Voice of Experience

“Mag teacher ka na lang!” Not just ten but more than a hundred times I hear such degrading, earpiercing comment from parents who want their sons or daughters to be… TEACHERS. “Probably the easiest course!” This was what I thought. I went through the labors of college and made good in my studies. In four years time I became a graduate – a new, young, aspiring, idealistic, dreamy-eyed… EDUCATOR.me

In my first year of teaching, I went through all forms of adjustment. That was the time when I had to come down from the clouds of idealism. When I first got the taste of everything that surrounded me – the students, my co-teachers, my superiors and administrators, I caught on a lot of “It can’t be this…”, “It has to be this…”, “This is impossible!” Complaints… endless complaints. I felt as though I couldn’t settle for anything less. Deep inside, I thought I knew a lot. I felt like a messiah – able and powerful to change and put everything in order. (Messianic concept… anyone?)

I couldn’t believe the results of the exam of my students the first time I gave a test – many of them got zero! When I worked with the personnel, a bulk of work were left undone. I felt as though I was about to burst! What was going on? Later, I came to realize that my college education was not enough to prepare me for this battle. I needed first hand experience to fully figure out what it was like to be a teacher… to be an educator.

Seventeen years passed and somehow, I could already pinpoint my limits, my importance and my place in a great bulk of educational system. I might not be able to change the system but I could still do something in my role and in my obligation as a teacher. Now I personally disagree with those who make education a second-best course because it is but more than a mere consolation to witness a group of young boys and girls who were once my students graduated with honors. They would leave the portals of the school with the fondest memories of all – their school life with everybody and everything on it and – and not so surprinsingly – we’re part of them.

The kind of person or teacher we are undoubtedly leave an indelibe mark on the student’s character. Teachers can be very powerful because we can potently influence the students. We can make or unmake them. The students’ laughter, problems, inhibitions and confusions are not theirs alone but also ours. Unconsciously, we get soaked up with their emotions and become affected in a way too. Learning that Juan’s mother and father just broke-up, and his grades are affected is not something we can smile with. Hearing that somebody in our class met an accident and would mostlikely be operated on – is not something we can shrug our shoulders about. These are but simple realities in the teacher’s life, and they’re not too nice to go through. College education may have forgotten to teach us these but the experience will.

So perhaps, like any other course, let’s think deeply and decide whether or not to be an educator. It takes not only patience, but love to survive the colorful- life that lays ahead for those who are willing enough to mold and shape the future of our country. It’s because – it’s not that easy. It doesn’t only need a teacher to be intelligent for him to teach well; not only have big hands to work well; not only have bigger ears to hear the students well; but to have a heart, a little bit bigger than the others to understand them well.

That’s what we are and that’s what we will always be.

(by Alma T. Cafe)

Experts: Alternative Search Tools Can Help Students


While Google and Yahoo remain dominant, other search sites can be valuable,too.

Educators are discovering that Google isn’t the only game in town. The search-engine giant, along with competitor Yahoo, has long been the most-used search site, but other search tools have surfaced in recent years that could help college students do more in-depth research of video and audio files and web sites that have cluttered the internet.

Blinkz is a search tool that allows users to scan more than 30 million hours of audio clips and video files from across the internet. Raymond Schroeder, director of technology-enhanced learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said audio and video files are translated to text, making it possible for word-based searches to find online videos.

For projects that require the research and study of political speeches, for instance, Blinkz can be more useful to students than a quick search on Google or Yahoo, Schroeder said. “It’s perfect for when you’re looking for a specific medium,” he said.

Maureen Yoder, director of the online technology and education master’s program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., said the ubiquity of cell phones and smart phones could spur the rise of the human-enhanced search engine ChaCha. The Indiana-based company launched last January and invites users to send questions via text or voice for free; within minutes, the query is answered and delivered back to the phone. ChaCha’s service might not be applicable for major term papers or projects, but Yoder said its immediacy could appeal to students with a quick question during class or a study session.

 “It’s one of the most innovative search tools I’ve seen,” said Yoder, who has studied search engines for more than 20 years and who hosted a forum on alternative search tools at the Sloan Consortium conference in October. “Everybody isn’t on their computer all the time, but everyone always has their cell phones with them. … It’s very new, and it’s very exciting.”

In September, ChaCha announced it’s had more than a million users and has answered 27 million queries in its first nine months on the web.

But even with the rise of alternative search tools, Google and Yahoo dominate. In March 2008, Americans used internet search tools 11 billion times—and Google and Yahoo accounted for 9 billion of those searches. Sixty percent of those searches were conducted on Google, according to published surveys.

Experts who have tracked the evolution of web-based search tools said Internet Archive could be invaluable to students searching for headlines or stories from a decade ago or longer. The site—which archives more than 80 billion web pages dating back to 1996—shows exactly what web pages looked like from the time they launched to today. For instance, a student researching a presidential or congressional election could see what CNN’s web site posted on that day and in the weeks following. “You can see exactly how events were covered on the web back then,” Schroeder said. “You can see how attitudes have changed.”

There are also a host of little-known search engines that use visuals to display pertinent search results. Sites such as Kartoo display search results with miniature, thumbnail- like versions of the web pages that result. With Kartoo, one of the web’s first visual search tools, users can scan over each option and click on the page according to its image and content.

Grokker and Touchgraph are other image-based search engines that give users a miniature preview of what they’ll see when they click on a link. Grokker provides a variety of ways to narrow or expand internet searches. Users can zoom in and out of graphic results displayed on the screen, eMail results to other users, or separate results according to date.

“I would think there are some people who would rather have a visual representation of what they find rather than a list,” Yoder said. “It’s made for a different learning style.”

A tool recently unveiled by Microsoft and a team of other web-based companies could enhance group projects on every level of education. The tool—called SearchTogether—allows people at different computers to conduct online searches together and pool the results, according to a New York Times report. Divvying responsibilities for projects, experts said, could streamline research and allow students to help each other use better search terms.

Relying solely on the giants of the web-searching world, experts said, could limit students’ research and omit findings that could enhance their understanding of subjects and make their class assignments more thorough. “I think, ultimately, using different search tools can provide much better research,” Schroeder said, adding the he expects Yahoo and Google to purchase up-and-coming search sites as they gain in popularity, especially among college-aged people. “I think these tools will be bought up by Google and others and become part of the tools we use every day.”

“If you only rely on one [search engine], then you are completely dependent on how [it] organizes information,” Yoder said. “Google is great, but the functionality of [alternative search engines] goes beyond Google.”