FIRST School innovates as it adapts to digital learning

Oct 23, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way we conduct our everyday lives and business, many people, businesses, and institutions had to adapt quickly. The First Industrial Science and Technology School (FIRST School) – a wholly-owned technical-vocational senior high school of First Philippine Holdings (FPH) – is no different. FIRST School quickly adopted new practices to help students and faculty cope with the shift to digital learning. 

Located inside the First Philippine Industrial Park (FPIP) in the municipalities of Santo Tomas and Tanauan in Batangas, the school aims to prepare students for a meaningful career in the manufacturing industry. To continue providing quality education while keeping its students safe, FIRST School shifted to 100% digital learning. FIRST School was quick to provide support to both its students and its faculty to help them adapt to digital learning more seamlessly.

With office staff based in Ortigas Center in Pasig City working from home since quarantine started in March, the school reallocated its office rental budgets and other related operational expenses to accommodate the digital learning shift.

Curriculum adapted to digital learning

Whatever is taught to students in physical classes must be translated to digital learning well. To redesign the existing curriculum content to fit digital learning, FIRST School engaged Ms. Via Navarro, former Master Trainer at Microsoft, to assist in this shift. Each module is reviewed and approved by the school’s Curriculum Committee, prioritizing critical modules based on Most Essential Learning Competencies set by the school and by the Department of Education.

Instead of the usual 11 individual subjects taught to students in a semester, FIRST School employed a “Block Modular Approach.” In this approach, subjects are grouped in three blocks and are taught per block in a focused manner. This allows students to manage their load better as they study at home.

Aside from redesigning the curriculum, FIRST School invested in Schoology, a learning management platform where teachers and students can better manage and share school-related content and tasks. This made the transition to digital learning much easier.

Educators upskilled

The digital landscape is new for educators as it is for the students. Hence, to help faculty and manufacturing industry coaches adapt their skills to digital learning, they have been undergoing training sessions since May to hone their skills in both digital learning and student management skills.

Moreover, a Competency Development Program has been designed to help faculty and industry coaches support the school’s strategic priorities.

Gadgets, internet connectivity provided to students

The lack of reliable gadgets and stable internet connection were common problems that many FIRST School students faced, as many of them faced financial constraints made worse by the pandemic.

To address this, FIRST School provided Lenovo Tab E7 tablets to each student. Students will gain full ownership of the tablet by the end of senior high school. Meanwhile, each student is also given a SIM card based on the service provider with the best signal in their area of residence, to ensure that they are continuously connected as they learn from home. These SIM cards are automatically topped up by the school through its enterprise management account.

“Malaki pong tulong sa akin ang pagpoprovide ng tablet ng FIRST School para sa aming lahat,” [The tablets provided to all of us by FIRST School is such a big help.] shared Maria Kristina Seguerra, a Grade 11 student at FIRST School. “Makakatulong po ito sa pag-aaral ko dahil wala pa kaming kakayahang bumili ng gadet ngayong may pandemic. Dahil po dito,alam kong kakayanin naming makasabay sa pag-aaral gamit ang makabagong teknolohiya.” (This would greatly help us since we don’t have the financial capacity to buy our own gadget especially now that there is a pandemic. Because of this, I am confident that I will not be left behind in school with the help of new technology.)