A Thailand teacher says Microsoft's MultiPoint software programme, used in 10 schools nationwide, engages students more in maths lessons by allowing all students to answer a question at the same time. Some say MultiPoint and other software are a way to bring technology to developing countries, but others worry about the potential Westernisation of students or that companies are trying to increase their markets.
Thailand's Ministry of Education asked Somsak Noyvisate, who teaches fifth grade math at the PrasertIslam School near Bangkok, to try out Microsoft MultiPoint software in his class, which allows dozens of computer mice to be connected to the same PC, one per student, so they can all use it at once.
Each student chooses their own cursor, often a cartoon character, an icon or their name. A projector displays questions and games on a screen for everyone to see and interact with. Instead of cursor chaos, Mr. Somsak found that after the initial excitement was brought to order, the kids liked lessons on MultiPoint so much that they started looking forward to his math class each day.
In most traditional classes one student answers a question at a time, but with MultiPoint all students answer each question, and software keeps track of the answers and tallies scores at the end of the session. And everyone knows who the last student to answer is because the software can make students' cursors disappear after they've clicked their answers.
The trials in 10 schools in Thailand told educators there they were on to something. The software gave more students a chance to use computers than before, and more importantly, the kids were more engaged in the lessons, said Sitthiporn Keeratiwattanakul, an officer in the Ministry of Education's bureau of technology for teaching and learning.
Microsoft already has MultiPoint pilot programs running in other several other Asian countries as well as in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and also Central and Eastern Europe, according to Faycal Bouchlaghem, general manager of Microsoft's Unlimited Potential Group in Asia.
The software is part of a broad attempt by companies and nonprofit organizations to introduce more computers and other technology into schools in developing nations. Organizations such as Inveneo, Microsoft, NComputing and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) hope to provide schoolchildren in emerging economies a way to keep up with kids in modern nations.
By the end of this year, officials in Thailand hope to install MultiPoint in five to 10 classrooms each in 100 schools. Eventually, they plan to roll out the system in 800 small schools throughout the country.
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