April 30, 2012 00:00 By Wannapa Khaopa, Saowanee Nim
Those aged from 40 to 50 seen as being slow to learn, may require extra training
A major concern over the use of tablet computers in the coming school semester is the high average age of first-grade teachers. Some 70 per cent of the 450,000 teachers in primary and secondary schools are between 40 and 50 years old – and that could be a problem, a senior Office of the Basic Education Commission official said.
Because older teachers tend to be slower learners, a 50-minute training period may not be enough for them. Students might also be unimpressed with their teachers’ performance on the tablets, which may be inferior to theirs, said Anek Rattapiyaphorn, director of the OBEC’s Technology for Learning and Teaching Bureau.
This was seen in training on technology-related subjects previously given to such teachers. They regularly forgot what they learnt. “Hiring assistants for teachers in first grade is too large a fiscal burden – [it’s too much] to hire an additional 30,000 positions,” Anek said.
There were other factors and facilities needed for the use of tablet computers, which were unequal among state schools, said Ritthichai Onming, director of Srinakharinwirot University’s (SWU) Centre for Educational Media and Technology.
“Many schools do not even have electricity for charging batteries, let alone an Internet connection, which is vital for their use.”
He said key to the use of tablet computers was still appropriate teaching. The units and technology coming with them were just supporting factors.
Findings of a study on the impact of tablet use on students will be announced on May 11. However, researchers fear that people from different groups with a different bias will slant the findings improperly for their own benefit.
“We are concerned they will use only the findings that agree with their demand to support the demand and push it forward,” Asst Prof Chalermchai Boonyaleepun, president of SWU told Nation Group recently. “I don’t want ones who oppose tablet use to cite only negative impacts and others who support tablet use to cite only positive impacts. I don’t want them to tell half the truth.”
He was not sure how much the government would consider or use the findings and SWU’s recommendations on tablet use while it implements the promised One Tablet PC per Child policy. But he expected people will monitor how government uses the findings and recommendations.
Some people had questioned whether the university was doing the study to support the government but he insisted the findings were independent and could be trusted. No one from the Pheu Thai-led administration had been involved in the study or forced researchers to issue findings that satisfy the government, he said.
With time short for a study on the impact of tablet use on students, SWU could not clearly identify all impacts. The university wants to continue studying impacts that are unable to be identified clearly, Chalermchai said.
“Students had only used them for a semester while our researchers were studying the tablets’ impact on them. The period was too short to see, for instance, impact on eyesight.
“SWU is ready to continue studying the incomplete topics and would like the government to provide financial support for it.”
Chalermchai also urged the government to have experts do research before it issues policies that will affect the public. “The government should not only listen to recommendations from academics or experts but it should decide policies based on research.”
The tablet study project is called Integrating Technology to Enhance Learning. It studied the impact of tablet use on students’ health and behaviour, as well as the behaviour and attitude of teachers, parents and people in nearby communities towards tablet use. It will provide recommendations and guidelines for suitable tablet use in class.
The research was conducted with Prathom 1 and 4 students (Grade 1 and 4 students) at five schools in different regions around the country.
The researchers and teachers from those schools had a meeting this month to share problems they face and discuss ways that they addressed them. SWU gathered their information to create lesson plans and guidelines for teachers.