CHIANG RAI – A project initiated by a technology company has the ambitious goal of equipping Thai children with the skills required in the digital age.
It is designed to remove the outdated perception that learning is limited to just classrooms, and creates a problem-based environment for children to learn by doing. Instead of being just passive learners, they become self-learners.
The Samsung Smart Learning Centre initiative, launched by Thai Samsung Electronics, has entered its fifth year of operation.
Over the past four years, the project has covered 47 schools nationwide and benefited more than 3,000 teachers and over 70,000 students, according to Wanna Swuddigul, the company’s vice president and chief marketing officer.
Under the project, children receive technological tools and guidance from their “mentoring teachers” in surveying their community’s problems and exploring possible solutions. The participating teachers are always on hand to provide support and counsel the students, contributing to important changes in their learning process.
Kanjana Aksorndit, an adviser-cum-teacher of the Samsung Discovery Club who works at Thoeng Wittayakhom School in Chiang Rai, has been a driving force behind the school’s remarkable success. The school has been named a “centre of excellence” under the project, with the mission of guiding other schools nearby.
“The Samsung Smart Learning Centre focuses on skills that children need in the 21st century, the very skills to cope with changes in the future,” Somsak Kanha, a project spokesman told The Nation.
“It is now necessary that children acquire not just academic knowledge but also such skills as creative thinking, analytical thinking, communications and coordination.
“Teachers, therefore, have a crucial role to play here. They need to inspire children to learn in a new way. In such a learning environment, teachers are not givers of knowledge; they are consultants. Instead of telling their students what is right or wrong, they encourage their students to participate in learning activities and find out the answers themselves.
“Such an approach encourages analytical thinking, rational thinking and the exchange of experiences that will help children discover their potential,” he explained.
This year, Samsung has opened its Classroom of the Future at the Chiang Rai school for 60 teachers to explore. These teachers hail from various schools across the country.
Kanjana said: “Open-ended questions are used to nudge students into surveying problems in their hometowns. Following the survey, students then come together to discuss what they have found.
“Such debates are better than having students decide the topic of their project based simply on the majority vote. With the debates, everyone hears all aspects of a proposed topic. So when children agree to accept a topic at the end of the debate, they are eager to work on it.”
She also said that in supervising a learning environment, it is important that teachers have positive attitudes towards children’s questions.
“Children should be encouraged to ask questions and to try to find answers. The most important point is to ensure children ask questions and debate probable answers in a rational way,” she added.
At the end of the project, teachers and students often realise that the learning process has been fun.
She said it instilled in children a love for learning and exploring solutions to their problems by themselves. Children ended up discovering their potential. Chanidapa Saensarn, a Mathayom 3 (Grade 9) student at the Thoeng Wittayakhom School, said the project allowed her to learn and have fun at the same time.
“My patience and courage to express myself grow. Debates in the project have taught me to listen more to others. I am worried less about the risk of saying the wrong thing,” she said. “I am no longer preoccupied with my own thoughts. I really listen more to others.”
The student said she also learned more about technology, including acquiring skills in making short films and video editing.
Sunan Saseelor, a teacher from Sasanasuksa School in Pattani, said that participating in the project allowed her to learn about the “children-driving-children” approach to learning.
“Students initially join the learning process as followers to observe. Then, they are given opportunities to be actors and finally mentors. At the end, they become coaches to younger students. I think this approach is practical,” the teacher said.
Thai Samsung’s Wanna said that students participating in the project have developed a lot of necessary skills – in learning and innovation, life and career, information, media and technology.
“Samsung believes education is a seed of innovation. We see discoveries as the key force for further development of humanity,” the executive said.
“We plan to increase the number of model smart learning centres and arrange more workshops for school administrators. We will also expand our initiative to like-minded allies so that we can together bolster Thai education.”