The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

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Smart shows public schools how to tell stories online

(The Philippine Star) Updated July 06, 2009 12:00 AM

Teachers and students in Davao experience birdwatching as part of the workshop
Teachers and students in Davao experience
birdwatching as part of the workshop

MANILA, Philippines - Cultural diversity makes the Philippines ’ 16 regions and 80 provinces rich sources of information, trivia and educational content. Each community has its own stories to tell — some having been passed on for centuries by word of mouth.

With the Internet, these cultural treasures can now reach a greater audience: the entire country and the rest of the world. The key, of course, is to empower communities to bring their stories to the World Wide Web.

Through its Doon Po Sa Amin (DPSA) project, Smart Communications Inc. launched a Web content training last summer for 154 teachers and students from 40 partner public high schools across the country.

The DPSA encourages teachers and students to use computer and Internet technologies to generate Web-based information and educational materials about their respective communities. Participants came from partner schools under the Smart Schools Program (SSP), a community service initiative of Smart.

Five-day training sessions were held in Manila and Davao to accommodate trainees from Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

In Manila , resource speakers discussed a variety of topics that could aid in content generation. These “writeshops” helped the trainees identify unique aspects of their community that they could feature. They were also exposed to dynamic and effective ways of presenting information to an online audience.

Fredolina Baldonado, assistant weather services chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), and the Philippine Meteorological Society (PMS) talked about weather forecasting and how communities have their own “weatherlores” or traditional ways of predicting weather.

While meteorologists use data gathered by weather stations and satellites to forecast weather, communities usually perform short-term forecasting by looking at the moon, sun, rainbow, etc.

“Communities have their own weatherlores, which are also useful for PAGASA so we can tie up our warnings with what actually happens in the field,” Baldonado said.

Baldonado said in a town in Ilocos Sur, for example, they can tell if the weather will turn bad when they hear a rumbling sound in the cove. This sound serves as a warning for the community and is caused by the rising seawater.

Kring Elenzano, of Flippish.com, the first online Pinoy video channel, discussed video blogs and how they can enhance the school websites. A video blog is a dated, original video made for the Internet and available online. Video blogs were revolutionized by YouTube.com, a popular video-sharing site that was launched in 2005.

Video blogs are more compelling compared to text blogs, explained Elenzano, who writes, directs, produces and acts in video blogs. “Since videos are both aural and visual, the audience receives more inputs and the better the message sinks in.”

“Instead of writing about school events in the school paper, you can make a video blog of the intramurals, for example. That would interest your students,” Elenzano said.

The beauty of video blogs is these can feature events not usually covered by big TV stations. There is a shift in power from the big guys in media to the audience, who can now dictate what should be available online, added Elenzano.

She gave the trainees the basics of creating a video blog, from conceptualization to editing the video so they can document their school activities, promote tourism in their communities and create video news updates.

Catherine Eleguido, who teaches in Tondo, Manila at the Philippine Christian Foundation Community School, would like to feature their soccer team in a video blog.

“It’s inspiring to see how these kids are good at what they do; they train in a field set against a mountain of trash,” she said. The kids were among those who competed to qualify for the Philippine Team to the Milan 2009 Homeless Cup.

Other speakers included Mike Lu and Ana Gonzales of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines , who enabled the participants to experience bird watching in Intramuros.

Lu, the club president, and Gonzales challenged them to write more about the birds found in their communities. Despite the country’s rich biodiversity, only the Philippine Eagle and the maya are often written about in school textbooks.

The participants wrote accounts of their initial bird watching experience, including the descriptions of the birds they observed in Intramuros.

Lu and Gonzales also showed them their club’s website and shared how their presence on the Internet helped the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines to grow.

In the same way, participants from Smart Schools Partner schools can now also start or enhance their schools’ online presence now that they are better equipped to tell stories of their respective communities online.