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Udon Education Foundation (UEF)

Don’t be fooled into thinking that Udon Education Foundation (UEF) is just another language school out to make a fast buck. By having Foundation status any profit must be put back into the organisation. The idea behind the venture is to provide an education service to the local community that is not being addressed by existing establishments at this time.

 

It all came about after a group of concerned educators, parents and local business people decided to break with tradition and experiment with new innovative ideas and technology in order to provide a better education service to members of Udon Thani province. Whether you are considering IELTS or TOEFL; if you are in need of conversation or computer courses, this may well be the solution you are looking for.

 

 

 

This is not just a language school; it is an education center that caters for the individual. This new foundation aims to provide a personalised service that takes care of the needs of the individual, resulting in smaller classes and more varied courses being made available.

 

UEF is situated on Jamnusorn Road, opposite Udon Wittaya School, just off Prajak Road. There are four floors with plenty of space allowing students to use the many facilities on offer. In addition to the normal computerised services that we come to expect from an education center, students also have the opportunity to use the latest SpeaKIT voice recognition software to put into practice what they have learned in their lessons.

 

Another area that UEF has decided to concentrate on is teacher training. For example, there are methodology courses for primary school teachers of English (Smooth Transitions) as well as for university students who want to become teachers. There are also many courses available for primary and secondary school children with the choice of Thai teachers, foreign teachers or both if that is what you require. Thai language courses for foreigners are offered as well as courses on problem solving and critical thinking.

 

 

 

 

Having listened to the local community, UEF is prepared to offer individual academic courses and services for specific purposes such as thesis writing, presentations; and the writing of papers and articles. Proofreading of advertising and menus for local businesses is also provided as well as free advice to all students and businesses in the area.

 

One of the newest innovations from UEF is a conversation class incorporating “Living English” which is an Australian drama series specifically made for English language teaching. Integrating this series with conversation classes with teachers has provided very encouraging results in recent trials that have been conducted. This could be the conversation class that you have been waiting for.

 

 

 

 

Mr Dave Williams (formerly Ajarn Dave from Udon Thani Rajabhat University) is on hand to help you with your course selection from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm every day and offer advice on the best course of action for your educational needs. Thai staff are also available for those who prefer to speak in Thai about their educational requirements.

 

The majority of UEF staff are current or former university teachers who have many years experience of teaching in Thailand. They will be only too happy to answer your questions. Open seven days a week with special “Fun Nights” on Fridays from 5:00 pm onwards and “Movie Nights” on Saturdays from 6:00 pm, Udon Education Foundation offers a brand new learning resource for the community. What do you want to learn? 

 

Article reproduced from The Udon Thani Guide Issue 15 page 38

 

 

 

 

MM Publications and their Thailand distributor Book Access


A big thank you goes out to Book Access, the Thai distributor for MM Publications for their charitable donation of educational materials to UEF. Due to their generosity it will be possible to equip schools in the province and beyond with the resources they need to teach English in line with the Thai curriculum. This will happen once Tooh has gone through the material first, which looks as if it will not be a five minute job!

 

 

Book donation by Apakarat and Supichaya Prumprasidh

UEF would also like to thank Apakarat and Supichaya for donating their books to a worthy cause. Supichaya has some really nice hardback Disney books as well as paperbacks from a different series which have been given to the ERIC Center at Bantatprachanukoon School in Ban Phue district Udon Thani. Now children from a rural school have the opportunity to read English books; and as the books are contained in the ERIC Center, other schools will also be able to access them too.

 

What we are doing at UEF

 

 

We are pursuing a program wherein ALL student components are on a USB "stick" or "flash drive" from which a computer or tablet can be booted. We need to test any specific model of computer or tablet for compatibility.

 

Here's what's on the USB "stick".

 

1. Linux (a computer operating system) originating in Finland based upon the UNIX operating system in competition with Windows.

2. Apache (a communications management software system), the most popular network management system with over 50% of the market, in competition with Windows Server systems, written in the Java programming language, originated in the USA.

