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Most educators want to accelerate Thai education; however, the way to go about this change has yet to be clarified by those who make the decisions. It is true that technology helps learning as long as those who are using the technology understand how it is to be implemented in the classroom and do so effectively; however, this is not the case in many situations.


Chanarong Luckshaniyanavin, president of the Pasanusorn group of schools was reported recently in the Bangkok Post as saying that he believed that e-learning systems, satellite learning programmes and online broadcasts can be used to fast track the learning process.


Even with the collaboration of the government and the private sector in projects such as this, I am not convinced that it will work across the provinces without a few hiccups. Access to the internet and more importantly, electricity are important factors if projects using this type of technology are to succeed.


I have travelled to many schools in the north east of Thailand and have not seen much of this technology in use. Even when there is equipment available, many times I have been told it is not working and more importantly I have frequently found out that the teachers themselves do not know how to use the latest technology on offer.


For technology to work effectively in remote areas they have to be completely self sufficient and independent of anything else. There also has to be a series of backup systems available and the support and maintenance needed to keep the technology working.


It is not viable for rural schools to have all their technology hooked up to the internet as the internet seldom works effectively and there is very little broadband available, so the quality of internet services varies dramatically from location to location.


Even the supply of electricity can be patchy and rest assured schools in remote areas do not have backup generators and the necessary connections to power their new technology in the event of a power failure.


An area that I have been looking into recently is the use of voice recognition software. There are many speech software programmes that allow you to record your voice and listen to the final product. Not many allow you to track the way you speak and have it assessed by the computer.


There is a product called SpeaKIT that allows students to track their dialogue and the computer assesses whether it is of good enough quality to be acceptable. There is no need to be hooked up to the internet, it is self contained and it is very easy to use. My university were asked if they were interested in conducting research in this area but they rather disappointingly declined the offer.


The development of incorporating primary school English dialogues and testing the system in rural areas with a view to making it available to the general public is in process. As part of this process, selected schools will have the opportunity to use the system free of charge as part of the trial, which is a win-win situation for the private enterprise and the students in the schools selected.


Collaborations like this are the way ahead, where government bodies and private enterprises get together resulting in the students and schools benefiting from the research and development of educational services at no cost to the taxpayer.


eLearning can be a powerful tool in English language teaching

Premruedi Chanplaeng demonstrates that technology in our schools needs to be robust and developed in collaboration with Thailand’s educational establishments

(Unedited article published in the Bangkok Post 21st September 2010)

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