Galvin Radley L. Ngo, Ateneo de Manila University

The First Step Is Asking “Why?”

“We live in very exciting times, when technology allows us to bring an arsenal of tools, resources, and strategies into the classroom,” Galvin Ngo, assistant director of the SALT Institute and coordinator for education technology and innovation at Ateneo de Manila University, believes. Yet Mr. Ngo advises educators to approach the use of these tools in a thoughtful manner. “I think we owe it to our students to reflect on our practice and consider how these tools can help us design and facilitate learning experiences better, so that we can help each student do and be better,” he said.

Educators often start discussions about technology with questions related to “what” and “how”: What types of devices should our school have? How can I use technology in my discipline? Mr. Ngo offers a more fundamental question: Why? He takes inspiration from writer and speaker Simon Sinek, who urges leaders to first define why they do something, which helps to clarify their purpose or cause. So Mr. Ngo asks teachers and administrators, “Why do you want to consider using technology in the first place?” This approach, he contends, pushes them to look at context and better understand their learners. “If we begin by looking at who our learners are, how they learn, and what their unmet needs are – and by identifying the gaps and opportunities in our classrooms and institutions – then there will be a greater chance that innovations will really make things better.”

Galvin Ngo, second from left, has shared his expertise at United Board programs on whole person education.

That emphasis on context is consistent with the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm, which provides the framework for teaching and learning at Ateneo de Manila and other Jesuit universities. Mr. Ngo also sees ways to link technology in the classroom to the Ignatian emphasis on experience, reflection, and action. “For example,” he points out, “in promoting reflection in a classroom discussion, one particular challenge is to elicit participation among students, especially the shy ones. However, through the use of tools that allow for online discussions, every student can now be given an opportunity to participate.” Technology also can stimulate action. “Action is really about providing opportunities for students to apply their learning, not just regurgitate what they learned from the text or the teacher – and technology provides various tools and platforms for students to produce something tangible.”

Mr. Ngo presented his ideas at the United Board’s Whole Person Education Academy, and participants responded enthusiastically. He encouraged participants to take an honest look at their classrooms and develop a clear-eyed view of the challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed. “Then start exploring how technology might be able to address one or two of those things and start experimenting,” he said, “even if it’s as simple as making grades more transparent so that students know how they are doing, or making a variety of resources available so that students who have difficulty in reading long texts can be given a choice.”

The Whole Person Education Academy was a rewarding experience for Mr. Ngo as well. “It’s been an inspiring journey for me to encounter educators with various tenures/years of experience, and in varied disciplines, who all share a common passion for teaching – and more importantly, a common heart for the learners under their care.”