3. Firefox (a web browser that manages the monitor to tablet display hardware), a popular web browser specifically favored by Moodle,

4. PHP (a programming language that prepares materials for display upon a monitor or table), originating in Denmark/Greenland/Canada/Israel about 1995, favored by Moodle,

5. Java (a programming language that not only prepares materials for display, but also interfaces to other system components, specifically Apache, MySQL, Sphinx4, Moodle, and TSR), originating in the USA about 1995, favored by many,

6. Sphinx 4 (a voice recognition system from Carnegie-Melon University), originating in the USA at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA about 1995,

7. MySQL (a database management system), the world's most popular Relational Database Management System originating in Sweden, favor by Moodle,

8. Moodle (a Lesson Management System), the world's most popular Learning Management System with about 60 million students and about 80,000 servers, originating out of Australia in 2002, and

9. TSR (a teacher-student reporting system), a very detailed reporting system written in Thailand by an English teacher from the USA who has a computer background.

In total there are nine software systems that we are integrating. Each is "open source" which means that it is free. About nine countries are represented by these software systems.

 

GENERAL APPROACH

 

We are aware that about 75% of students in Thailand DO NOT have Internet access, particularly at home. Other countries in ASEAN show higher percentages for DON'T HAVE. Our approach has two components. A local network of computers the "at school system" to which the teacher has access, and Student (take home) computers using the USB flash drive.

This is both a teacher support system and a student support system. Any audio or video content that is freely available can become part of a lesson. Lessons can be from any teacher for any subject in any language. For English Language courses, the voice recognizer becomes important.

 

The AT SCHOOL system.

 

At each school is a system with some student machines all connected together in a "local network". The "teacher" machine controls the network. It is where the teacher prepares lessons, reads student USB sticks, writes new lessons to the stick and reads off what the student has done so that it can be posted into the database that the teacher has located on the "teacher" machine. TSR (Teacher-Student Reporting) works off the teacher machine database and reports to both the teacher and the student the work that the student has done.

When it is time to test students, the very extensive testing resources of Moodle are the repository of test questions, automated grading, and automatic posting of student results to the database which TSR will then report. The test questions themselves are created by the teacher or by UEF, or by book publishers.

When both the student and the school have Internet access, then the communication link between them is much simpler. However, the fundamental design of content and of computer components remains unchanged. As both a school and a student get Internet access those students can participate in the Internet distribution scheme of things, while at the same time other students in the same class, doing the same assignments, will be on the USB distribution system.

 

The Student TAKE HOME system.

 

This system is USB based. When there is no Internet link between the student and school, the USB serves this function. When such a link is available, then the link takes over. The lessons are the same in either case.

It is on the student machine where voice recognition practice occurs. The supporting videos, sound tracks, lessons, etc. are also stored on the USB and accessed through the student machine.

By way of comparison, about 25% of the USA population is without the Internet. Especially in remote areas of Alaska, the Mountain States, and some areas of Hawaii, Samoa, etc. Thus the argument that "it's only a matter of time" before everyone has the Internet, ignores the fact that kids are in school everyday for about 12 years, and "time" may not be kind to them and their needs.

 

Content.

 

Job ONE is to create a platform that makes sense for non-Internet students and teachers alike. Job TWO is to put real lessons into those Moodle lesson packets, quiz packets, voice recognitions packets, and supporting books. These are the jobs of UEF.

"Moodle" is open. Any lesson that any teacher creates can be used by anyone. The good ones bubble to the top. It is meritocracy in action. Any school in any country can use the lessons. Likewise the test questions. The actual test software was written by the Open University in England. This university has about 250,000 on-line students, so the test module is very sophisticated, which means copying and cheating resistant. (Copying and cheating are world-wide problems.)

 

Initial Effort vs. Ongoing Effort

 

The Initial Effort, namely creating the USB stick and getting it working, is mostly complete. This is merely the beginning. The Ongoing Effort is that of creating content and keeping the AT SCHOOL systems running and current. This is where the continuing costs are.

