According to an English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) study conducted on 60 countries and territories where English is not the mother tongue, Thailand’s English proficiency hit near-bottom, landing in the 56th spot. Despite the government’s increasing emphasis on mastering English, the country is still facing an uphill task in doing so, particularly in areas where students pick up English only as a third or fourth language.
Khadiyah Amanakun, an English teacher in Betong, Yala, may have found the perfect answer to this: technology in the classroom. After she designed her own English-learning programme “5 Steps to Mastering English Public Speaking” project, her school’s English scores for entrance exams improved, and one of her students even clinched fourth place in a national English speech contest.
For her achievements, Khadiyah was the only ‘expert educator’ that Microsoft selected from Thailand in 2014, and joined more than 250 expert educators in Barcelona, Spain, at the 2014 Microsoft in Education Global Forum. The forum, held from 11 to 14 March, gathered educators, government officials and other education leaders from around the world for talks on hot topics such as skills needed for current and future jobs and innovative uses for learning technologies.
“I feel very humbled and excited to be able to represent Thailand,” Kadiyah said. “It has been a long journey from the first Microsoft Partners in Learning (PiL) programme that I attended five years ago. This time, it was just as enriching. The greatest highlights for me were swapping ideas on pedagogies and technologies with the other educators from around the world and designing learning activities for the Learn-a-Thon session.” The Learn-a-Thon activity, a first for the conference, required the educators to team up to design classroom lessons that used innovative technologies to teach about the Millennium Development Goals.
She summed up her thoughts on the forum, saying, “We have to embrace technologies that inculcate a higher level of creative thinking, self-learning and communication skills. These are tools that will prepare our children for the challenges of the 21st century.”
Tools Khadiyah used to improve instruction and learning outcomes
- Songsmith: She uses Songsmith to create tunes for students to practise, sing-along and learn new vocabulary.
- Speak Cell: To help students learn native pronunciation of English words in read-along exercises, Khadiyah uses this Microsoft Excel function.
- Flip Album: Her students are able to take notes more quickly with this e-book creation programme.
- Marvelkids.com: Khadiyah’s students get to turn their written essays and short stories into comics using this automated platform.
Khadiyah plans to introduce Kodu Game Lab, which she’d learnt about at the forum, into her curriculum. “It will allow students to learn English while creating their own game,” she explained. “And since it teaches basic programming skills, it will serve to test the children’s logical and critical thinking skills, too.”