Monday, January 23, 2012

Reflection Paper 1: Outreach


That is the first word that I can think of as I gaze upon this white sheet of virtual paper in front of me. As of now, nothing can ever express how much exhausted I am for the past few days in my hopefully last semester in college. My schedule has never been this full. There was no time for me for my usual leisure like playing a video game or perhaps watching a good movie. I’ve slept for a good 16 hours and I’ve slept another 4 hours. That’s enough to manifest how much I am lacking in sleep for the past few days. If not for the Senior Project ruckus I’m currently involved in, it’s the midterm exams. Else, it would be some other academic stuff that will make me feel more tired if I mention it.

Last Saturday, January 22, our group conducted our outreach program dubbed as “Triple E: Experience, Educate, Encourage” at the Naga City Science High School. It was a seminar workshop for the senior students of NCSHS to learn more and be encouraged in being more aware of Information Technology by having first hand experiences on some products produced by the event organizers. The students had a session on Introduction to Information Technology which gave them an overview of what IT was all about. They also learned about how applications, both in the desktop and web, come into being. Lastly, they had a tutorial on HTML Scripting.

So much to my surprise, almost everyone in the audience had no idea of what Information Technology was. There was no one interested to take IT as a course. All they knew what IT was about is Facebook and Games. For me, it was quite shocking and displeasing since my realization with IT is that college is already too late for IT. What I had in mind back then was that I could have done more if I knew more about the potentials and benefits that I can get from Information Technology. Nevertheless, their less knowledge on the field sparked more interest to me.  It’s like being proud to be the one to tell them what IT was all about, the advantages, the history, the disadvantages, and the benefits and opportunities that await them.

It was my first time to hold a talk like that. I’ve only done facilitating groups before but never a speaker for a seminar. When I try to think about it, seminar speakers are usually judged with only two things: boring or not boring. As much as possible, I do not want to be in the “boring” level because if that happens, the audience will not be interested and will not be attentive to me which defeats the reason for conducting the talk. Luckily, amidst the half-baked preparation of my slides, I was able to gain their attention. My public speaking and humor skills that I gained here in college paid off. I don’t like to brag, but I guess I’ve found a certain charisma which sugarcoated my less preparation. While my other group mates charmed the audience with their knowledge on IT, wonderful presentations, handsome faces and bravado, and lastly the IT projects that they produced, I’ve finally found my own style of delivery. This was an important piece of the puzzle as I have gained the confidence and optimism that I may be able to instill something about IT in my audience’s mind. Never did I know, I was spending almost 10 minutes in each slide and I almost totally forgot that I only had 1 hour to present. The students’ pleased faces and gleaming eyes spelled only one thing: I got their attention.

For that outreach, there was no excitement on my part. My interest in everything right now in college has dwindled from wanting to get A’s to simply passing since I was expecting to graduate anyway. It did not matter for me if I get a C+ a B or whatever, as long as I don’t fail it didn’t matter. In fact, the most important thing for me right now is my Senior Project. Everything else, I could forget. It was a rainy day during the seminar; my guts told me that it was not going to be a happy day. I’ve entered the room awkwardly as most of the students I passed by gave me stares that tell me “who’s this stranger walking directly upstairs”. Their noises reminded me of the noises I and my batch mates made in high school. Their noises manifested ridicule or maybe I was just thinking too much. Maybe they were actually noisy because they were talking about other stuffs. Nevertheless, our group just continued our preparation. Some students actually helped us by bringing the projector, the microphone, and setting up the extension cables. Good students, I may say.

It was getting nearer, that moment when I take center stage. It would be really awkward for me since there was no podium, nothing to hold on to as I speak in front of this unknown faces. My group mate came in first with his presentation. Then, it was my turn. It was my stage. I gave them a bit of introduction, a bit of humor with it that seemed to have appealed to some of the students. Some gave some smiles, but no crackling laughs that I have expected. The good thing was I saw no faces that told me “you’re nonsense”. I was testing the waters, and now I know how I’ll be delivering my talk.

