The role of teachers over the next three to five years must and will evolve, and students in the 21st century must have the fundamentals of literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy to cope with the changing circumstances.
During an interview with Life, Peter McAlpine, Adobe's senior director of education for Asia-Pacific, noted that teachers no longer need to be at the centre of learning _ they need to be facilitators, conceptual stimulators and be able to induce a mind-shift in their students, and all without standing in front of the classroom. In short, teachers will be completely turning their methods upside-down.
McAlpine has developed a model known as Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Literacy (Creativity, Communications, Collaboration). These are the skills he believes will be most crucial this century.
"The earlier we can take these skills, the better."
Engagement in learning is important, and technology is at the centre. McAlpine does not think that primary school students are too young to own a tablet, as technology is a prime component of the world children have to live in. When they grow up, they will enter a worldwide job market; no longer will children grow up to look for jobs in Thailand only, they will be competing on a global scale.
Once an old-fashioned mathematics teacher himself, McAlpine has spent long hours standing at the blackboard, writing up sums and working with classes to solve problems.
But he has become fascinated with the completely different approach of Gavin Dykes, a leader in innovation, technology and learning from the UK. Speaking at the eighth annual Adobe Education Leadership Forum in Phuket recently, Dykes suggested that computation is a part of problem-solving, not the whole task.
Three years ago, most forms of technology were incredibly complex and required deep understanding. But now technology has become more user-friendly and teachers who are not skilled in computing can benefit. "I believe that every single teacher should be able to create content to teach their classroom," McAlpine says.
Clearly the evolution of physical technology plays a part in this. Tablets, smartphones and netbooks, or additional devices move into Windows 8 tablet devices _ all are technology platforms that are cost-effective for classroom. Citing Stephen Loquet, chief information officer of the Education and Communities Department NSW, McAlpine says a device that cost US$700 (20,500 baht) four years ago had poor performance, but the same price now can buy robust and reliable devices with amazing functionality. All of that is now being embraced by schools as they bring in tools for e-learning.
"You should not just take your old education system and have technology on the top," he says. "What you should do is take the technology and look forward and say, how can I do this completely differently, and have technology fit into that process."
He added that there will be a lot more tablets and multimedia tab applications next few years to support education. Thailand's Ministry of Education, for example, is also working very rigorously to create applications on tablets.
Another speaker at the forum was Tim Kitchen, the director of learning technologies at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School in Australia. He pointed out that a disconnection between students and teachers is one of the problems those involved in the education process face. Technological developments, although often seen as a cause of division between students and teachers, can _ and must _ be looked as a bridge, not as a chasm.
He noted that a creative way of improving on the disconnect between students and teachers is to adopt a flipped classroom approach, a reverse teaching model that delivers instruction at home through interactive, teacher-created videos and moves "homework" to the classroom. Moving lectures outside of the classroom allows teachers to spend more one-on-one time with each student. Students have the opportunity to ask questions and work through problems with the guidance of their teachers and the support of their peers _ creating a collaborative learning environment.
The Khan Academy is a highly celebrated example of the flipped classroom approach. They aim to change education for the better by providing world-class tutorials for anyone (students, teachers, home schoolers, principals) and is available anywhere for free.
CREATIVITY IN EDUCATION SURVEY
Meanwhile, Adobe also announced key findings of an education survey in Phuket. The study titled "State of Creativity in Education in Southeast Asia" covers Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, with 102 educators from across the region participating in the study.
The survey reveals strong support for creativity in the classroom, and the role of the educator in nurturing it. Respondents predominantly expressed the view that not enough was currently being done in this area. The respondents largely held the view that creativity should be a key part of pedagogy, regardless of the subject being taught. The educators also believe the current education system in Southeast Asia is not geared toward creativity, and the biggest barrier is a system heavily reliant on testing and assessment. Most believe tools and training are the most critical need for educators to promote creativity.
In terms of tools and techniques, 91% of respondents felt that technology and digital tools play an important role in fostering creativity among students. Encouraging idea generation, promoting collaborative practices, rewarding creative ideas and involving children in critical thinking skills and were identified among the tools and techniques educators use to foster creativity.
In terms of innovation and growth, the region rated 9 (on a scale of 1 to 10) on the importance of infusing creativity in education to ensure the region's long-term success. When asked about the effectiveness of the current education system in developing a new generation of innovators, educators rated it a lacklustre 5.7 on a scale of 1 to 10.
McAlpine said creativity is no longer an elective for educators, students and education organisations. Rather, it is a mandatory requirement for a successful future. The classroom is evolving from the traditional notions of learning to a more creative platform of understanding. Educators and students are redefining how knowledge is acquired and shared.
"This state of creativity survey gives us insight into the mindsets of educators and the barriers they face while trying to foster creativity in their students," he said.
Thailand has embarked on the path of progressive education, with many universities beginning to adopt distance learning. Adobe's e-learning services are among a few that have helped institutions shift their curricula from the classroom to the digital realm.
According to Vicky Skipp, regional director of Adobe Southeast Asia, it's no longer about one teacher to many students. Even though technology in education hasn't become widespread in Southeast Asian countries, things are already taking shape in Thailand, especially in the realm of design education. New apps and tools are putting more focus on children's learning processes.
"Students in Thailand and Singapore are very creative. In terms of adoption of distance learning, Thailand has a very high index in Southeast Asia that makes this type of technology available to students," she said.
Adobe has worked with government initiatives to bring technology to the students, such as in the "one tablet per child" programme, and in developing new design apps to help students create their own content.
Adobe has brought a tool called Student Teacher Edition (STE) software into classrooms. It features Adobe's popular programmes at a very low price to ensure students' access to technology.
Before the STE programme, software was too expensive and not all schools and students could afford it. That's one of the reasons for the existence of pirated software.
In the digital media study, Shipp noted that Thailand has advanced quite impressively and developed a creative culture among young people.
"At secondary school, students are already familiar with Photoshop technology and video editing tools, and when they get to higher education, their skills are very good. When they get into business, they really make an impact, they get paid well."
At primary schools, Adobe has promoted education awareness sessions through the development of games for students to help them speak English, and apps for tablets through business partners.
The outcome is effective, she said, because students begin to understand more about the value of using licensed software. When they build and develop their own content, and take their own photographs, they don't want people to steal their work. In the same way, in the area of software piracy, they want to make sure that they respect IP, just like people should respect the content they create.
Meanwhile, the Creative Cloud service that Adobe recently launched in Thailand gave the education and commercial sectors the opportunity to access software across devices. Individuals can create content wherever they are _ on any device _ at the charge of US$49 (1,400 baht) per month for commercial use, and lower for educational institutions. The Creative Cloud service costs $600 for 12 months.
"More people are likely to adopt Creative Cloud, because it's not enough to update and upgrade your software once a year.
"The market and technology landscape changes so frequently, if you wait for 12 months, you will stay behind," said the director.
Creative Cloud includes the master collection, all about Creative Suite desktop applications, plus Photoshop Lightroom, Adobe Muse, Adobe Edge tools and services and training, game developer tools, and integration with Photoshop Touch apps.
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