Tablets in the classroom make for fun learning

Tech March 04, 2014 00:00

By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation

19,219 Viewed

Prathom-2 pilot project at Chiang Mai school proves a big success for children and teachers alike

Prathom-2 students at Rattana Auewittaya School, located in Fang district – some 150 kilometres from Chiang Mai city – are enjoying learning with a tablet as a companion device every day.
Early one morning, in the school’s Prathom 2/2 classroom, seven-year-old Preeyanuch Budruen – nicknamed Nong Idea – is doing her Chinese studies using a tablet. She says she loves doing her classwork this way, as it is great fun to use such a device. 
“I have [use of] an iPad at home, but the school tablet is my favourite because it has a lot more fun applications than my mother’s device,” she said.
Rattana Auewittaya School director Pongthada Subhasan said the institution had brought in 90 Intel Education Tablets for its three classrooms at Prathom-2 level in January, with the support of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation, Chiang Mai University and Intel Microelectronics (Thailand). 
“The school is in the province’s pilot project called ‘The Smart Classroom’. It is a part of the Chiang Mai Smart Province Scheme,” said Pongthada.
The director said the school had deployed the tablets into classroom study of its six main subjects: mathematics, Thai, English, Chinese, science and social studies. 
“We designed the tablet class for Prathom-2 students since Prathom-1 students already have experience with tablets provided by the government. We want Prathom-2 children to be able to use tablets in class for learning. We have three classrooms at this level. The Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organisation provided us with 60 tablets, and Intel supported us with another 30,” he said.
In order to enhance learning with the devices, the school’s education system has had to be adjusted and a back-end technology system introduced. As part of this, a 50-megabit-per-second Internet connection is available 
to allow teachers and students to surf the Net to teach and acquire knowledge and courseware easily. 
“We have a server room locating all the digital courseware, which is downloaded from both the Office of the Basic Education Commission and our own developed courseware,” said the director. 
Teachers, however, are the key success factor in implementing tablets in learning, he stressed, as they have to design and develop their own teaching formats. They can use the existing digital courseware for tablets, and they can create their own.
English teacher Tipada Subhasan, who has applied the use of tablets in her classroom, said she and her colleagues enjoyed teaching with the devices because they helped them to create course content and develop their teaching style more than conventional techniques enabled them to do. 
Participatory learning
More importantly, she said her students enjoyed taking lessons with tablets in the classroom. 
They love the inquiry-style learning that allows them to get the ‘answer’ or discover the ‘knowledge’ themselves – often before the teacher can do so, she said, adding that this helps turn the traditional learning format with blackboard and chalk and the teacher at the centre into a more participatory form of learning between students and teachers.
“Our students are happy learning this way. And also, we are happy teaching students with tablets because it empowers us to create a lot of teaching patterns. The only problem is that the existing content or courseware for teaching with this format is not enough. Therefore, we teachers now need to get trained to develop our own courseware,” said Tipada.
Apart from tablets, the school has for a number of years had computer rooms for its lab and workshop, said Pongthada, who added that using tablets in the classroom was in effect an extension of these computer facilities. While students use tablets for everyday learning, they are not used all the time. The devices form a crucial part of innovative education, blended along with the other forms of learning, he explained. 
Rattana Auewittaya School has also implemented a closed-circuit television system in the classroom to monitor how effectively the students are using the tablets, and to monitor their learning behaviour. 
The director can access the CCTV feed via his smart phone to keep in touch with his students’ learning progress. 
“CCTV is a part of the scheme, since Chiang Mai University needs to get feedback and response from this kind of learning for its research. We also benefit from this CCTV feedback in order to adjust the course format to suit the class,” said the director. 
Intel’s role
Intel Microelectronics (Thailand)’s business development manager, Monchai Kunteekanok, said that as a partner in the scheme, Intel was providing not only tablet devices but also technology and consultancy support. 
“We came here late last year to work with the school in preparing the implementation. The school upgraded its Internet connection’s bandwidth, while we added more access points in each classroom to make the Internet connection smooth, as 90 students – 30 per classroom – access the Net at almost the same time,” said Monchai.
Intel also provided a movable tablet-charger cabinet to facilitate teachers.
Monchai said the company’s participation was part of the Intel Education Initiative, under which it provides education solutions, including Intel Education tablets and Intel Classmate PCs along with Intel classroom management software, and Intel’s content distribution system. 
“Not only does the school get the devices, but we also help provide the necessary education solutions to make it all practical,” said the Intel manager.
Apart from its technology solutions, the company also has the Intel Teach programme of professional development courses to help teachers of all subjects engage students and bring digital learning into the classroom.
“We started introducing the Intel Education tablet last year in two schools in Bangkok, and Rattana Auewittaya School is the latest school to use them,” said Monchai.
The Intel Education tablet, which has a 10-inch screen, comes with an active or capacitive stylus and is more rugged with a 70cm drop resistance and dust resistance. Battery life has been extended to 12 hours on average. 
The tablets have front- and rear-facing cameras, a snap-on magnification lens and a plug-in thermal probe.
Intel education software is preloaded on tablets. For example, Kno textbook – an interactive eReader – provides students with the ability to experience and explore rich content, such as videos, 3D models and linked glossaries. 
There is also the Intel Education Resources suite, which comprise educational and digital literacy resources to help students learn – even when they are not connected – and professional development information and courses for teachers. 
These include award-winning maths and science content from Intel skoool and Khan Academy, plus language-learning resources from the British Council.
“Technology and solutions are available to assist teachers to enhance teaching. We now closely work with the school to facilitate teachers to get the maximum benefit from our education solutions,” said Monchai.