Sunday, November 6, 2011

Update from Bangkok Learning & Teaching Zone

This boy is jumping into the ChaoPraya river near the Sathorn
Pier. The current is very strong and the boy may be having
fun, but he is taking great risks with his wellbeing. The water
is both powerful and dirty.
Bangkok has been threatened by floods for about three weeks now. There is a long backstory to this flood, but what's important for the perspective of this blog is the effect it is having on education. The impact is wide: from teachers and students who simply can't get to school to teachers and students living in evacuation centers or having lost loved ones to drowning, electrocution or disease. A large portion of the country's rice crop is ruined. Tens of thousands of jobs are at least temporarily if not permanently lost due to flooded factories.

On my local level, we have missed ten days of school for this flood. The Thai Ministry of Education mandated that we close for eight of those days. Right now it's unclear when we will open. My school is not underwater, nor are the roads around it, but there are shortages of supplies in the city, travel in certain places is difficult (you have to take a boat or hitch a ride on a truck), there have been threats to the water supply, and nobody really knows the direction the water will go or the path it will take. There's also a constant threat to all of the flood barriers put up to protect inner-Bangkok because those flood barriers, while keeping the water out of inner-Bangkok are keeping the water from leaving the areas behind the flood barriers. There's quite a bit of political play involved in the whole thing, but I'm not qualified to address it all nor is this the place.

photo from @_bjb. We have not seen this situation
personally, but it is a reality in Bangkok now.
In the midst of this, we are to go on with what all of Bangkok seems to be calling elearning. Some schools and some teachers are more prepared for it than others. I'm pleased that I had already introduced twitter and blogging to my students. It made converting my lessons to elearning easier. I also had the benefit of doing my MEd online, so I felt confident to create a clear lesson. Many of the teachers at my school who had not had much experience using technology in the classroom have switched to edmodo, which seems to be working fairly well for our secondary students.
It is rather normal to see boats in the back of trucks lately.

You can see there is a large cement wall in front of this store.
Many businesses have quickly put up cement walls to protect
their shops.

My husband lets you know what he
thinks of the smell of the water.

It is at times like these, though, that I become very aware of the noise and interference that students have to deal with, and that we as teachers often deal with. My students have been traveling to avoid floods, have been evacuated from their homes, have been without electricity or reliable internet. Granted, some have taken off to the beach and will return refreshed and relaxed without checking in on their elearning, these are the same students that are apathetic on a regular basis. The diligent remain diligent even during the crisis, though I can understand the low-(sometimes high) level of noise and stress in their heads at this time. I hope that I'm a flexible teacher who sets realistic goals for my students. We claim in our mission statement to teach the whole student. I believe that entails understanding the whole student, including their physical circumstances. It means being flexible in times of crisis.


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