To accomplish this Ongoing Effort, requires teams of subject developers under a single supervisor, and teams of support personnel in the field. Field support has three functions: 1) Training teachers to use the classroom materials and the computer AT HOME student materials, how to conduct testing, how to use reports, how to upload and download materials from student USBs, how to identify student problems, how to modify lesson material in response to student problems, how to report student problems to course material developers; 2) Keeping the hardware running and assisting with technical "how to" training; and 3) Distribute new materials to schools.

A team needs to routinely report to Education Area management. In fact, Education Area management may set many priorities for the team. The teacher trainer is not a free teacher for the schools, but rather a program support person. This person should be an experienced teacher, or one good at teaching teachers in their native language.

The computer support person often accompanies the teacher trainer, but not necessarily so. The technical person must keep things running and solve local problems whatever they are and wherever they occur. They need to be in touch, but not necessarily travel together all the times. This person needs to speak both the native language and English (the language of all computer software and instruction manuals).

Team costs include meal allowances, salaries, materials and supplies costs, fuel costs, car costs, some lodging costs, and supervision costs.

Course developer costs include office costs, salaries, materials and supplies costs, royalties, production costs, printing costs, team assistance costs, and supervision costs.

Student costs include USB stick and tablet computer.

AT SCHOOL costs include a server computer, USB read/write devices, software, and student machines in a local network.

 

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We are creating and selecting CONTENT for English language learning. This includes paper materials for students and teachers (cartoons, booklets, analysis for teachers, publisher materials), teacher training, videos, speech recognition facilities, and integration with the AT SCHOOL and TAKE HOME parts of our USB program.

 

Local to Global and Back Again

 

(Thailand) Prathom 1-6 (Grades 1-6)

 

You can see a preliminary version of the English learning system by typing smoothtransitions.teec.biz in your browser command line. No "www.". The lesson system is composed of materials from the booklets, videos with subtitles, quizzes, sound recordings, and voice recognition.

One of our founders, an English teacher, abstracted the Thai English language curriculum and created 180 scripts. His kids then acted out the scripts creating 180 videos. These cover the first 6 years of English language learning in the Thai system.

Two other persons, and their staff, created six booklets as companions to the videos. Each video lesson is illustrated, the script shown, and the script translated into the Thai language. The booklets are in two sizes, 32-pages for Grades 1-4, and 48-pages for Grades 5-6. An analysis of the scripts was prepared, and the video experience is being integrated into the Teacher-Student Reporting system.

 

Accents and "Englishes"


There is no correct accent nor is there a correct "English". The single standard is communication. Is your message understandable? With this system, the focus is on expressions, vocabulary, phrases, and pronunciation. Grammar, as it turns out, takes care of itself as part of the expression system.

For lesson production we use native speakers or the children of native speakers. The scripts are devoid of slang or regional expressions. Our goal is to teach "global" English. Folks can pickup slang and regional expressions on their own when they are in some particular part of the world and must supplement their foundation of the global language.

 

Cartoons and Role Play


Cartoons and role play are very effective tools for language teaching. Their secret is that they permit the learner to visualize the situation at hand. These cues increase both word retention and situation recognition. As a consequence the production of cartoons and videos of role play situations is never ending. The best practice is to video actual students in actual role play situations.

 

Outside Thailand

 

The process is straight forward, albeit massive. 1) Abstract the national English language curriculum, it is probably very similar to the Thai version; 2) Translate the script of each lesson into the local language; 3) Shoot video with local kids speaking the script (use kids who speak good English); 4) Insert subtitles into the videos; 5) Publish the books and on-line lessons; 6)  Distribute the product to local kids.

The production of videos requires a sound studio of some sort and post-production facilities. The sound recorded at the time of the video shoot is NOT the sound you hear. This is important. Kids require LOUD and clear sound for a language they are just learning. The acoustics at the shooting site prevent LOUD and clear sound. The sound track is also used by itself and to train the speech recognition engine. The choice of actors is an important decision. Post-production is where the video, audio, and subtitles are all put together in a final product.

 
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