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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Classrooms Without Walls

No, there is no longer any need to be physically present at any place for things to actually happen – thanks to the advances in technology. Now check how this, too, is what’s happening in the educational system.

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Alvin C., a micro-entrepreneur based in Davao City, wanted to “get the qualifications afforded by prestigious (universities in Metro Manila) – even though I have a degree from (a similarly renowned) university in Davao City, the way people look at (those qualifications from Metro Manila) is still very high (even if many are without merit), so that getting one is a god way to make it,” he says.

The immediate problem for Alvin C. is access. “I have a business in Davao City, which, aside from keeping my family alive, will finance my getting (further) education.” Not to worry, though, as this was easily remedied by eLearning, that “opportunity to pursue (further) studies despite the absence of classroom/residential learning.”

And indeed, as more weight is given to additional industry recognized skills and certification in the corporate world, bachelor’s degrees earned fail, on their own, to sufficiently guarantee climbing the corporate ladder. Thus, more people are considering getting an edge by obtaining further education.

eLearning provides an alternative way of doing this by eliminating the actual physical contact between students and teachers in the delivery of education. The approach allows for students to pursue higher education without having to give up their work.

CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION

“eLearning has really changed drastically how we ought to conceptualize the design and use of learning materials and the learning environment. (It) has revolutionized the delivery of educational services, whether in terms of formal, non-formal, or informal education. eLearning has strengthened quite substantially the notion that the learner must take responsibility for his/her own learning,” Dr. Felix Librero, chancellor of the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), earlier said to Enterprise Magazine.

Traditionally, eLearning involved all learning using various electronic means, including the use of radio and television. But recent developments have highlighted the use of computers and the Internet (officially referred to as digital learning), so much so that eLearning has come to be synonymous to learning using computers and the Internet.

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With eLearning, people can get education or formal training without having to be in a classroom, with most, if not all, lessons and interactions between students and their teachers done online.

In the case of the UPOU, the Integrated Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE), the same information technology used by the National University of Singapore, is used. To empower students in their own learning process, the system has numerous tools and resources, including lesson plan and calendaring systems so students can schedule their activities ahead of time, discussion forum and chatrooms to encourage participation, FAQ and quiz systems for gauging the level of understanding of students, and work bins for electronic submission of assignments. Operating via the widely used Microsoft Windows system, IVLE simplifies students’ access to education irrespective of where they may be at any given time.

With the removal of the need for actual physical encounters between the students and the teachers, thus limiting disruptions in students’ professional lives, saving finances has been cited as the most obvious benefit of eLearning. But Librero says that the advantages go beyond the obvious, also including the easier access via the Internet to learning materials stored in various databases worldwide. Better yet, accessing knowledge from various sources can be done by the learner him/herself, which “strengthens quite substantially the notion that the learner must take responsibility for his/her own learning.”

QUALITY MONITORING

As a new development in the educational system, however, eLearning has also been questioned for, among others, its impersonal approach that destroys the relationship between teachers and students, and the students among themselves, as well as the inappropriate use of computers and the Internet.

Supporting the concept that the key to promoting improved Web-based learning lies more on how effectively the medium is used, Librero is more concerned with the need for more sophisticated instructional design of computerization and the Internet. “Most of those claiming to have adopted eLearning as a tool in Philippine educational institutions today has no training in instructional design. They do things in a trial and error approach,” he says. “It is extremely ridiculous for educational institutions (that) cannot even offer conventional programs to think that they can offer quality degree programs in the distance mode.”

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The Commission on Higher Education (CHED), through the Technical Committee of Reviewers for Open Learning and Distance Education (TCROLDE), formulates the policies governing all forms of distance education programs in the country.

Issued in 2000, CHED Memorandum Order No. 35, or the Updated Policies and Guidelines on Open Learning and Distance Education, identified the standards for the offering of distance education programs. More specifically, the memorandum requires institutions offering open learning and distance education (OLDE) to prepare developmental and appropriate instructional materials for every course, identify qualified subject matter specialists, course writers and production designers, and provide course content and mode/s of instruction.

