July 13, 2008

Classmate PC a Boon

By Suzieana Uda Nagu

THE 1:1 e-learning model introduced in 10 schools last year has promoted a shift in the education system - from instructor-centric to student-focused learning - which brings Malaysia closer to realising its vision of a technology literate and thinking workforce, writes SUZIEANA UDA NAGU.

The Form Two boys and girls from Arabic & Academic class of SMK Haji Ahmad Badawi, Kepala Batas, Penang, sit behind their tables with their eyes glued to a projector screen.

As soon as the infectious hip hop beat blared out from the CD player, the teens start rapping to the words on the screen.

"Reduce, reuse, recycle," they rap along.

At the end of the session, Geography teacher Mohd Rashid Husin engages them in a discussion about the meaning of the song.

Mohd Rashid instructs them to create mind maps of the message of the song using bubbl.us - a free web application for brainstorming online (http://bubbl.us) - which they can access in the classroom from their Intel-powered Classmate personal computers (Classmate PCs).

Mohd Rashid says that learning has become a joy for this class since students and selected teachers received a Classmate PC - sleek, low cost notebooks which weigh less than 1.5kg - last year as part of their involvement in the recently concluded Ministry of Education-Intel School Adoption pilot project.

"They're more enthusiastic about their studies - so much so that they even look forward to extra classes on Saturdays. They have also grown more confident which is reflected in how well they communicate with school visitors," adds Mohd Rashid.

SMK Haji Ahmad Badawi is one of the 10 schools across Malaysia (except Perlis, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak) which participated in the recently completed project.

Other schools in the pilot included SK Ayer Keroh, Malacca; SK jitra, Kedah; SK King Edward VII (1), Perak; SMKA Falahiah, Kelantan; SMKA Sheikh Hj Mohd Said, Negri Sembilan; SMK Bandar T6, johor; SMK Clifford, Pahang; SMK Padang Midin, Terengganu and SMK Seri Permaisuri, Kuala Lumpur.

Under the pilot initiative, Intel provided the schools with 460 units of Classmates PCs which are Internet-ready and equipped with a wide range of software and digital resources for teaching and learning.

The MOE-Intel School Adoption Project, a part of the [email protected] Ahead Programme, is one of the projects under the Smart Partnership initiative.

The scheme aims to showcase enhanced development of 21st century learning skills, with a focus on 1:1 (pronounced one on one) e- learning, in which each student has access to a PC in the classroom.

This is done through increasing computer access in school for students, providing teacher training to promote project-based learning as well as principal training on information and communications technology (ICT) plan development and implementation.

Findings from a report to assess the implementation of the school adoption scheme released recently indicate an overall positive response to the project.

As far as Education Ministry's Educational Technology Division Director Dr Salbiah Ismail is concerned, Phase One of the project was a success.

"Students were excited and enthusiastic about using the Classmate PC for their schoolwork and learning," she says.

Technology integrated learning immerses students in the learning process.

"When students participate (in the learning process) by creating new information, they are more likely to view the experience as fun," adds Salbiah.

The 1:1 e-learning model has also motivated students to work in groups.

This, in turn, allowed them to hone their skills in communications, presentation and critical thinking.

Students were also more open to listening to others' points of view and sharing resources found on the Internet.

Student-teacher relations have also improved.

The chance to ask questions via the Classmate PCs has made students less self-conscious and closer to their teachers.

"Students surf the Internet for answers as well as for making corrections and this frees them from the fear of making mistakes," says Salbiah.

Teachers have also benefited from the introduction of Classmate PCs.

Half of the teachers have more than once introduced technology into lessons that were previously taught without using computers after realising the importance of integrating new technologies into teaching and learning.

More than 85 per cent of teachers attribute the innovative and collaborative e-learning environment in the classroom to the Classmate PC.

Although teachers know that using PCs in the classroom is not the be all and end all of education, they view e-learning as one of the new ways to facilitate the teaching of higher order skills.

The encouraging response to the 1:1 e-learning project has encouraged the Education Ministry to announce Phase Two of the scheme in three new schools in Putrajaya and Cyberjaya namely SK Cyberjaya, SMK Cyberjaya and SK Putrajaya II (see accompanying story).

These schools were picked because of their proximity to the Education Ministry and Cyberjaya's position as the hub of Malaysia's ICT industry.

"We feel that these schools have also proven themselves to be worthy of being part of the scheme," says Salbiah.

Intel Electronics Malaysia Country Manager Ryaz Patel is thrilled with the announcement.

"This is proof that Intel and the Ministry of Education are a step closer to crystallising the nation's vision of shaping a technologically literate and critical thinking workforce - one that is prepared to participate fully in the global economy of the 21st century," he says.

Intel is committed to working closely with the Education Ministry to monitor and constantly evaluate the development of this pilot project in Malaysia.

"We look forward to continued collaboration with the Ministry of Education in promoting the 1:1 e-learning model throughout more schools this year," says Patel.

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