Learn anything, anywhere and anytime with on-demand ‘Learning Box’
Collaboration between EEF and Starfish Labz to tackle learning crisis in the time of COVID-19 and foster the learning of each individual student.
Learn anything, anywhere and anytime with an on-demand ‘Learning Box.’
“We’ve seen their development. The students obviously get more creative. They get actually to learn from the Learning Box. They’ve become more responsible and increased their self-discipline,” said Wanwisa Pluksamas or Pim, a teacher at Ban Pa Mueat school.
Teaching and learning at school during a pandemic is challenging because the situation creates more barriers to education and hinders contact between teachers and students. The spreading of COVID-19 forces many schools to temporarily close in the middle of 2020 and again at the beginning of 2021. The temporary closings of schools interrupt the learning opportunities of students. It is still unclear when the situation will get back to normal. Therefore, the solution that educational institutions need is a learning approach for students while schools remain closed.’ The approach has to be accessible to all students no matter what economic status their families have. This is an opportunity where students can practice critical thinking and researching on their own when teachers cannot be there to facilitate in person.
Equitable Education Fund (EEF) and Starfish Academy co-create another self-learning tool in this crisis, which is the ‘Learning Box.’ It is a box filled with learning tools for students of each level. The box comes with stationaries and worksheets for students to improve their skills. These tools are for helping students gain learning experiences while they have to stay at home. This learning box will be helpful for the students who live in the remote area where it is out of service area for satellite signal or internet. As well as for students who do not have access to communication devices, this box will be beneficial for their learning.
EEF and Starfish aim to design the model of learning box for schools to adopt the idea and create their own kinds of boxes that meet the learning needs of students from different grades and are suitable for different contexts. The school leaders and teachers know their students’ ways of living best.
Adopting Learning Box for creating new knowledge
Ban Dong school in Lampoon province reflects another success story of adopting Leaning Box during the previous wave of COVID-19. The box provides learning materials focusing on basic school subjects and encouraging students to practice their skills with the tools for students of different knowledge levels and different learning capacities.
Wanpen Intakat, a school director of Ban Dong school, told us that during the school closing due to COVID-19, the school provided Learning Boxes to all students from kindergarten to 6 grades level. The materials for learning highlighted on three basic subjects: Thai, math and English. Students also received stationaries such as pens, notebooks, pencils, color pencils, rulers, erasers, learning worksheets from the Ministry of Education. The worksheets were adapted with the ideas of the workshop by Starfish Academy. The model concept is about choosing what they want to learn about and figuring out reasons, processes and methods in their learning in their own ways. With around 30-40 learning boxes provided, kindergarten students and 4-6 graders of Ban Dong schools could learn at home.
Follow up and make the tools suitable for each student
After the school had given Learning Boxes to students, teachers visited students to follow up on the results and gave students advice once a week. The teachers found out that most of the parents are from ethnic groups who could write and read Thai just a little. This fact might be a problem when parents have to take care of children’s learning processes. During visiting students, teachers would gather students who live in the same neighborhood in a small group of 5-6 students to share what they learn. For students who live further away, the teachers would visit them individually. The 10 teachers at Ban Dong school were taking care of 197 students.
The following up will allow teachers to identify the different learning paces of their students and can design learning materials for each student specifically. Some students who learn fast would get more learning worksheets and those who need more time in learning would get easier to understand materials for the next week. For Steam Design Process or critical thinking and solving problems skill development process, which was added in Learning Box’ materials, students would get to choose the topic of their interest to learn about. For example, if they want to learn about growing a longan or weaving fabric with Karen style, they can ask their parents and people in their communities and design their own learning approach in addition to their learning skills from basic subjects.
Senior students help junior students against lack of access to the satellite signal.
“Learning Box is quite effective. In the area where students don’t have access to on-air lessons, satellite signal at home or money to buy internet package, this box helped the students continue their learning. It might not be as effective as learning in a class at school, but this was as advancement. The study showed that 60% of students had improved their learning competencies. Apart from the teachers visiting and consulting students at their home, senior students who live nearby would help younger students with lessons that they didn’t understand,” added Wanpen, a director at Ban Dong school.
With the previous spread of COVID-19, the school could still open, so the teachers did not adopt Learning Box again this time. The school stays cautious with screening, such as checking body temperature, tracking the travel history of students and parents to prevent the spread at school.
Learning Box to handle with the second wave at Ban Pa Mueat school
Another story is about Ban Pa Mueat school at Doi Sa Ket district, Ching Mai. The school is located in an area that had to close temporarily due to the new wave of COVID-19. But with the experience in using Learning Box during the previous wave, the Learning Box was brought back into use again. They were the same boxes that all students from kindergarten to grade 6 had received. But this time, the new boxes came with updated learning worksheets and activities according to the learning needs of children of different ages.
Wanwisa Pluksamas or Pim, a kindergarten teacher at Ban Pa Mueat school, saw that Learning Box’ one of the pros was portability. Students could use it to study anywhere and anytime. During the school closing, due to the COVID-19 spread, the students could use the Learning Box at home. They could also bring it to school when it reopened. Now that another COVID-19 wave hit, the students could still learn with this Learning Box at their own convenience.
As for tools in the Learning Box, some graders would receive additional tools like personal COVID-19 safety kits along with learning worksheets integrated with different subjects through design activities.
Work together with parents for children’s education development
The previous use of the Learning Box revealed an obstacle which was the fact many parents were from ethnic groups, Tai Yai, who could not read Thai. Thus, they could not help their children with their learning worksheets. In response to this issue, the teachers redesigned learning materials by providing students with audio and video recordings for lessons. Published in a chatting group via Line, these recordings gave students and parents explanations on how to work on each learning worksheet and in which parts parents were encouraged to support their children. In teacher Pim’s kindergarten class, there were 23 students with access to a phone, and there were 22 of them who had access to the internet. The student who had no internet access was supported by parents living nearby with the internet. By this approach, good results appeared as parents took part in supporting children’s learning than before.
“When students finished their learning activities, parents would take a picture and send it to a Line chat group where all students could share their learning progress, get comments and feedbacks and more explanations by teachers. Students’ work would then be kept in a portfolio system, ‘Starfish Class.’ After the term had ended, their work was printed and handed to their parents. 90% of parents in my class participate in their children learning supportively.”
Tools to spark imagination and cultivate discipline
Teacher Pim said that the current COVID-19 wave was not much trouble for students to continue learning activities. With the know-how, the teachers could adopt Leaning Box in continuing learning and teaching together with students. She used to think that learning could only take place in a classroom, but she had to rethink it when she saw her students draw, design their own toys, doing out-of-class activities. This had proved that students adopt the Leaning Box in other activities as well.
“They get to actually learn from the Learning Box. We’ve seen their development. The students obviously get more creative. They’ve become more responsible and increased their self-discipline. The bottom line is that teachers need to facilitate students with their learning needs. Co-design learning approaches by students and teachers will enable the Learning Box as an effective tool for learning experiences anywhere and anytime.”
The success of the Learning Box reflected that educational staff is on the right track for developing out-of-class learning tools or equipment to help dealing with uncertainty. The teachers intend to keep improving the Leaning
The success of the Learning Box reflected that educational staff is on the right track for developing out-of-class learning tools or equipment to help dealing with uncertainty. The teachers intend to keep improving the Leaning Box. Likewise, educational institutes like EEF and Starfish also intend to keep developing new learning tools that suitably meet the needs of schools in different areas.