The TCROLDE evaluates the qualifications of institutions based on a quality assurance framework anchored on the principles of learning centeredness, rigor and sound instructional design, public responsibility and accountability, and quality and continuous improvement.

CHED’s power, however, is limited only to monitoring and evaluating higher education institutions offering OLDE, and encouraging voluntary accreditation.

“What worries me in this aspect is that if CHED is unable to impose discipline in the design, preparation, delivery, and evaluation of quality formal courses and academic programs through electronic means, then we shall have chaos in the educational system,” Librero says.

GROWING TREND

For UPOU’s around 1,500 online students, “hands down, courses on management and business administration are the most popular and common,” Librero said. This popularity is because of the availability of software and content coming from known universities in more advanced countries in degrees in management and business administration.

For online education, “one could easily spend as much as US$30,000 (about P825,000) for a master’s degree,” Librero said. UPOU charges around P65,000 for a similar degree.

“Overall, I’d like to believe that eLearning has introduced a phenomenon in Philippine education that encourages teachers to be more creative in their design of learning experiences, and students in their desire to learn more meaningfully,” Librero says. “Digital learning, which makes extensive use of computerization and the Internet, will continue to become popular to both students and teachers. More and more teachers in various schools will gravitate towards more use of computers and the Internet in the delivery of specific course content even under the conventional mode of instructional delivery. Because of this trend, more courses and academic degree programs shall become available and accessible through the Internet, which shall make mix mode of instructional delivery much more popular and common to various educational institutions.”

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Alvin C. is expecting to finish the degree he is taking by eLearning in less than “a year and a half,” he says, “depending on how well I can balance my business with my schooling.” But even with this, “I am glad for eLearning. It allows for me to continue learning while running my business. Success times two, truly.”

Select Philippine HEIs offering eLearning:

University of the Philippines – Open University
Dr. Felix Librero, Chancellor
UPOU, Los Baños, Laguna
Tel: (049) 5366016 and 16
E-mail: UPOUC@laguna.net
The CHED Center of Excellence for OLDE pursues distance education through print-based, learning center enhanced courses, and courses offered online via a customized Integrated Virtual Learning Environment, adopted from the National University of Singapore.

De La Salle University
Bro. Rolando Dizon, President
Taft Ave., Manila City
Tel: 5214611-26
One of the private institutions in the Philippines exploring alternative and innovative modes in offering courses. DLSU implemented the Internet-Enhanced Master of Arts in Teaching Literature Program, funded by the CHED.

Ateneo de Manila University
Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, SJ, President
Loyola Heights, 1108 Q.C.
Tel: 4266001 local 4002
Having implemented the International eLearning for Professional Journalists, AdMU is one of the pioneers of online education in the country.

Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Dr. Ofelia A. Carague, President
Anonas St., Sta. Mesa, Manila
Tel: 7162644, 7161143

"If someone asked you about me, about what I do for a living, it's to 'weave words'," says Kiki Tan, who has been a writer "for as long as I care to remember." With this, this one writes about... anything and everything.

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Health & Wellness

8 Tips for promoting men’s health

Here are a few tips that can help ensure the success of men’s health programs.

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Photo by Christopher Campbell from Unsplash.com

Men tend to shy away from clinical medical services and formal health care programs, leaving community-based programs to help fill the gap. But not all programs are created equal. This is according to a study – “Community-based men’s health promotion programs: eight lessons learnt and their caveats”, which was published in the journal Health Promotion International – that shows that the programs that succeed are those that recognize and adapt to the social forces that uniquely affect men.

So for University of British Columbia (UBC) nursing professor John Oliffe, who led the study that reviewed community-based programs in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and the US, there are a few tips that can help ensure the success of men’s health programs.

Recognize the forces that affect men’s health: The UBC research points out that social factors can significantly affect health, including race, culture, socioeconomic status, education and income levels. Dudes Club, a program based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, succeeds because its content is tailored to its largely Indigenous clientele. Events include culturally based activities and elder-led circles, and clients are reporting improved mental, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being as a result.

