Visitors urge caution in tablet PC use
Foreign academics warn of unready teachers,too young studentsTwo worldrenowned visiting professors have warned that tablet distribution to Thai first graders may cause problems if the Education Ministry does not give teachers and parents an understanding of effective tablet use and how to handle students using the tablets.
Also, the two professors from the US and Korea, revealed that Information and Communication Technology (ICT), together with leadership by school principals - giving a sense of need for change to teachers and encouraging them to conduct interactive classes - were key points to success in education reform.
"In terms of keeping a balance between mechanical discretion of the devices and how to utilise them for education purposes, or for changing attitudes in such young students, seems to be a big problem," said Dae Joon Hwang, Professor of the College of ICT at Sungkyunkwan University and secretarygeneral of the Korean Council for University Education.
He has contributed to elearning and ICT in Korea, and received Unesco awards for ICT and education.
The government should train teachers how to use ICT in class and utilise it in teaching and learning, said Hwang.
He said he was worried if such young Thai children were ready to use the tablets while parents had not been trained to know the gadgets and how to deal with their children's . "The first graders in primary schools are not old enough to handle all kinds of media or resources to cultivate themselves by using tablet PCs"
"The first thing [teachers] must do is to keep a balance between use of technology and followup in teaching," Hwang said. "Before the nationwide dissemination, you must go through teacher training."
He also asked why not the government did not have a pilot project for assessment, or consider the programme's feasibility, before the nationwide dissemination of tablets?
Hwang said the Korean government had trained parents on ICT before it provided the technology to schools.
He added the government would not be able to track changes in students' behaviour, so some parents should volunteer to keep their eyes open to see what happened to their children in terms of study behaviour or electronic gadgetusing behaviour. Their parents had to have control…and had to understand the effects."
Thailand would have to beware children becoming too attached to their computers, as Hwang said some Korean students had been addicted to computers and their games, and the government had to open clinics to treat them.
"The device is nothing. You have to have pedagogical process. Problems cannot be solved by computers. Computers are just devices that access us to information," said Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Dean of Applied Physics at Harvard University.
Hwang said based on the Korean experience, the government must focus on understanding the teaching involved.
Mazur has initiated "peer instruction" - teaching large lecture classes interactively. The idea had attracted a large following, both nationally and internationally. He served on numerous committees and councils, and had chaired and organised national and international scientific conferences.
Both professors had separate interviews with The Nation last week after their keynote addresses on education at the 9th International Consortium for Educational Development 2012 held in Bangkok.
Hwang pointed out that ICT in education and leadership of school principals helped Korea succeed in education reform; while Mazur urged the Thai government to show there was a need for teachers to desire change rather than just being told to change. His peer instruction technique was designed to help improve students' learning.
"It's very important to give people a choice and ownership [of their actions]. You first have to show or convince them there is a need for change. I developed peer instruction not just for reform, but because my students were not learning," Mazur added. "Now, I don't teach by telling. I teach by questioning"
"In watching television or watching a professor or watching any other performance, you are passive. Watching TV or attending a lecture is not all that different," he said.
He allowed students to discuss ideas and learn from each other."Students are able to better explain to other students than a professor [can]," he said.
Mazur said after using his technique, when measuring students' knowledge on day 1 and measuring them at the end of the classes, their advancement was two to three times higher.
Korea provided supplementary econtents for cyber home projects used by 4.4 million students in parallel with teachers' lectures. The contents of the project were in line with the national standard that teachers had used. ICT narrowed the educational gap between metropolitan and rural students, and showed positive impact, Hwang said.
"School principals are really an important part in successfully implementing a national initiative. If they are passive or not aggressive enough in adopting new ideas, schools face a lot of problems. That's why the government tries to educate them in parallel with training teachers because the principals must have bright ideas and active minds to adapt to new things, and it is a must for them to be trained in Korea," he said.
Both professors offered helpful recommendations for Thai education development based on their direct experience, which could help Thailand in educational improvement - if the government considered the recommendations and adoptedk, them correctly.