This talk really felt different that simply giving a public speech, or maybe conducting a meeting, or simply presenting an oratorical speech on stage. Almost everything is at stake here. My credibility, which is a vital part of me, might be lost if I make the slightest mistake in my presentation. They must know that I am credible enough for them to gather knowledge from. I was thinking to make it formal like how most of the teachers or speakers do their talk: prompt and proper. Secondly, the name of the school and the department is at stake. I don’t want them to think that Ateneans are really poor in delivery. I don’t want them to think that the students from Ateneo de Naga University, the best university in Bicol, don’t have students that could support this claim. I don’t want them to think that the Department of Computer Science has students who have mediocre knowledge in their own field. I don’t want them to think that we’re merely there to accomplish our requirement in the curriculum. Maybe it was just my pride but no, it did not matter for me. What mattered was the name of the school is at stake. I don’t want to break the trust of the department that allowed us to conduct a seminar workshop in another school. In the end, I realized: No, if the talk is too formal, they will get bored. I myself do not want a boring speaker because it will make the audience lose their interest. What I did was make my presentation less proper on some parts where going informal was okay. It was my way of reaching the students more. It was my way of making them realize that I’m not too far from their age. It was my way of telling them we’re just at par and we’re only almost doing a casual talk where I do the talking. It seemed like it work.

Then there it was, I kept talking and talking. Good thing I actually studied and listened to our discussions in Technopreneurship and E-Commerce. I’ve applied a lot of learning from those two fields. I was able to relate Information Technology to a lot of things. As I gave my examples, I made sure that they were closely related to what a fourth year high school student does. It seemed to work as the students came to react to almost everything that I said. They were surprised, awed, happy, enjoying, and excited. It worked. My confidence level skyrocketed.

The most important thing that I imparted on the students is my personal experience with Information Technology. I have mentioned earlier that college level is already too late to be aware of Information Technology. In front of me are students who’re studying in a science-oriented a school. To spell it out for you, it is a school with brilliant students who are conducting science research far more advanced than other schools.  It made me happy to realize that I’m giving this talk to them. If they be aware of the potentials that they could unlock with Information Technology, they’ll be getting rich in no time. As I kept on telling them, Information Technology is not all about programming and code; it was supposed to be all about ideas. With one idea, everything else could be revolutionized. The skills that we also gain through our lives will give an impact on how we apply Information Technology. There was this talk I gave about “demystifying”, something I learned from Sir Josh’s class. I explained to them how ideas and their individual skills could very much influence and give good results. However, I reminded them not to be drowned too much on the ideas that they may already be brewing in their heads. I reminded them that they still need to learn programming in order for them to actually apply their innovations. With all the things fit in the puzzle, IT skills, their ideas, their skills, this could already give them advantage on other people as they could already start businesses or invent things that could very much help in the society.

After all the talks done, I encouraged the students to ask questions. Asking questions was very important since they could clarify some things that they did not understand and so that they could gain additional knowledge. Our group encouraged them to widen the scope of their questions; they could even ask us personal stuffs about our experiences in college, which of course, we gladly answered. At first, there were a very few who raised their hands. Some hesitated but later on, we were glad that more hands were rising. It went on and on until the giving of the certificates. I was surprised we were able to push through with the seminar and I was able to successfully give my talk. Who knows? I might even be capable of teaching in our department, but that’s another story.

All in all, everything went well. We were surprised when some of the students actually asked us for pictures to be taken with them. Then there it was, our time to leave. My expectation of how bad this day could be was fully erased by the sunlight that finally showed itself to us after a whole day of grey clouds. The sun gleamed as if telling us that we did a good job. Indeed we did, after the tiring day; we rewarded ourselves with a Hungryman’s Meal at a classy restaurant that I learned from one of my group mates. It was really for a hungry man as I needed to unbutton my pants so that I could breathe. As I came home, I rested and later on checked on the usual stuff, Facebook, gmail, etc. I was surprised that two of the students already added me in Facebook. When I checked their profile, their status was all about how great the seminar was. So there it is, the Triple E Seminar Workshop was a success!

1. Too lazy to format the text, just copy pasted this
2. I suck at endings so yeah.

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