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Technology has a voice

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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.

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

Thai education can be accelerated

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 a project like this one, 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 northeast of Thailand, and I 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 learned that the teachers themselves do not know how to use the latest technology on offer.

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

It is not viable for rural schools to have all their technology depend on being hooked up to the internet as the internet seldom works effectively. Moreover, broadband is usually not 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.

Voice recognition software

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 simultaneously assesses whether it is of good enough quality to be acceptable. When using this software, there is no need to be hooked up to the internet as it is self-contained and very easy to use. My university was asked if it would be interested in conducting research in this area, but, rather disappointingly, it 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 concerned and the students in the schools selected.

Collaborations like these are the way forward. 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.

Steve Graham is an English-language teacher at the Language Centre, Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeast Thailand. You may discuss matters related to this article, by sending your comments to 'In My Opinion' at .


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