2005-2006 Academic Year
I am applying for a sabbatical for the 2005-2006 academic year. I have been offered a sabbatical placement at Sukhothai Thammathirta Open University in the Office of Computer Services and the Office of Continuing Education. I applied to STOU because it is one of the few public universities in Thailand that offers adult and continuing education. STOU also specializes in distance education. STOU is involved with the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICT) in developing training to help bridge the digital divide in Thailand.
I have also been offered a sabbatical opportunity with Assumption University. Assumption University is a private university in Thailand that has a good reputation. Instruction at Assumption University is offered exclusively in English. My placement would be with the Faculty of Education.
I have included email threads that document both sabbatical invitations.
Asia is an excellent place to learn about new technology trends. I am interested in Thailand specifically because the government, through the ICT (Information and Communication Technology Agency), has sponsored the People PC initiative. The Thailand government is subsidizing the creation and distribution of low cost computers to the rural areas of Thailand. There has been much publicity about the People PC initiative in the United States. The People PC initiative has even motivated Microsoft to develop a low cost Windows and Office package to compete with Linux. The People PC initiative is being emulated by other countries in Southeast Asia.
When I read about the People PC initiative I wanted to know how training and support is being provided. I know, from my experience, that using a computer is not easy for new users. I know that people need support to get started. Computers without training and support are just furniture. How is the infrastructure needed to use computers being provided? How is the government planning to meet the training and support needs of the people in the rural areas of Thailand?
I know that Thailand is a technologically advanced country and that the people are highly entrepreneurial. I want to explore what is similar and what is different between Alaska and Thailand. I want to know how training and support is being provided. I want to know if people are using computers to support their business activities. How do people learn new computer skills? How are issues of viruses and security being handled? Who provides maintenance to the computers?
Alaska and Thailand have some similarities. In Thailand there are many isolated communities. There are distinct and unique cultures in Thailand. There are people who are very poor and who do not have an adequate education. I believe that my Alaska experience will be useful in Thailand. I want to learn and see what new ideas are created through looking at computer users and IT training in a different context.
This summer I visited Thailand for a second time. I have family and friends in Thailand. I spent almost a month in Thailand. My goal this summer was to find an appropriate placement in Thailand for a sabbatical. I visited Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai Technical Institute, and Assumption University. I asked many people questions about computer education. I also visited Pantip Plaza, technology “supermarkets” in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I was looking at training materials and the retail computer market.
Since returning from Thailand, I am following Thailand news on a daily basis though the Bangkok Post and the Nation. I have developed a clipping file of articles and resources that is helping me understand technology and education in Thailand.
I have included the clipping web site URL’s. These are not public web sites, just locations to gather information.
My initial search for a sabbatical placement in Thailand was not hopeful. I contacted five universities and also asked for assistance from friends in Thailand. Most universities in Thailand are for young traditional students. Most of the computer science departments in Thailand universities offer a traditional theoretical curriculum. Most public universities only allow admissions through an exam system.
My skills and preparation are practical, not theoretical. I was specifically interested in adult and continuing education. There are two year technology institutes in Thailand, but they are also for young students and are similar to technical high schools. I did not find any direct equivalent to community colleges. I wanted to know how people, especially adults, in Thailand were acquiring the skills to use their computers. I was not finding places in Thailand that either were teaching adults or that fit my practical set of skills.
When I received the invitation from STOU I was elated. STOU is the ideal sabbatical placement to meet my goals. I learned about Sukhothai Thammathirta Open University from a family friend in Thailand. I asked him where he would go if he wanted to continue his education and he told me about STOU. He said, except for private training schools, that STOU was one of the only public universities in Thailand that was open to adults. At Sukhothai Thammathirta Open University I will be working with the Office of Computer Services and the Office of Continuing Education.
I was also glad to get a sabbatical invitation from Assumption University. When I applied to Assumption University I was initially referred to their computer science department, but my skills and preparation were not theoretical. The head of the computer science department referred me to their education department. The education referral was appropriate and interesting because of my interest in adult and continuing education.
The email threads that I have included from STOU and AU document the sabbatical invitations.
During my sabbatical I want to learn the following things:
· What can I learn from Thailand’s People PC initiative and what assistance can I provide from my experience in the creation of the Information Technology Specialist program?
· How are IT training needs being met in Thailand? How is IT training resulting in practical skills that meet real personal and specific needs?
· I want to see how the UAF/ITS program, and curriculum apply in an international context. Have we created a useful set of curriculum and competencies? Will my skills and experience be useful in Thailand?
· I want to know if there are things we can learn from Thailand’s efforts to bridge the digital divide? Are there specific techniques and methods that can improve the ITS program? Are there things we can learn from Thailand to improve the delivery of IT training in Alaska?
· Many of the goals, the technology methods and the strategies that Sukhothai Thammathirta Open University has developed in Thailand are similar to the challenges of CRA and CDE. I want to learn from the similarities and differences between the two contexts.
· I want to apply the experience that I have in Alaska to a different context. I want to expand my perspective and to see new techniques. I want to learn new ways to meet the needs of adult students in acquiring and applying computer skills.
· I want to see how computer support, security, and virus protection is being provided in Thailand, especially in rural areas and in areas of poverty.
· I want to see new uses of technology including the integration of cell phone technology with computer applications. The cell phone in Thailand is a revolution.
· I want to see how the Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems are competing in Thailand.
I am preparing for my sabbatical by preparing new people to take some of my program responsibility. Keith Swarner is taking over as the coordination of the ITS program this year. I will be able to work with him for a year before I leave on sabbatical. The ITS program will be in good hands.
Melissa Brown has taken over the coordination of the CRA Business Systems and Technology division. Melissa will also be able to do an excellent job as a division coordinator.
This is the first time that I have applied for a sabbatical. When I began my career at UAF my daughter was starting first grade and I was a single parent. I did not want to take on the challenge of a sabbatical while my daughter was in school. My daughter is now a sophomore at UAF, studying engineering. If this sabbatical proposal is approved my daughter will be able to take care of our house during my sabbatical.
I expect to return to UAF, after my sabbatical, refreshed and energized with new ideas and strategies. Specifically I would expect to have developed new teaching materials, new curriculum ideas, and new ideas about the delivery of instruction.
To document my experience in Thailand I would, during my sabbatical, keep a weekly web log and journal.
When I return I would make a presentation to the state-wide Information Technology group, to the TVC faculty development annual meeting, and to appropriate CRA faculty development groups. I would also post the results of my visit to the web.
STOU Sabbatical Contacts and Plans