IT in Isan

IT in Isan.

The Poor Man's Computer Learning Chance. 

Learning is Cheaper than Teaching!


Increasing computer literacy among young and underprivileged people by developing self-paced computer learning models? Is it possible? Openmindproject are trying to find out in the Northeast of Thailand.

The digital divide between rich and poor is a fact. If you do not believe it, check computer literacy in a village in Laos, in Siberia, in Harlem N.Y.C. or an immigrant Paris suburb!

The digital divide is a fact and there will never be enough teachers or money to give the poor a chance to catch up. IT may however be the poor man's best friend. Why not use it? Imagine the mushrooming of self-paced computer learning in simple, teacher less environments! Learning is cheaper than teaching after all so the Openmindprojects decided to develop affordable computer learning methods based on those assumptions that could be distributed to new places too.

Openmindprojects are now testing third world computer learning methods in the fields. It started in the northeast of Thailand, Isan, the poor region of Thailand, bordering to Laos.

The objective is to create simple and cheap computer learning centers emphasizing social rather than technical qualities, thus volunteers are recruited into the projects. These ICT volunteers help learners, acting as coaches, they demonstrate computer applications, encouraging independent, self-paced exploration to discover and to learn. Self-directed computer learning, D-E-D, demonstration, exploration and discovery.

Do the IT in Isan computer learning ideas work? Yes!


D-E-D Self-directed computer learning, demonstration, exploration and discovery. The natural way for young people to learn 

After almost two years of work and tests in the fields, Openmindprojects has learnt much. Openmindprojects presented their findings at an international conference in Bangkok, February 26-28, 2003, .

'Closing Gaps in the Digital Divide', 

held at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand,

If these computer-learning ideas work then they may spread to other countries and people too! Sustainable learning at the grass roots level where true empowerment and poverty reduction starts! Learning is cheaper than teaching!

 New Volunteers Arrive. Increasing Interest from Abroad. 

In 2001 Openmindprojects started its Computer Learning Program for poor children, the IT in Isan initiative, in Thailand, 

Since then many international volunteers have contributed their time and talent. Due to demand Openmindprojects also arrange other volunteer overseas placements in their international volunteer program. 

They cooperate with the International Support Group, a charity organization in Thailand and the Thai Department of Welfare.

An international volunteer may be young or old, when going overseas. Working or unemployed, a backpacker, volunteer, tourist or traveler, on an abroad gap year. Everybody can contribute something and in exchange they make many new friends and get to know another culture, a different way of life too. Learn more about volunteering at the Openmindprojects website.

Two Needs - One Solution.

The Projects Respond to Two Needs.

First, small scale projects at the grass roots have proven to be efficient as well as cost-effective to bridge gaps of knowledge and digital divides between rich and poor, an alternative to large scale bureaucratic projects.

Second, an increasing number of people want to travel abroad to meet new people, to learn about other cultures. They want to work abroad to make friends in a new environment. To do something different, contribute, volunteer, to feel they too can make a difference!


Background to the IT in Isan Initiative

The global IT revolution -

leaves the poor behind. Shortages in infrastructure and money makes it impossible to catch up. The present available educational solutions are insufficient. Hard-and software producers, however, race to make computers more user friendly and cheap! So IT suppliers may well be the poor man's best friends and learning is cheaper than teaching!

So in 2001 the Openmindprojects, a network of management and education consultants, started a development project in the northeast of Thailand to assess and adapt pedagogical methods; practical alternatives to traditional and more expensive computer teaching.




To Start, Stimulate, and to Support Learning Processes
The Learning Philosophy- the OPM Credo 

People learn when they do something of real interest to themselves
 through their own activities, not just information they get.

People learn
When they interact with others. 
When they engage in joint efforts and tasks.
When they take responsibility for their learning. 
When they are part of an open environment that allows them to collect information and are free to discuss it.
When they keep an open and critical mind toward facts and opinions.
When coaches facilitate rather than teachers who dictate.

A learning friendly environment is a social milieu, which facilitates learning by interaction and collaboration.  And supports new knowledge building by using modern motivation and learning methods.

We believe in Self-Paced Computer Learning to create energy,focus, and keep momentum.
We believe modern learning methods can be applied anywhere in the world.

Our computer learning approach is non institutional,and independant of traditional classrooms. We start up learning groups and simple centers, and we stimulate the participants to start their own learning processes.




The Mushrooming of Self-Paced IT Learning in Third World Villages
Read what the OPM says about Their Vision 
Our ambition is to develop teacherless and cost effective IT learning models, based on the ways children learn by themselves: by playing, by trying and by helping each other.



Start up Learning Groups and Learning Processes with Coaching Support 
The LearningApproach
 - read how the OPM does it

Learners are given specific tasks and problems. Then supposed to find the answers, and build new knowledge as they solve their problems.

DE&D - Demonstration, Exploration & Discovery  
This approach requires much less teaching input than traditional education and is more fun for learners.To start each specific learning process coaches demonstrate computer applications and then encourage learners to explore and discover by themselves. 



