It has been a long time coming, but the One Tablet Per Child (OTPC) election promise of the Thai government is finally coming together. Primary 1 students in some districts of Thailand have already started to receive their free tablets. In total 800,000 of the Chinese made tablets are expected to be distributed to schools around Thailand in the coming months. This will be done province by province in alphabetical order. In Samut Prakan Province, Primary 1 teachers have already attended a 3-day seminar to familiarize themselves with the device. Yesterday was the turn of school computer technicians and I was lucky enough to go along to have my first look.
What we have here is a 7 inch touchscreen device. For the techies, I can reveal that it weighs only 350g and has a 1.2Ghz ARM Cortex A8 processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The device runs on Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” and comes pre-loaded with educational software. Teachers can also install more software by using a micro card or downloading from the Internet using WiFi. If a student loses a device, it would cost parents 2,640 Baht ($84) to replace it. There has been some negative newspaper reports about battery life, but with any touchscreen tablet, this will vary depending on your usage. So far, the average seems to be 3-5 hours which will be enough for a student to use during the day. After all, they are not using the tablets for every single lesson.
On the first screen you have the choice between Lessons, Books, Multimedia and Applications. If you choose “Lessons” you then get a second choice of “offline” or “online”. The latter means that you can get the most up-to-date lessons straight from the Internet. But, with “offline” there is already plenty to read that will take the students most of the year to go through. On the next screen you are given the choice of the 5 core subjects of Thai, Math, Social Studies, Science and English. What you get is a Flash application which is basically a talking book with animation. I read through the Social Studies subject and had chapters such as My School, My Family, Nature etc. It was all very well presented and I am sure that the students will find it interesting.
With the English subject there are two different Flash applications. The first one is produced by Genki English and seems to have all of their CDs which are for sale on their popular website. Hopefully the Thai government actually paid for the use of these CDs on the device otherwise they will get a large copyright infringement bill. But it is very good as it both teaches and tests the kids. The second application is made in Thailand. Like the other subjects, I am not sure how easy it will be for the teacher to use these in the classroom. It is more suited to self-study. I think the students will benefit greatly if they can take them home and learn by themselves.
As well as the pre-loaded applications, there is a desktop where you can load other software that can run on Android devices. There are also programs such as Instagram and GMail. As you can see from this screenshot, Angry Birds also works. However, the teacher doesn’t need to worry about the students installing their own programs as there is a password lock for installing which can be changed by the teacher. Overall I am very impressed with the tablet. The touchscreen was far more responsive than I thought it would be. The speed was also good. I am not sold yet on the benefits of using it in the classroom. But time will tell. The tablets should be arriving at the end of this month and I will be doing some follow up blogs here on using Tablets in a Thai classroom.