With the arrival of current technology that aids learning, many have simply assumed that schools can switch smoothly to online learning during COVID-19 outbreak when on-site learning was not allowed for whole semesters. However, Kenan Foundation Asia and Boeing have found that most elementary schools faced serious challenges accessing online learning. Some students cannot access the internet, gadgets, and some need to use their parents’ smartphones. Instead of online learning, small disadvantaged schools have three options to deliver teaching and learning: on-air, on-demand, and on-hand, using televised programs, short video clips for asynchronous viewing, and handing out worksheets or learning kits, respectively. Teachers have to adapt quickly to the situation. Otherwise, many children will virtually drop out from school at Grades 1 – 6 levels and will lack the fundamental knowledge to achieve higher education in the future.
Kenan Foundation Asia and Boeing have worked together for the past 10 years on the Boeing Technology Enhanced Learning project to improve teachers’ knowledge and teaching skills via STEM enhanced project-based learning (EPBL). The development occurred in the schools and students are made sustainable through multi-year continued professional training of teachers, coupled with small group mentoring sessions and school principals’ intensive programs.
Teacher Tanawut Makcharoen, Sarika School, Nakhon Nayok, has participated in the project for 2 consecutive years. He put considerable effort into applying the knowledge and skills from the training into his classroom during COVID-19, despite poor internet connection and lack of quality devices. Project-based learning can be one of the most effective learning approaches, both in normal time and in time of COVID-19 crisis, given teachers can carefully design customized lesson plans that match student needs and local issues. In response to COVID-19, Teacher Tanawut has created teaching materials, video clips and worksheets about water resources management, featuring local dams and reservoirs. He then sent the learning materials to his students and interact with them via group messenger mobile application. With support from Boeing and Kenan Foundation Asia, he also provided needed learning kits to every student to ensure student engagement.
Project-based learning as a 21st century learning
Teacher Tanawut said, “After attending the Boeing training program last year and this year, we had a better understanding of EPBL. Previously, students were asked to memorize STEM contents from textbooks, which led to negative impressions of science. Last year, in 2020, I applied EPBL to my classroom by designing several learning activities that aligned with the curriculum and evaluations. Those activities allow my students’ hands-on learning experiences and challenge their STEM knowledge and problem-solving skills. I was also given an opportunity to discuss with my teacher colleagues to optimize the teaching module. I was so satisfied with the outcome as my students showed more interest and curiosity. They can readily summarize what they have learned. Now, my students are looking forward to joining my science class.”
Teacher Tanawut has been attending the Boeing teacher training program for two years now. “During my second year with Boeing training program, I’m impressed with the support and observations Kenan put on their master teachers, both during the event and post-event. The second year’s content was more advanced than the first year, and I can see the improvement and receive deeper insights. The learning activities also become more intensive and systematic. It is useful and easy to apply to the classroom, especially during COVID-19.”
Connecting the dots to transform education
“I am truly proud of the ability to maximize a new learning module for my students to explore beyond a classroom. I can share ideas with teachers from different schools, which I considered a turning point for my school as we transformed from traditional learning to hands-on experiential learning through an upgraded lesson plan. While improving the action plan between math and science teachers, we have created more interesting content and built a bonding atmosphere. We can reduce homework across departments. Based on the results, the school plans to integrate this module into other subjects. For instance, we aim to apply the Professional Learning Community (PLC) or teacher mentoring to other subjects to improve students’ projects towards future careers. This is going to be the first step of the collaboration across school.”
“Although COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives, teachers need to keep providing the best learning practice to our students. We can no longer cling to traditional teaching approaches. We need to have the guts to overcome the change and respond to the current situation. Keep practicing was what we learned from this teacher training and also what we taught our students so that they can learn from the failures. We are more resilient now as we are aware that mistakes are part of the process. It is not easy to change, so support from the school, principals, and peer teachers has become more important than ever. Put students to our priority and have our eyes set on the challenges. No children should be left behind, and no teacher is alone in this crisis.”