USAID Partners with DepEd To Develop Interactive Reading Materials

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Thursday, June 17, 2021
Being able to create digital interactive reading material not only for my students but for kids all across the country has been one of the most wonderful and memorable experiences of my career.” – Sharon Gungon, First-grade teacher

When first-grade teacher Sharon Gungon found out the 2020-2021 school year would be virtual, she was worried.

“I was worried about how to effectively teach reading online to first graders. How could I give them the same quality of education remotely as I could in the classroom?”

She immediately got to work brainstorming activities and making videos to keep her students engaged. In June, the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) tapped Gungon and other teachers to develop and convert existing resources into digital materials using Kotobee, an interactive e-book software. DepEd distributed those resources to students across the country using DepEd Commons, an online educational resource library.

A few months later, Gungon found out about USAID’s All Children Reading program, which provides teachers with access to premium Kotobee licenses and trains them in its premium interactivity features.

“I had read about USAID’s All Children Reading program, but I never imagined I’d be given the opportunity to work with it,” Gungon recalled. “Being able to create digital interactive reading material not only for my students but for kids all across the country has been one of the most wonderful and memorable experiences of my career.”

Gretel Cadiong, a supervisor tasked with preparing Waray language learning resources in Tacloban, said USAID support was welcome news for all teachers. “It was such a relief when we found out there would be collaboration between DepEd and USAID. We knew USAID support would make things easier,” she said.

With access to these new interactive features, Gungon, Cadiong, and other content developers could transform early literacy primers into interactive self-study guides with games, audio voiceover, on-screen drawing, and other functions to keep students engaged.

“The interactive digital reading materials is one way of bringing reading materials to students, wherever they may be,” Gungon said. “I was very excited to get involved because this is one way of doing something to help the kids learn to love reading.” Emmanuel Carino, principal of Sto. Nino Elementary School in Pampanga, said that these interactive materials epitomize student-centered learning.

“Children learn more easily if they can engage with the material, experience it, manipulate it, and touch it. These interactive e-books help them learn independently,” Carino said.

Since September 2020, USAID has partnered with the private sector, DepEd, and teachers to produce more than 200 interactive e-books and educational videos in 10 local languages. These materials, aligned with DepEd curriculum and searchable by grade and language, are available for free to all students in the Philippines through DepEd Commons.

“This is one way of bringing education at its best to our learners and making learning more accessible. Education is for all, and no one should be left behind,” Carino said.

USAID also led a series of online workshops training content creators in Kotobee’s premium features. Since DepEd had already trained developers on Kotobee’s basic functions, USAID focused on helping creators understand the digital features that could enhance children’s early reading skills like audio voiceover with text synchronization, word definitions, and reading comprehension quizzes. USAID also prepared a checklist of best practices for designing interactive literacy materials.

“We learned a lot about how to make these interactive e-books,” Cadiong said. “Our work has been improving a lot.”

Gungon said that the interactive features pique the children’s curiosity and draw them into the learning. “They want to know what happens when they touch each drawing or icon. What activity will pop up here or there?”

Thanks to these interactive resources, Gungon says her students are both learning and having fun at the same time.

“When they are using interactive resources, it is really their interest that leads them,” Gungon said. “We don’t need to force them to learn; they want to get the material.”

Last updated: June 21, 2021

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