Tablet PCs for students plan 'needs modifying'

The government's tablet computer distribution plan benefits students and has no obvious negative impacts, but should be targeting Prathom 4 (Grade 4) students rather than Prathom 1, says an official study.

"Preliminarily, the study finds no obvious negative impacts on students," said Chalermchai Boonyaleepun, president of Srinakharinwirot University which conducted the study.

The analysis found that students benefited in the areas of technological skills and creative thinking.

"They are more happy, enthusiastic and interested in learning. They also have an opportunity to learn to take care of valuable things like tablet computers," Mr Chalermchai said.

Prathom 4 students were learning via tablets faster and better than the younger grade, the study found.

"So, it is more worthwhile to give the tablets to Prathom 4 students, not Prathom 1," said Mr Chalermchai.

The only impact the tablets had on the development of Prathom 1 students was boost the amount of revision they did of their lessons, he said.

The study found that tablet use had no impact on illness, free-time activities, junk food consumption, muscle development, concentration levels and sleeping hours for both grades of students.

It did find that students suffered from eye strain, irritation and teary eyes.

"Still, we cannot yet conclude that those symptoms are results of tablet computer use," Mr Chalermchai said.

The study on the potential impact of tablet devices on young users was launched by the Office of the Basic Eduction Commission under former education minister Woravat Auapinyakul.

Around 500 Prathom 1 and Prathom 4 students in five pilot schools were given Lenovo-brand tablets to use from January to March.

The schools were Rachawinit School and Srinakharinwirot University Prasarnmit Demonstration School in Bangkok, Anuban Lampang School in Lampang, Anuban Phangnga School in Phangnga and Sanambin School in Khon Kaen.

Students were not allowed to take their tablet PCs home.

Teachers were found to have some difficulties handling classes where students were learning using tablets.

In some cases, students taught teachers how to use certain applications, which might have the negative psychological impact of students losing respect for their teachers, Mr Chalermchai said.

Most teachers still need technical assistance in order to use the tablets when teaching.

Therefore, at least one technical staffer must be stationed at every school, especially small ones, he said.

Talks with teachers, executives, parents and communities revealed they thought students should not be allowed to take the devices home as they might then use them to access inappropriate online content.

Parents said the government should organise training for them on how to use tablets, and that an adequate national internet infrastructure needed to be put in place before widespread tablet distribution.

"I do not know if the government will use this study to amend its tablet policy or not. But a government decision to spend a lot of taxpayers' money, affecting several million people, should not be based on a feeling or opinion," said Mr Chalermchai.

"I would like to see government decision-making, when it comes to public policies, being based on academic data," he added.

