First Look at the Free Tablet for Thai Students

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 and over at www.ThaiSchoolLife.com on using Tablets in a Thai classroom.

5 responses to “First Look at the Free Tablet for Thai Students

  1. Interesting to see something positive about these, since the whole idea has been largely lambasted in the press, including the general incompetence in it’s delivery and planning. The picture, with all the cables and multi plugs says it all, imagine a classroom of 50 of these needing to be powered or recharged. Speaking from my own experience, tablets certainly do capture kids imaginations, since they are a toy really, but one that can encourage learning, so it’s a good idea. But readers from abroad need to understand that this whole thing is largely regarded as a vote buying exercise for simple minded parents who fail to understand that the Thai education system is fundamentally below par and needs investment in better teachers, computer rooms and methodology rethink before wasting billions on these. There is a reason why few other countries in the world have introduced the idea. The jury is still out on these, wait a year to see how a $130 dollar device (and its battery holds up) and whether learning has been accelerated in any way.

  2. To answer your questions about wires, at the seminar, most of the devices were new out of the box and hadn’t been charged yet. My one had and I was using it without a lead. We are still discussing on how best to use it in the classroom and whether we need a big screen for the teacher. I suspect that the students will use it more often at home than school. Certainly this year as the students already have a tonne of books they need to get through. We don’t have time for these extra ebooks. But they are great for teaching the kids when they are at home as they cover all the same topics. This kind of thing is more of a lifesaver for rural schools than city schools. Our students already learn computer once or twice a week.

  3. It seems pretty good actually. If children focus and gets more motivated thanks to this device it’ll be useful. On the other hand probably Thai education system may have other priorities.

  4. This is the problem. I don’t think it is long term. Certainly not sustainable. What happens when we change governments?

  5. Hi Richard,
    We would love to talk to you regarding using your software on our tablets for our students. Please email me – obsvientiane@gmail.com
    Sincerely
    Robert