IBM Philippines, in commemoration of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, selected Bridges Foundation as the recipient of two KidSmart Early Learning Systems — all in keeping with the global UN theme: “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology”. The personal computers were encased in Little Tykes Young Explorer units and pre-loaded with gamefied K-12 modules — and designed to help educators integrate technology in early learning.
As a break from the tech-riddled presentations which are “business as usual” in corporate life, my colleagues and I were treated to a morning when we got to be SPED teachers for a day!
Volunteers from IBM and the IT Journalists Association of the Philippines (Cyberpress) guided children and young adults with a variety of exceptionalities, through modules in Social Studies, Science, Math and Reading in a fun, interactive setting. I got to teach Social Studies with my partner Verns Joven of PhilStar to a group of kids from 9-15 years old. Our kids took turns “driving” a laptop that was connected to a projector, with the class working on the KidSmart exercises. We were amazed at the kids’ energy and eagerness to show what they could do. When we shared that Bridges will get two new computer units with the “games”, our kids broke into a collective “Yey!”
The morning was topped off with an assembly where the kids performed and gifts were exchanged. For my IBM colleagues and I, the opening remarks from a Bridges student, reflecting his genuine thoughts, sans teacher or parent editing was memorable — #owner.
Leaders and members of Autism Society Philippines were present: Teachers Grace R. Reyes and Barbra Dans-Paguia of Bridges Foundation (ASP Institutional Member), Teacher Cecile Sicam (ASP Co-Founder and current National Board Secretary), Angela Aragon (ASP PWA Council) and myself.
This successful collaboration is testament to how technology is playing a big role in helping individuals with functional deficits express themselves, learn academics, connect with the larger world around them, and ultimately, gain skills that will open doors to lifetime vocation.
But more important still, the time spent with children with various exceptionalities, opened the eyes my colleagues — for some, for the first time — to the difficulties our children face and to the power of a supportive, inclusive community in the kids’ transition to being productive members of society.
As a servant leader of ASP, I am humbled to have worked with the volunteers and educators on this initiative. As an IBMer, I am filled with pride for my company that finds genuine ways to be essential to the community is serves.