The work of Kenan Foundation Asia in helping Thai schools make better use of IT has taught us that far more important than any hardware is the software provided with it and the management that supports it. If tablets are to be really useful in Thai schools, much work needs to be done before the goodies are handed out.
Here is my list of the ten most important steps to take before 800,000 tablets are bought and distributed to Thai schools
- Study the research on use of laptops elsewhere in the world as well as Thailand’s own experience in using computers in the classroom
- Decide which parts of the Thai curriculum, for each subject, at each grade level, are best taught using the tablet and which are best taught by other methods
- Develop specific teaching methodologies and lesson plans that will enable teachers to make effective use of the devices for those parts of the curriculum
- Digitize existing textbooks and load them onto the tablets
- Identify, review and select available teaching software for the tablets, encouraging development of Thai-specific learning software, if necessary, and load the software onto the tablets
- Identify additional reading for the advanced student and the slow learner for each subject at each level, digitize it and load it onto the tablets
- Launch a pilot program in at least 100 schools to test the devices, teaching methodologies, support systems and digitized materials. Small, poor and rural schools should be the focus of the pilots because everything that works in these schools will probably work even better in the larger, richer schools.
- Train pilot school teachers in the tablet methodologies, software and materials
- Train pilot school administrators on the best ways to manage, technically support and evaluate teaching with the tablets
- Evaluate the experience of the pilot schools and adjust materials, methodologies, software, technical support systems and management accordingly and roll out to other schools in a systematic way
Clearly, there is much work to do to convert a catchy campaign promise into a viable educational program, but it doesn’t have to take years. A pilot program could begin in 2012 and a phased roll-out started a year later. Success or failure will depend on how well the program is planned and implemented, not on which hardware is bought or how quickly it is handed out.
These are my thoughts. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how best to introduce tablet computers to Thai schools so they can help make a real and much-needed improvement in learning.