Laptops a success only in some cases


Although the “One Laptop Per Child” project didn’t make much difference " better or worse " to students’ academic performance, it was a useful tool to stimulate learning, according to research by the Office of the Education Council released last week.

However, for schools that haven’t adjusted their teaching and learning yet according to the new theory to support it, investing in this project wasn’t worthwhile and this tool may even be an “excess” to some classes.

At the Royal River Hotel last week, Chiang Mai University engineering lecturer Anan Sipitakkiat presented research on the “One Laptop Per Child” project carried out as a pilot project in Chiang Mai’s Ban San Kamphaeng School, Chiang Rai’s Ban Kha Yaeng School, Lampang’s Tesaban Nakhon Lampang 4 School and Ban Sam Kha School, Rayong’s Wutthinan School, Bangkok’s Darunsikkhalai School for Innovative Learning, and Nakhon Si Thammarat Rajabhat University’s Demonstration School.

This work, done mostly with upper primary schoolchildren, started in 2008 and the followup research was done in 2009.

Anan said the twoyear project had not found solid indications that the academic performance of students using computer notebooks was better or worse, only that their reading and writing skills were reportedly somewhat improved from before.

However if one looked beyond students’ grades, the children were found to show positive skills such as enthusiasm to work and ability to link computers into their learning and searching for information, which was in line with the new learning theory that emphasises getting kids to be able to think and do things, to solve problems, and search for information themselves " skills demanded by modern industries.

“It’s noticeable that computer notebooks are useful tools for children’s learning at schools that have already adjusted their teaching and learning to fit the new theory,” he said. “We can see that the seven schools we studied have adjusted to ‘constructionism’, emphasizing handson learning via school projects and a focus on the thinking process. So, the computer notebooks help their learning, especially to do school projects more easily. Thus, the key to success is at the teaching and learning not the computer notebooks.”

As for “normal schools” that haven’t yet adjusted their teaching and learning to that of the “new theory”, the investment to make the project happen wouldn’t be worthwhile, he said. This was because, without adjusting teaching styles, the children would be distracted by their “new toys” in class and may get bored. The notebooks would become a classroom “excess”. Some children might only play on the notebooks and ignore teachers, leading to the notebooks being used less, as seen in some countries’ schools, he said.

The research also found that students in some schools, after using the notebooks for a while, got bored and viewed them as a burden as they had had a chance to use other computers with higher capabilities with faster connections.

He cited Tesaban Nakhon Lampang 4 School as example. At first, some kids took the notebooks home everyday but after their parents bought them a PC at home they left the notebooks at school. He said Darunsikkhalai School also found that the notebooks couldn’t motivate the students at a school located in an urban area with a lot of technology available as their classrooms already had various technologies they were more familiar with and able to use faster. The kids had so much homework and tutoring classes to attend that they didn’t have time to learn about the notebooks after school.

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