Physical activity builds connections: Activity-based programs that link to masculine ideals such as problem-solving and physical prowess work well. Men’s Sheds, a program that runs in Australia, Canada and a few other countries, successfully attracts men with woodworking activities, computer tutorials, gardening and informal social events.

Safe spaces help men open up: Many men are reticent to talk about health challenges or talk about personal issues, but programs–like prostate cancer support groups–can expand their comfort zone by creating safe spaces for sharing experiences and discussing sensitive topics.

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Knowledge can combat stigma: Many men who are experiencing health challenges like depression or suicidal thoughts lack knowledge about their condition, which further fuels any stigma they may already feel. Community-based programs can promote health literacy and tackle stigma by using simple, non-judgmental language to describe health conditions, Oliffe said.

Men-focused environments work well: No surprise, “men-friendly” community spaces and activities–such as sports events or competitions–work better in recruiting men to health-related programs than strictly clinical programs. Oliffe points to a few examples, including some European soccer clubs, that draw men in to join exercise and healthy eating programs.

A clear vision for the program is a must: Programs must have tangible benefits, clear goals and strong, collaborative leaders. Dads in Gear– developed to assist dads to quit smoking–recruited participants with an offer of free meals and child care. It emphasized the need for participants to actively work for their well-being, and it encouraged the men to independently sustain their healthy practices after completing the program.

Evaluate to perpetuate: Every program should carry out a consistent and formal evaluation process, Oliffe advises. This helps to support future funding efforts and ensures the program is working as well as it should.

Pop-ups’ are OK: And finally, don’t expect to sustain or expand every program, says Oliffe, as some might be best considered “pop-ups”. Once they’ve hit their goal, they can be retired and regarded as the seed for future ideas.

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Health & Wellness

2/3 of parents cite barriers in recognizing youth depression

Teens and preteens are no strangers to depression: 1 in 4 parents say their child knows a peer with depression; 1 in 10 say a child’s peer has committed suicide.

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Photo by Warren Wong from Unsplash.com

Telling the difference between a teen’s normal ups and downs and something bigger is among top challenges parents face in identifying youth depression, a new poll suggests.

Though the majority of parents say they are confident they would recognize depression in their middle or high school aged child, two thirds acknowledge barriers to spotting specific signs and symptoms, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan in the US.

Forty percent of parents struggle to differentiate between normal mood swings and signs of depression, while 30% say their child is good at hiding feelings.

“In many families, the preteen and teen years bring dramatic changes both in youth behavior and in the dynamic between parents and children,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark. “These transitions can make it particularly challenging to get a read on children’s emotional state and whether there is possible depression.”

Still, a third of parents polled said nothing would interfere with their ability to recognize signs of depression in their child.

“Some parents may be overestimating their ability to recognize depression in the mood and behavior of their own child,” Clark says. “An overconfident parent may fail to pick up on the subtle signals that something is amiss.”

The poll also suggests that the topic of depression is all too familiar for middle and high school students. One in four parents say their child knows a peer or classmate with depression, and 1 in 10 say their child knows a peer or classmate who has died by suicide.

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Indeed, rates of youth suicide continue to rise. Among people ages 10 to 24 years old, the suicide rate climbed 56% between 2007 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our report reinforces that depression is not an abstract concept for today’s teens and preteens, or their parents,” Clark says.

“This level of familiarity with depression and suicide is consistent with recent statistics showing a dramatic increase in suicide among… youth over the past decade. Rising rates of suicide highlight the importance of recognizing depression in youth.”

Compared to the ratings of their own ability, parents polled were also less confident that their preteens or teens would recognize depression in themselves.

Clark says parents should stay vigilant on spotting any signs of potential depression in kids, which may vary from sadness and isolation to anger, irritability and acting out. Parents might also talk with their preteen or teen about identifying a “go to” adult who can be a trusted source if they are feeling blue, Clark says.

Most parents also believe schools should play a role in identifying potential depression, with seven in 10 supporting depression screening starting in middle school.

“The good news is that parents view schools as a valuable partner in recognizing youth depression,” Clark says.The bad news is that too few schools have adequate resources to screen students for depression, and to offer counseling to students who need it.”

