This piece belongs to a 5-part series, written in celebration of FrogAsia’s 10th anniversary. We reflect on all that the company has achieved and all that we are still learning, through the lens of our five values. This one is centred around our fifth value: Think ahead and out of the box, and how that translates into reimagining education.
Thomas Edison reimagined what night could be as day and innovated an inexpensive way to light a room. The Wright brothers reimagined travel and innovated a way for people to fly to faraway places. Steve Jobs reimagined a world where information was easily accessible and designed one of the world’s first personal computers. Because these innovators dared to dream and reimagine what life could be, it brought incredible changes to the way people live, work, and learn today.
Here at FrogAsia, it is our dream to provide access to quality learning for all. With this access, different learners can thrive, poverty cycles can be broken, and people of all backgrounds can have the chance to realise their own dreams.
A dream this big constantly requires us to reimagine what teaching and learning could look like beyond what we know, and to push the boundaries of what is possible - something that’s become almost a habit over the last 10 years!
Here are five ways we have reimagined education in Malaysia and beyond:
The divide in quality education between rural and urban communities is vast in Malaysia. To level the playing field, we recognised the need to provide all schools with the same learning platform and equip them with 4G Internet. We rebuilt Frog Frog Education’s platform to cater to the need in Malaysia, transforming it from an on-premise platform to the cloud-based Frog VLE. While people were still on 3G and Edge, we also provided a 4G network for the nation together with YTL Communications. This made us the first in the world to connect 10,000 schools and 10 million users on a single cloud-based platform. More importantly, now with the access to the Internet and technology, parents, teachers, and students could reimagine how they’d like education to be and make it happen together.
Our capacity to dream and reimagine kept growing from there. We continued to ask ourselves, how else can technology enhance the learning experience for individuals? How can we make it fun for students? How can teachers track students’ learning efficiently? Why can’t it be both? How can content be accessible even for students who may not be able to make it to school during a global pandemic? Our questions around these gaps eventually led us to providing further technology-enabled solutions such as the Launchpad app and the Learn From Home curriculum as well.
Humans are social creatures. At our core, we desire to belong and be connected with others. We also know that interactivity in the class increases students’ emotional and behavioural engagement. Putting this knowledge together helped us ideate a whole new way of learning with technology in 2014. We called it the Frog Connected Classrooms (FCC).
FCC was a series of interactive sessions held online that connected speakers and classrooms across the nation. It encouraged students to adopt a culture of collaboration and learning with other students beyond their own classroom. Our team started by facilitating these sessions and inviting professionals who would share their career experience with students.
Not long after, teachers and students started initiating their own FCC sessions with classrooms overseas. Students would learn about a culture different from theirs through engaging directly with their peers within that culture. They would think of the questions to ask, and lead the discussions on their own. This gave them more ownership of their learning, increased self-confidence and communication skills, and expanded their worldview beyond geographical boundaries.
"I can learn from other schools and so can my students. It builds my students' confidence to speak up.” - FCC teacher
The environment we learn in has a huge influence on how we learn. The condition of many public school classrooms at the time was not conducive and limited creative movement and relationship-building between teachers and students. Recognising this, we challenged ourselves to reimagine the learning space with the help of the YTL Construction design team.
Our architects and designers asked questions like, how can we turn problems into something purposeful? For example, instead of seeing table scribbles as vandalism, why not recognise it as artistic expression and make tables the object of this expression? Or how can the design of learning environments meet social-emotional needs? For example, knowing that students who often got into fights, sometimes just needed a place to let off steam. What if classrooms provided a safe space to do this as well?
Frog Classrooms were designed with these questions in mind. It became a place that promotes inclusivity using modular curved tables and that gives teachers more access to facilitate better learning for each group of students. Some of these tables were pre-stencilled with doodles so that students could add to it or fill with colour. We even installed a punching bag in one of the classrooms for students to let off steam. All these little changes helped to create a space that inspires learning and where students could feel proud of.
