very simple things that I did, I was able to support some of my needs as a student. Now that I am a business technology teacher, I always share this experience with my students. I told them about that business opportunity, that those opportunities can be found anywhere — just look for the importance of certain things and think deeply.
- Favorite book: Business Technology, Accounting, ICT
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Office Programs: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Publisher… Autocollage, MovieMaker, OneNote, OneDrive,
- Your favorite quote or motto: “Education is the key to success.” No matter your status in life, as long as you have a good education and you use it for a good purpose, then you’ll become successful