Clark encourages parents to learn whether depression screening is taking place at their child’s school and whether counseling is available for students who screen positive. Given the limited resources in many school districts, parents can be advocates of such efforts by talking to school administrators and school board members about the importance of offering mental health services in schools.

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The Mott Poll report is based on responses from 819 parents with at least one child in middle school, junior high, or high school.

Depression is – of course – an important issue in the LGBTQIA community. One study done in November 2018, for instance, found that half of LGBT people (52%) said they’ve experienced depression in the last year; one in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 (13%) said they’ve attempted to take their own life in the last year; and almost half of trans people (46%) have thought about taking their own life in the last year, 31% of LGB people who aren’t trans said the same.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Is it safe to leave my car in the driveway while away on vacation?

It is considered safe to leave your car in the driveway while on shorter trips, as long as you ensure that it is safe and secured. Emptying the fuel take and inflating tires to the correct pressure along with covering it up well, will help you avoid coming back home to find troubles with your car.

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It is the holiday season and you are probably packing your bags, and everyone is eager to go on a long-awaited trip. But before you do so, you need to make sure that your vehicle is parked somewhere where it is safe and secure.

Leaving your car in the driveway while on vacation sounds like a great idea. A house with cars parked in the driveway might keep away intruders and burglars who think you are home. However, theft shouldn’t be your only concern when leaving your car at home because other things might happen while you are away such as falling objects that might cause dents and scratches on your car. 

Deciding whether to leave your car in your driveway or to park it somewhere safer, depends on the length of your trip. For longer trips, it is best to leave your car at the airport’s parking lot and take a shuttle to the airport. In the US, for example, the idea of long term parking has really taken off, and it’s very convenient and safe. In Miami, if you are worried about incurring costs, MIA parking rates are affordable and often offer good deals. It will cost more to fix your car as a result of damage that may occur due to unsafe parking, than paying to leave your car in a secured area.

Here are a few tips to consider when you leave your car in the driveway while away on vacation:

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Cover Up

Choose the right car cover that fits perfectly on your car, so that there will be no, or little space left where dust can enter. The cover needs to be more weatherproof and tougher than the one designed for indoor parking.

Maintaining the Battery

Batteries lose charge over time, so even if your car is not operating, your batteries are still working, this keeps all the electronic presets running. The best way is to disconnect the negative terminal of the battery before leaving. 

Empty the Fuel tank

If your car runs on petrol, then it is best to empty your fuel tank. Because unlike diesel, petrol tends to become stale when the car is not in use. Also, additives in petrol degrade over time, causing problems in your fuel tank.

Inflate the Tires

Flat spots on tires occur when a car hasn’t moved for a long time. Inflating your tires to the correct air pressure will help avoid tire issues. For longer trips, it is best to get someone to move the car every week to warm up the tires.

After cleaning and organizing your car, make sure to secure it by removing any valuable items, such as electronic devices and the stereo system.

It is considered safe to leave your car in the driveway while on shorter trips, as long as you ensure that it is safe and secured. Emptying the fuel take and inflating tires to the correct pressure along with covering it up well, will help you avoid coming back home to find troubles with your car.

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Health & Wellness

First case of sexually transmitted dengue confirmed in Spain

Health authorities confirmed a case of a man spreading dengue through sex. This is a world first for a virus which – until recently – was largely thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.

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Photo by Егор Камелев from Unsplash.com

No, getting bitten by mosquitos isn’t the only way you can get dengue.

In Spain, health authorities confirmed a case of a man spreading dengue through sex. This is a world first for a virus which – until recently – was largely thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.

The case involves a 41-year-old man from Madrid who contracted dengue after having sex with his male partner, who got the virus from a mosquito bite during a trip to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

When the man’s dengue infection was confirmed in September, it puzzled doctors because he had not traveled to a country where the disease is common. An analysis of the sperm of the two men was carried out and it revealed that not only did they have dengue, but that it was exactly the same virus which circulates in Cuba.

Dengue is transmitted mainly by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which grows in number in densely-populated tropical climates, such as the Philippines.