“When in the Frog Classroom, my rowdiest students settle down fast and show interest in the lesson. The classroom calms them and gets them excited to start learning.” - Mr. Chong Zhi Xiong, teacher at SMK Puchong Batu 14.
Providing access to technology, creating a fun and borderless education, and improving learning environments are just one part of the equation. The well-being and development journey of educators were just as important. We recognised that teachers could offer so much to their own community of educators just by meeting up, sharing their experiences, and learning together. This could enhance their learning alongside Teacher Professional Development courses that the MOE was already providing.
Meet, Share, and Learn was an early teacher’s community concept we had in 2013, which provided an avenue for teachers to connect and share their best practices using the Frog VLE so they could learn from each other. This then evolved into our Hubs and Teacher Advocate Programme where we facilitated professional development by training up the community, appointing teacher advocates, and creating learning Hubs. Thinking about how Malaysians connect best over meals, these Hubs ran learning modules that were creatively named after popular Malaysian food such as CHENDOL, NASI LEMAK, and TEH AIS. Yum! Imagine what fun it was to turn up to a Hub session learning and bonding over chendol (a Malaysian shaved iced dessert)!
Over the years, our Professional Learning Community has grown and the quality of conversation has evolved to explore different ideas in order to meet the needs of education in our time. In 2022 we launched our very own online course called The HEART Course. This free online course creates space for educators across the world to connect over ideas in education and start conversations that bring change to their classroom, school, and community through the lens of HEART - an acronym for our company values and what we believe are constants in the ever-changing landscape of education.
Knowing we are inextricably part of an interconnected web of ideas and events that are constantly evolving, we have learned to embrace the opportunities that come with change. We constantly ask ourselves, what is our part to play in the evolving landscape of education? How can we make sure we create experiences that don't just meet the needs of the present time, but inspire what the future could look like next?
The Leaps of Knowledge conferences and events have been incredibly exciting spaces for us to find answers to these questions. Almost like a test-bed for unconventional ideas right from the start.
When we first thought about bringing everyone in education together for a conference, we saw how education conferences were often serious and sterile. At the same time, we observed how TED Talks and other industry conferences were using visual designs, experiential installations, and many other fascinating ways of engaging all the human senses. We felt it was time to change how education was experienced and perceived by the very same people who were delivering it to students. Our conferences over the years have been constantly designed with this in mind.
We brought in world class speakers who represented the zeitgeist of each season such as Nick Vujicic, Prof. Sugata Mitra, Red Hong Yi, Julia Immonen, Kiran Bir Sethi, d’Arcy Lunn, and more. We also wanted participants to experience what joy, curiosity, and magic in learning feels like so we constantly experimented with different creative set designs using light and music. We also implemented gamified activities and created plenty of opportunities for participants to network and collaborate with others in education.
For example, Leaps of Knowledge 2015: The Classroom Reimagined involved a life sized ‘board game’ where participants played in groups to test their spelling, general knowledge, mathematics, and knowledge of the Frog VLE. The Playground at Leaps of Knowledge 2022: Recreation featured a plethora of interactive installations which were proof of concepts reflecting how education can be experienced differently. We featured a game that required dancing to control the movements of chromosomes during cell replication. Another one featured first person exploration where you could use science, maths and history to solve puzzles along the way.
These are just some examples of how we continuously try new things and learn as we go. For us, that’s what we want to see the world of education become - Inspiring spaces with the ability to evolve, because of people behind it who are continuously reimagining their world, without fear of the future or limitations of the past.
In the last 10 years our curiosity towards both the known and unknown has driven us to keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in education, being innovators at heart. It doesn’t come without risks of course, but just like a baby who learns to walk for the first time, we keep choosing to try. Our courage builds upon each step. Our ideas get braver each day.
What started as a dream to provide access to quality learning for all, has led us on a marvellous journey of reimagining education for our current and future generations. Just like Edison, the Wright brothers, and Jobs, we believe our dreams can make a difference for everyone. The future belongs to those who dare to dream, and you are invited to keep dreaming with us!