Ratchaprachanukhro 45 School in Kanchanaburi is a school for disadvantaged students. Many lack financial resources and teaching support, making it challenging for students to fully immerse themselves in the learning experience and to have confidence in themselves as learners.
Ms. Deethana Yamwong, a math teacher at the school said, “I used to teach at a school in Bangkok. Urban students have better access to resources, and many of them have the background knowledge which enabled them to bring problems from outside the classroom to their teachers immediately. But at Ratchaprachanukroh 45 School, many students lack this; some do not even attend school according to the age criteria set by the Education Ministry.”
For students who are underserved by the education system from the beginning, a rigorous subject like math can be intimidating. Students might not feel like they are prepared for this particular kind of content, or that they were suited for it. The difficulty for teachers, then, is making the subject accessible to students and fostering a relaxed learning environment. Ms. Deethana is definitely up for the challenge.
“Resistance towards math is very common, whether the problem is easy or difficult, students often reject the content immediately. I have to figure out a way for the students to encounter math and feel curious rather than an urge to walk away, be it by using media or trying new teaching strategies to help students understand what is being taught.”
Ms. Deethana employs various methods to cultivate her students’ love of learning, one of them being digital technology in the classroom. She believes that math and social media can be used together to make lessons more interactive and lively for the students. And when she learned of the We Think Digital project, she decided to join immediately. Kenan Foundation Asia has partnered with Facebook to develop 21st century skills for Thai teachers, so as to further develop quality Thai education.
“I usually carry out activities in the classroom, but not in a formal or clearly structured way. The project has greatly enhanced this aspect of my teaching; I now have a more focused approach to conducting activities, which also helps to attract students’ interest.”
Using digital technology in schools is extremely new for both teachers and students. Ms. Deethana explained that, “teachers had planned to use Google Classroom before, but to teach online, students must have Gmail. So I took this opportunity to coordinate with another computer teacher who also participated in the project, and applied the training content in my classroom teaching, such as setting passwords for safe Internet use, and using online digital media creatively.”
In addition to digital media, Ms. Deethana also applies new teaching strategies gained from We Think Digital. She includes Enhanced Project-Based Learning (E-PBL) content in her teaching to engage her students and demystify math. At first, most of the students could not imagine how math might be used in daily life, and so they failed to realize the importance of the subject. But when Ms. Deethana gave her students the opportunity to figure things out themselves, using integrated content from multiple subjects to create a project of their own, the results were extremely satisfying. The 4C skills taught in the E-PBL curriculum, which are critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication, were incorporated in her lessons.
These skills go a long way to build disadvantaged students’ confidence and motivation to learn. Using digital technology alongside E-PBL content creates a learning environment that is dynamic and inspiring, and helps students become well-rounded independent thinkers who can apply their knowledge outside the classroom.
“At the beginning, when I used this activity with the students, most of them shook their heads and turned away. However, when I gave them topics to explore how math is intertwined with everyday life, they became more open to the subject and saw math not as an intangible thing, but as a relevant and useful tool—they can calculate interest rates and compounding interest, for instance. The students had more fun learning math when they were given the opportunity to think critically about things that impact them, and they saw how math can be used in conjunction with other skills,” concluded Ms. Deethana.
Learn more about Kenan’s work to transform education: www.kenan-asia.org/21st-century-education