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ICT firms back pilot tablet project for secondary students

The private sector has stepped in to help state secondary schools use tablet computers provided by the government more effectively.

Several firms recently met with officials and teachers from more than 50 secondary schools in Bangkok to introduce software that can be used as teaching equipment and classmanagement tools.

The meeting kicked off a pilot project for distributing tablets among Mathayom 1 (Grade 7) students, and schools were given instruction on the technology offered by such companies as Intel, Google, Apple, HewlettPackard and Huawei.

They also met with representatives from companies creating content for tablets such as Aksorn Charoen Tat ACT, with the aim of helping schools choose technology that is suitable for their needs.

About 20 schools in every region are eligible to join the pilot project, said Olarn Chaipravat, adviser to Education Minister Suchart Tadathamrongvej and also chairman of the One Tablet Per Child policy committee.

However, a source engaged in the project said 10 eligible schools in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces would join the project, since their infrastructure is adequate, especially Internet access, while the Web connections at schools in other provinces might be too slow.

Each school will mainly work with one company that provides hardware, software or content for tablets. So there will be different models of tablet use.

Students will be given the devices in July. Assessments will be conducted in October and December. Assessment panels will look at conditions that lead to success at different schools, the source said.

Olarn said: "Reports on tablet use at the pilot schools and assessments will be presented to the government and the prime minister before they make a decision on fullscale distribution for Mathayom 1. If assessment results show positive impacts and the companies are ready, the government will start the fullscale project.

"The delivery of tablets to Prathom 1 [Grade 1] just marks a beginning. The government is trying to expand tablet distribution to students at other levels of primary and secondary education. The expansion depends on readiness or preparedness of schools, teachers and parents."

The source said the government wanted to hand out tablets to Mathayom 1 students in the next academic year if possible.

Olarn said the specifications of tablets for Mathayom 1 students would be better than those for Prathom 1. For instance, they would have larger screens. Each Mathayom 1 tablet would cost about Bt3,000, while each Prathom 1 device costs about Bt2,400.

"Private companies will be allowed to bid for sale of the tablets," he added.

"As secondaryeducation students need more difficult and complicated content than pupils in primary education, the Information and Communications Technology Ministry is providing infrastructure like WiFi so students at every school can access the Internet," he said.

The Innovation for Education Foundation is supporting the committee in running the pilot project. It is acting as the coordinator between the schools and the companies. It will also help train teachers on techniques of tablet use in class. Any schools need training can call the foundation at 02 440 0330.

Olarn said the government had set up a centre that provides different educational applications created by private companies and teachers for download, and it will subsidise some download fees so teachers and students upcountry can also afford good applications.

Tawan DhevaAksorn, president of Aksorn Charoen Tat ACT, said it had created more than 30,000 learning objects for tablets that cover content from kindergarten to secondary education. More than 100 schools showed interest in pioneering tablet use after it introduced the learning objects to them.


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