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Monday, October 24, 2005

Implementing Smart School in Malaysia

Revisiting Malaysia's Smart School Pilot Project:
The pilot project was intended to introduce ICT technologies to schools in Malaysia. 87 schools had been identified all over Malaysia for the pilot project. Deployment of computers which are inter-connected with all other smart-schools is not enough to make the deal looks convincing, thus the project team in-charge came out with a solution called the Smart School Integrated Solutions (SSIS) .

The main components of SSIS are the teaching-learning materials, the smart school management system (SSMS), technology infrastructure, systems integrations and support systems.



The Corporate Information Superhighway (COINS), a fast, open, nationwide and globally connected broadband multimedia communications network with a capacity of up to 10 Gbps. In addition, all the schools have a dedicated Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) back-up line in the event that the COINS line is down.

The problems:
After the pilot project ended on 2002, no one is wiling to invest more to sustain the project.

If you noticed some cost-related phrase taken from the document:

• One-off telecommunications costs were included in the Smart School Pilot Project Agreement, with the understanding that these costs would be borne by the MOE after the pilot project.

• A network’s physical infrastructure should be actively supported by the service provider, not just as a vendor but as a “smart” partner, especially in terms of getting an “educational price” for telecommunications support and maintenance.

• The budget was a constraint in determining the network’s design, especially in terms of server capacity at the schools and Data Centre and the bandwidth to be provided to the schools.

Sri APIIT Smart School

The smart school promises a holistic education for your child.

• Three languages: English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin
• Option for music classes: piano, guitar, violin as part of the school curriculum*
• Technology as part of the school curriculum*
• Swimming as part of the school curriculum*
• Self defense as part of the school curriculum*
• Speech & Drama as part of the school curriculum*

* As part of the school curriculum signifies that there will be no additional payments required where these classes form part of the school timetable.

Outdated:
The Smart School Pilot Project was introduced and ended with broadband still in its infancy. As the matter of fact, I clearly remember that broadband was already picking-up by mid of 2002 as my friend was testing the streamyx email account for its integrity, such as uptime and not-spam phenomenon. I think that during that time, he did decide to use the streamyx email as the main email, dropping off hotmail, yahoo and etc.

However, things changed again when Yahoo introduced 1G email quota for all free users. Google came in shortly with the same offering and both had knock-out streamyx out of the email business.

And I guess that with Streamyx taking the lead as nationwide broadband provider with others trailing closely behind, the original concept of smart school had been obsolete. Schools could just request to have a broadband connection by themselves, without the need to wait for big brother’s (MOE) initiative.

They could start with just having a plain broadband connection and then start to send email around their counterparts. This will encourage more schools to apply for broadband connections and from thereon, explosive activities can be anticipated.

Therefore, the million dollar question is:

1. how much does a government school has in term of funds to invest on ICT infrastructure without incentives from MOE?

Or 2. Do they have to consult advices from MOE for every investment made?

To get the right answer, I have identified someone who had dealt with schools and universities in a success manner; SmartScan. Smartscan is revolutionary imaging program scanning images from hardcopies and converting them into objects such as marks, ticks, texts, lines and shapes using Artificial Intelligence(A.I) technology. With SmartScan, the data collection process is now more reliable, flexible, affordable and user-friendly.

SSIS could easily replaced by intranet solutions such as that provided by TMS's intranet solution.

What needed next are contents for the ICT infrastructure.

Contents - My Suggestion:
We must preach smart-learning instead of smart school. The concept of smart school was meant for the privilege only, what would happen to the rest of our country’s next generation?

Smart-learning basically is innovative learning instead of technology enabled learning. They have different meanings but yet certain things are common to each other.

To enable smart learning, it is obvious that innovations must be introduced into the system. Currently, the buzz word is “e-learning”.

According to MMU-CMEAD, e-Learning can just be simply defined as learning via electronic media. It is an innovative approach to corporate training, which covers a wide set of applications and processes such as Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN), audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, and CD-ROM.

MMU-CMEAD is the IT department for MMU for its in-house IT system. They main product is called Multi-media Learning System (MMLS). The following are some extract about MMLS.

“Underlying the concept of “a virtual teacher within a virtual classroom”, Multimedia Learning
System (MMLS) was developed to address to the needs of the entire educational enterprise. It
is an intelligent management system, which serves as a platform for the delivery of
multimedia rich contents to its learners.”

In short, MMLS is actually a tool for enabling of e-learning environment. It is an enabled which promotes the usage and development of e-learning’s content.

e-learning is meant to replace traditional-learning method (TLM). Recent years ago, there is a group of entrepreneur promoting the concept of e-learning and they are known as Xthreme. Xthreme has Thompson Education as their principal for e-learning’s contents. However, Xthreme focuses on business development rather than educational.

However, what I did learn from Xthreme is that educational-software is useful for learning. For instance, I have always envisioned a software which I can practice speaking with a computer in order to master a new language. Of course, the software has to come with speech synthesis and speech recognition facilities. Also, I thought about software which can cater for mathematical learning. The one which probably come close to this reality is US based mathematica software. From Malaysia site, UPM’s advanced mathematical research group has actually produced a product called “Animated Introductory Calculus” which preaches the concept of Computer Animation for learning Mathematics with comparison to Traditional Learning Method. Personally, I have seen the product during my visit to IPTA exhibition held on 30-Sept-05 to 2-Oct-05. Basically, it is a multimedia-driven content which uses Macromedia Flash for development. It focuses on animation as the hints towards a mathematical question. This means that if someone is unable to comprehend a mathematical problem, the animation will guide you through. This is good, the fact that many couldn’t master mathematics is because the inability to visual the solutions.

However, I am suggesting another solution for mathematical learning. That is using computer programming to learn mathematic. Let me prove it to you for the next round.

Who would pay for the project team? Based on case study of Malaysia’s Smart School Pilot Project, MOE and the big boys is reluctant to invest in this area. Recent budget announcement didn’t specifically mention anything about smart school.

Currently, apart from APIIT being the lead of smart school initiative, I am really cracking my head on the solution to get something started. Perhaps APIIT is the white knight I am looking for?

According to the case study conclusion document, MOE bear the cost of the pilot smart school project, which means that government pay for it. After it is done, State Educational Departments are expected to carry the burden. But so far what is the status?

Korean Technology:
My recent visit to Korea also landed me with the opportunity of meeting a company called TTOKSORI-Life English.

It is developer of software and contents for language learning. Its contents are quite special because they consist of screen play. Means that they are in the form of movies.

Their technique is to make use of multiple frames each consisting of a movie onto a single screen which “entertain” users with mixture of languages for a given scenario. This means that there could be a play which involves two actors and each speaking different languages. The subtitles can be intermixed too.

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