Frog – For More Holistic Learning
By Charles F Moreira
Effective learning is an holistic experience which goes beyond studying hard and passing exams, to include a student’s research work, completion of homework and assignments, student self-assessment, extra curricular activities, personal attention provided by teachers, involvement of their parents, regular communication and interaction between the three parties.
However, in practice, achieving that has been much easier said than done by traditional means but information and communications technology (ICT) makes it possible.
In May last year, Malaysia’s Ministry of Education (MoE) called for a tender to connect up Malaysia’s over 10,000 schools with broadband Internet access and to provide them with a virtual learning platform. Internet speeds in urban areas must range between 2Mbps to 10Mbps and from 1Mbps to 4Mbps in rural and remote areas. There altogether were 19 bidders, of which six were shortlisted.
Called 1BestariNet, the project, brainchild of the Ministry of Education (MOE), aims to replace Schoolnet launched in 2004, which fell short of expectations, especially in terms of speed and capacity, as well as a lack of specifications and integration.
|A Google Chrome Book|
After many leaks by sources and much speculation in blogs and the media in between, YTL Communications formally announced in early May 2012 that it had won the contract for phase one of the 1BestariNet project worth RM1.5 billion over the first five years, including about RM663 million to connect up the over 10,000 schools with 4G wireless broadband access in the first two years.
YTL Communications beat 18 others, including a Telekom Malaysia & Time dotCom joint bid, Celcom Axiata, Maxis, Multimedia Synergy Corp and Jaring Communications which were also on the shortlist. Most of them are government-linked companies (GLCs).
The project altogether spans 15 years, split into three phases of five-years each and YTL could potentially be looking at a total of RM4.5 billion.
Frog Asia, a YTL company provides access to the cloud-based Frog VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) to the schools’ teachers, students and their parents, and 1BestariNet Yes 4G accounts, e-mail addresses and 4G dongles to teachers and students, who have unlimited access to the Frog cloud over Yes 4G for free, and access access to other Internet sites at 9 sen per 3MB with no monthly commitment fee.
The Frog VLE was developed by Frog Trade, a Halifax, U.K. based internet service and learning management systems provider and it’s currently used by 700 schools in the U.K. It’s accessible through a web browser on PCs, notebooks, tablets and Google Chrome Books.
It’s not confined to assess distance learning only but also can assess virtual and face-to-face learning.
On 15 June, 2012, YTL subsidiary YTL Education upped its stake in Frog Trade by 37.3% to close to 57.6%, making Frog Trade also a YTL company.
|Suan Yeo, Google Head of Education – APAC|
Frog VLE lets teachers create their own lessons and draw upon content from the Widget Store, as well as the wealth of general content and specialised educational content from Google, including over 700,000 educational You Tube videos.
Through an agreement with Google, Frog Trade incorporated access to Google’s educational and general resources, as well as its public cloud services such as Google Calendar, Google Apps, Google Maps and more.
Teachers can issue homework and assignments to students online, keep track of their work, mark their work and also view each student’s profile to see which areas they are strong or weak in and to intervene where necessary.
They can also communicate with students directly and reply to their questions in message threads sorted according to the work assigned and also to encourage students to discuss and share their perspectives on topics covered.
Teachers also have a personal home page which they can customise with resources and important information from the Frog Widget Store, Google and elsewhere, while they can also create teaching & learning, co-curricular activity and even class sites within Frog VLE, while the Booking Calendar lets teachers book halls, rooms and other school facilities.
Its analytics application provides statistical data regarding Frog VLE users, such as the percentage of active users and the number of sites they have created.
The School Documents application stores all documents for use by the whole school, including staff and student handbooks, policies and so on, while the School Dashboard, managed by the Frog administrator, displays all notices and information vital to the smooth running of the school and lets users access notice boards, pictures, videos and download important files.
Departmental Sites displays information relating to a specific subject, such as curriculum information, image galleries, videos, teachers profile pages, examination, revision guides, past papers and so on.
|The I Am Learning site|
The Community Site lets teachers get started with using Frog, to connect with other teachers to share their ideas.
Frog VLE also has tests, including those developed by third parties such as i-Education which created the I Am Learning site, which uses games to motivate learners in doing their homework, revision and examination practice, while promoting independent learning.
I Am Learning asks the student a question and if he gets it right, he will be entitled to play a game as a reward.
It lets students mark their own homework besides their own knowledge consolidation; with meaningful reports with detailed gap analysis to identify weaknesses, monitor progress and help improve learning outcomes.
The I Am Learning website claims an average results improvement of 8.6% and as much as 13.5% for those who use the site for one hour each week over a 12 month period.
I Am Learning is accessed by over 12 million students and teachers worldwide and Frog acquired a major stake in it on 8 November.
Frog VLE lets students keep track of their own progress. It’s My Dashboard application can be customised to show their school calendar, RSS feeds and notifications. It also lets students and teachers create forums regarding school-specific topics and share their own views with those of others.
It also lets parents keep track of school events, parent-teacher association (PTA) reports, and school notices with the calendar and school notice board. It also provides contact details of teachers at the school and lets parents download permission forms and other important documents.
|Yeoh Pei Lou, FrogAsia Executive Director|
“In March, we implemented a Frog VLE pilot project in six schools. Then in March we trained 671 of the MoE’s Master Trainers and right now, 2,400 schools use Frog VLE, including 168 Champion Schools” Yeoh Pei Lou. FrogAsia executive director, told the Champion School Conference 2012 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on 6 November.
Champion Schools are selected from around the country by the MoE to receive support and training by FrogAsia beyond the initial training, so that they can serve as models of excellence, ideas and best practices from the grassroots, which can be shared with the others.
At each school, FrogAsia trained teams of 13 teachers, including the Frog system administrator and four students. The four would help their fellow students to use the Frog VLE.
“As a former teacher, I sometimes was away from my classroom when the bell rang at the end of the school day and I had not assigned my students their homework but with Frog VLE, I can assign it to them online later,” said Elizabeth Lopez, FrogAsia head of transformation management. “The digital calendar is also very useful, since I can invite someone to a meeting and their can reply.”
“Governments and business must know how to use this creative technology to change the nature of education and I congratulate Malaysia for her initiatives in technology in education and 1BestariNet is an single, end-to-end virtual learning environment, unlike in the U.K. where implementation is fragmented, with no possibility of being interconnected into a single system,” said Lord Stewart Sutherland, chairman of YTL Education in his keynote address.
|Lord Stewart Sutherland, YTL Education Chairman|
“A good teacher wants to know about their students and their needs and teachers today must be IT-literate and not have to rely of the technician, while parents can become a part of the school by knowing about their children’s homework assignments and they can interact with teachers and the school,” he added.
Lord Stewart is the U.K.’s leading academic in the management of education, with over 30 years experience. He previously was principal of Kings College London, vice-chancellor of the University of London and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, and vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Edinburgh. He now advises the U.K. government on educational matters.