Pedagogical IT Development 
Projects conducted in Northeast Thailand (Isan).
Read about the first IT in Isan projects.

Project Objectives.
To design a cost effective project model. 
To test and evaluate IT learning models in 3rd world conditions.
To study the effects of access to computers and the Internet on individuals and villages.

Mainly in the northest of Thailand. Started second half 2001.

Computer equipment 
Varying age and capacity. At some sites we have printers and Internet access.

What we do
We start learning groups and processes




Questions and Definitions as they have been asked by readers, learners and volunteers

Digital Divide/Gap - the gap between those who know and those who don't know. 
In our case the gap between those who have and those who don't have basic computer skills because the latter have neither access to technology nor to anybody helping them to knowledge due to poverty.

Self Paced Learning - a learning style whereby the learner sets his own learning targets and plans to achieve these

Team Learning - a learning method where a group of learners agree on a learning objective and how to achieve this objective together by co-operating

Coach/Guide - the facilitator of learning. Inspiring and helping learners. Also in charge of checking day to day work and progress.

Demonstration - our way to show what can be done with a computer. Demonstrating applications and end products of applications. A way to stimulate and inspire learners to explore and. Our coach guides the learners into the jungle for the first time.

Exploration - a learning style whereby the learner is exploring the computer by himself thus discovering its opportunities while simultaneously learning how to use it. After the guided tour, the explorer ventures into the jungle on his own or together with friends.

Discovering - While exploring, they will discover. While discovering, they will learn. The discovery being the reward for the exploration, learners learn to learn!

Problem Based Learning - a pedagogical method developed in North, America but introduced globally, in Sweden by the Linkoping University with its pioneering Health University. The method emphasizes learning tasks to be solved by learners themselves, but with a coach or guide as speaking partner. And also to assist when necessary. Knowledge may be acquired in any way that is efficient: literature,the Internet, lectures, etc. But the initiative of the knowledge acquistion lies with the learner.

Learning by Doing - a learning method whereby you set up a task not only to learn, but to do something. To create something for real. In our case for instance, to make a website.

Learning Friendly Environment - a social and technical environment conducive to efficient learning. In our case, Self Paced Team learning.The major criteria of an LFE are; .....

Learning Center - the actual site where the LFE is to be set up.

IT learning - learning about the opportunities of modern Information and Communications Technology, what you can do with it, and what you can learn.How to use computers and accessories as well as programs and software. also, to a limited extent, how to actually make hardware and software.

Underprivileged - poor children whose educational opportunities do not equal the standards of the privileged.




The Openmindprojects network in Sweden
The International Support Group in Thailand
The Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok
The NIDA University in Thailand


Read about a Swedish Success Story.

Innovative IT Capacity Building
A Swedish case, the SwIT program in Sweden 1998 - 2000

The lack of IT skilled labour, many feared, might inhibit the growtht of the Swedish economy as it recovered in the late 1990's and threaten Sweden's position as a world leading IT nation. Swedish industrialists agreed with the government to test a new computer training approach involving some 10 000 mainly unemployed people. The so-called SwIT- programme was launched. 

The SwIT project aimed to meet the growing gap between available and used IT technology within companies.. 
A very lean SwIT organization with minimal central staff and a set of local project leaders around the country close to local business needs was set up with Internet-based communication and administration. 
All SwIT training was customized and reflected real demand. Training programs had an average duration of about 26 weeks only.

The key to the success of the SwIT program was the short lead-times between actual demand identified and training programs implemented. Companies would be offered specially trained candidates within 3 - 4 months. The SwIT program was considered a success by all evaluating instances. 

Openmindprojects consultants contributed to the design and were involved in the implemenation of the SwIT program.


On Proactivity and Diversity
The Philosophy of the OPM

The management of change is not easy and neither is the management of diversity. 
Companies depend on the correct and clever initiatives of individuals for speed and results. Proactive organisations follow proactive individuals!

Companies in an increasingly global and competitive environment depend on proactive organizations. 
Its inhabitants should understand corporate ambitions and objectives, and be able to interpret these into their own roles and individual business missions.They can then take their own proper action not only to achieve company objectives, but also pursue their own personal development to meet future tasks and achieve a faster organizational response to external challenges; while management can focus on strategy and development.

The ability to manage and work in diversity is of increasing importance to sustain competitiveness in a global marketplace. Increasingly, we all meet customers, competitors, colleagues and peers from all parts of the world, with otherbackgrounds and other frames of reference. This is often the cause of friction and misunderstanding. Intelligently used, diversity will, however, increase the creativity and flexibility of the organization. It's adaptability to external threats and opportunities will thus be improved.
People need the social and cultural skills to work with people of different backgrounds( ethnic, religious, cultural etc), simultaneously using the creative potential of diversity, and reducing conflicts of difference. In our projects we attempt to achieve results through the diversity of project teams.