“Science is a subject that requires a lot of memorization; if I always teach in the same manner, asking students to recite content, it would be very boring,” said Ms. Chompoonuch Rimnongruea, a science teacher at Ratchaprachanukroh 51 School, Buriram. Though Ms. Chompoonuch’s comment speaks to a desire for a more dynamic and lively classroom environment that will keep students engaged, it is a challenge in remote, rural schools to find ways to bring 21st century education into the classroom. Old-fashioned styles of teaching in the Thai education system have a negative impact on students’ 21st century skills. For example, Thai students placed 56th and 52nd out of 79 countries on the science and math sections respectively of 2019 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA scores), an international exam that measures students’ critical thinking and real-world problem solving skills.
Ratchaprachanukhroh 51 School is one of the remote schools that focus on providing education for disadvantaged students through curriculum development and learning management based on the Thai royal philosophy of sufficiency economy.
Ms. Chompoonuch started her career as a teacher over three years ago, and having grown up in a generation where technology plays an important role in everyday life, she wants to bring the latest technology to the classroom. She believes it will make learning more fun, but such an idea is not easy to bring to fruition, as Ratchaprachanukroh 51 School still lacks resources in many ways, putting limitations on the implementation of her ideas.
When Ms. Chompoonuch learned of the We Think Digital project, which is organized by Kenan Foundation Asia and funded by Facebook to build 21st century skills for teachers, Ms. Chompoonuch decided to join the project. A major component of We Think Digital is sharing knowledge about digital technology and the ways to use social media creatively in teaching.
“I let students play Kahoot. When the students play games or do something different from their normal classroom activities, they are especially alert. Students can enjoy the game and absorb the subject content at the same time. After the game is finished a summary of the content will be provided, and then students can take in the content in a more systematic way.”
In addition to using new applications, Ratchaprachanukroh 51 School also intends to undertake a project-based learning project using Kenan’s Enhanced Project-Based Learning (E-PBL) content. Although the project is in its planning stage, Ms. Chompoonuch enthusiastically told us the details: “From having participated in We Think Digital, I know that using a project as a vehicle for learning gives the students the opportunity for a hands-on educational experience, and improves their learning efficacy and outcomes. The school is planning on organizing this project during the next term, which will be implemented in the form of a Grade 6 math course, with me as an advisor.”
The project will be called Conquering Geometry through Folding Fabric,. First, the teacher will guide students through basic geometric shapes, then students will be taught how to fold fabric. After that, the students will be given the challenge of folding fabric into different geometric shapes and finding a way to fit the fabric neatly into a bag.
This type of learning emphasizes the importance of the subject in their daily lives and creates a learning environment in which 4C skills are clearly used (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication). Teachers will see students having fun talking, coming up with ideas together and presenting them in a creative way. The class will lively and interactive, instead of only having the teacher talk in front of the students.
“In addition to students receiving academic knowledge, they also get to practice skills that must be used in real life. When they encounter problems, they must help each other think and come up with a solution; this is why E-PBL, is used: students are able to gain knowledge beyond what is available in textbooks,” Ms. Chompoonuch surmised.