Share your thoughts

Discussion 1 : 14/05/2012 at 04:38 PM
@Disc 9 bkkfig - The best International Schools can afford to use technology because, firstly the teachers are well qualified hence technology is a added supplement to enhance the students learning. Whereas in Thai local schools, teachers are hardly qualified enough to teach let alone supplement it with technology. There are so many better things to spend the 1 billion that can benefit thai students. Hence this tablet pc pet project of the PTP is already a failure before it starts!
Discussion 2 : 14/05/2012 at 04:31 PM
@Disc 7 hillfarang - For someone who is involved with creative education, you should know better that 1 billion baht spent on a tablet for one age group that needs it the least is a big waste of tax payers money. Why not a computer room? or a "multimedia cart" that can be passed on from one class to the other? more age groups will benefit. I'm not against creativity and technology. This policy is poorly executed, admit it!
Discussion 3 : 12/05/2012 at 10:46 PM
It's all about control: First you enter your name and then your 11-digit red shirt member numer. Welcome to TS Network. Now you are able to use your tablet and to receive instuctions ...
Discussion 4 : 12/05/2012 at 12:53 PM
One of the sources of bad English comprehension is students using school computers ti access "Google translate". Anyone who has used one of these cyber translators knows the answers can be quite bizarre.
Discussion 5 : 12/05/2012 at 11:24 AM
bikeme D:10 wrote: "Ultimately it is the teachers that inspire the kids to study and learn, not the tools." Bingo! I believe that you "hit the nail on the head!" A computer, laptop or tablet is, after all, just a tool. It is what is done with that tool that counts. Teacher training world-wide leaves much to be desired. Teaching must inspire and that cannot happen in outmoded, rote and narrow-minded administrations. Education IS a journey (discovery & conceptualization) NOT just a destination (Final Exams & Grades). It is not just Thailand that is struggling with this issue.
Discussion 6 : 12/05/2012 at 11:02 AM
This horrible idea isnt even out yet and the government is defending it .What is the outdated teacher supposed to do while the kids with a 10 second attention play with their tablets all day ? This idea is a superficial attempt to skip over the hard work it takes to update the education system and instead expect a cheap piece od Chinese junk to do it for you .Tablets dont make kids think teachers do .
Discussion 7 : 12/05/2012 at 10:34 AM
Good to see that the tablets have no negative effects on illness or junk food consumption. But one has to ask, for how long of a time period was this study conducted? Education is a many year process, how can one draw conclusions based on a couple of month study? Right now the tablets are a novelty to students, something fun to work with. But within a couple of years they will become a task that students HAVE to do, which will then become something they don't really want to do (simple childhood rebellion). Computers is every school were supposed to be a perfect idea, but how many schools worldwide adopted it. Then it was laptops, now tablets. Ultimately it is the teachers that inspire the kids to study and learn, not the tools.
Discussion 8 : 12/05/2012 at 10:31 AM
While there are going to be some issues with this project it should be noted that this is the way forward for education. The Thai government is attempting to put its students on a level that is above that of other nations. Will it work? I don't know, will there be problems? I am sure there will. However just look at the best International Schools in Bangkok and Singapore they are promoting and working towards this kind of technology and way of learning. It is the way forward.
Discussion 9 : 12/05/2012 at 10:22 AM
I believe the tablets come bundled with a GPS Navigation system. I wonder what the study thought about that?
Discussion 10 : 12/05/2012 at 10:02 AM
Discussion 5 : banmebkk "...Plus it is harder to make sure students are on the same page without having them going into other programs... They should just stick with books, most cost efficient and most effective..." Oh my! "Same page..." Everyone do the same thing, repeat & memorize & regurgitate for the exams. banmebkk, I respectfully submit, as one who has been involved with creative education for 42 years now, that the last thing Thailand needs is "more of the same!" Have you ever seen what they do with outdated and outmoded Thai textbooks? The whole idea of this innovation is to stimulate exploration, discovery & creativity! Let's give something new & original a try (for a change)...
Discussion 11 : 12/05/2012 at 10:00 AM
“The government's tablet computer distribution plan benefits students and has no obvious negative impacts . . .” Really? How can a statement like this be made when the tablets have yet to arrive, let alone be used by students? Are we now able to see into the future? So far the only benefit has been to those who made the tablet promise. Don’t count the chickens before they hatch!
Discussion 12 : 12/05/2012 at 09:18 AM
Using tablet PCs leads to too much downtime, especially with lower grade students. Plus it is harder to make sure students are on the same page without having them going into other programs, frozen programs, or low battery issues. They should just stick with books, most cost efficient and most effective.
Discussion 13 : 12/05/2012 at 09:02 AM
As expecting and agree with the study. 4th grade is more mature and probably more enthusiastic to explore the new knowledge and learn. Hope the government would use this study to improve the usefulness of tax money.
Discussion 14 : 12/05/2012 at 08:44 AM
I fully agree that grade 1 student is too young to be given the tablet. The only tablet most suitable for them is the vitamin tablet (and a lot of TLC).
Discussion 15 : 12/05/2012 at 08:02 AM
Well here's a novel idea, buy your tablets and then make a study of whether they are benificial or not. Where do these people come from?
Discussion 16 : 12/05/2012 at 06:43 AM
"...government decisions based on data?" I think we would all like to see that. As for tablets not being negative, so would supplying the children with shoes. Neither tablets or shoes will address the educational dilemma confronting Thailand. from iPhone application.

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