Though it kills 10,000 people a year and infects over 100 million, the disease is fatal only in extreme cases, though symptoms are extremely unpleasant, including high fever, severe headaches and vomiting. It is particularly serious – and deadly – in children.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health reported a total of 271,480 dengue cases from January to August 31 this year, prompting it to declare a national dengue epidemic. As of end-August, an estimated 1,107 people have died of dengue in the country.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Gay in space in Disney’s ‘Star Wars Resistance’ kids’ show

This isn’t the first time an animated series highlighted LGBTQIA people/relationships; arguably even more progressive than mainstream Hollywood fare.

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Viewers sort of knew it all along, and then Disney confirmed that two characters on its “Star War Resistance” animated series for children are indeed a “gay couple.” 

On the Coffee with Kenobi podcast, Disney executive producers Brandon Auman, Athena Portillo, and Justin Ridge said that they are “proud” that two characters, Orka and Flix, are a “gay couple.” 

When Ridge was asked about the link between the two characters, he said: “I think it’s safe to say they’re an item… They’re absolutely a gay couple and we’re proud of that.” 

Orka is voiced by Jim Rash, while Flix is voiced by Bobby Moynihan.

Moynihan said later on the same podcast that he was glad to speak openly about Orka’s tendencies. 

“I have had a sentence prepared for a year and a half,” he said. “If someone would finally ask me, I would say, ‘All I can say is that when Flix says I love you, Orka says I know.’ … They’re the cutest.”

Orka and Flix are non-human, but fans assumed that they are homosexual. In an episode titled Dangerous Business, in the first season of “Star Wars Resistance“, there was a moment perceived to reveal the pair’s proclivities. 

The show is now in its second and final season on October 6, after getting nominated for an Emmy last year for outstanding children’s program.

This isn’t the first time an animated series highlighted LGBTQIA people/relationships; arguably even more progressive than mainstream Hollywood fare.

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In August, the new Aquaman, Kaldur, in the animated “Young Justice: Outsiders”, DC Universe’s animated show about teenage superheroes, was revealed to be LGBTQIA.

And in 2018, “Steven Universe”, a series from Cartoon Network, showcased a lesbian marriage proposal between two out queer characters in a special July 4 episode.

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Travel

Surrounded by art

Heading to Niagara Falls in NY in the US? The waterfalls may be the main attraction;buut there’s more to see in Niagara Falls than the body of water. Go IG crazy with a quick visit at Art Alley NF.

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When heading to Niagara Falls in the state of New York in the US, the three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge (between the Ontario, Canada and, yes, the US state of New York) may be the main attraction. This isn’t exactly surprising; heck, everyone who saw 1980’s Superman (before he got grumpy and too dark – even if he stayed yummy – with DC’s re-imagining of the alien boy scout) will want to see the… grandeur of the location. For that matter, Hollywood has repeatedly “told” us (via the likes of 2003’s Bruce Almighty, 2014’s Tammy, 2016’s After the Sun Fell, and 2016’s The American Side) that it’s a must-visit.

When you get there, though, it is but… a body of water.

Sure, it is grand. Perhaps made even grander by the power of illumination, with the waterfalls enveloped in various colors when the sun sets. But truth be told, there’s more to see in Niagara Falls than just the body of water.

Case in point: Art Alley NF.

Located a few minutes from Niagara Falls State Park, Art Alley NF is a public mural project located at 425 Third Street in Niagara Falls, NY.

Credit for its development goes to Seth Piccirillo, the city’s community development director, and Rob Lynch, one of Niagara Falls High School’s art teachers. The two established the roadside inlet in 2016 to house 19 murals from local artists.

Think of San Francisco’s Clarion Alley, and you’d get the idea of what this is. Sans the angst, political activism, et cetera…

The location used to be a vacant lot blocked by a wall. It was blasted down by the city’s Department of Community Development to make way for a walkway lined with the murals.

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Street art enthusiasts ought to like this; or at least IG aficionados.

Though I say that again, when in Niagara Falls, NY in the US, don’t just stick to the body of water (you can check this in a just a day); instead, be surrounded by art with a quick visit to Art Alley NF.

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