Technology versus tradition: the great debate08-Sep-2011
Thailand’s Education Minister, Worawat Ua-apinyakul, recently announced that the campaign for one laptop for every primary school child in Thailand, promised during the general election, will be honoured by the government, with hardware beginning to be distributed in 2012 (http://tinyurl.com/3dkcx9k). The One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) was started to provide premium education to underdeveloped countries, but has now become popular in many countries, Thailand being a prime example.
This move towards a technological standard of teaching might seem revolutionary to students and teachers in countries like the USA, the UK, and Western Europe. However, Asia has long embraced blended learning, and is a powerhouse in technological innovation: today, Asia exports two thirds of the world’s high-tech goods for information and communications technology (ICT), and seven of the world’s top ten ICT exporters are now Asian. Our sales representative for East Asia, Patrick Hafenstein, wrote all the way back in 2007 about how enthusiastic the Asian market was for blended learning (http://www.blendedmec.com/guest-blogs/mec-asia). However, the distribution of laptops for every primary school child in Thailand signals not just an acceptance of blended learning, but rather a replacement of traditional education methods, such as textbooks, with these new and innovative technologies: ‘Mr Worawat said textbooks which were deemed less necessary would be gradually phased out and the budget for the printing of those textbooks would be diverted to the tablet PCs project… Future printing of school textbooks would be based on what books were really needed.’
The decision to replace books with digital content is not only a pedagogical one; it is economical too. They would not have to be bought every year, unlike textbooks, and could be taken on with the child as he or she progresses through the school; once a child leaves the school, if the laptop still worked it could be given to a new starter.
With the rising popularity of laptops, tablet PCs and smartphones, it is no surprise that technology is taking over the more traditional classroom materials of chalk boards, textbooks and graph paper. But what do your students think? Would they rather take notes on a laptop than in an exercise book? Does it have an impact on how well they actually learn? Would they like the same scheme in their own country, or do they think a balance is still needed between textbooks and technology?