Ethnic minority teacher champions new technology in education

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(VOVWORLD) – Taking out a phone from her bag, Trang Tho Phe, a technology teacher from the Ha Nhi ethnic minority group in Bat Xat district, Lao Cai province, immediately captures the attention of the whole class. Tho Phe’s use of virtual reality (VR) has made technology easy to understand for her high school students.
Ethnic minority teacher champions new technology in education - ảnh 1Trang Tho Phe has made a sophisticated topic like technology easy to understand for ethnic minority students. 

Bringing excitement and anticipation to a routine class

“It takes me 3 class hours to teach about the internal combustion engine but it is still very difficult for ethnic students in my school to imagine and understand its mechanism,” said Tho Phe.

“Before virtual reality was born, I had to draw a diagram and hang it on the chalk board. It took a long time for me to explain the engine, but I was not sure if my students even understood the sophisticated machine. With VR on my smartphone, I can show students both the outside and the inside of an internal combustion engine in 3D with extremely specific, clear, and easy-to-understand details.”

In remote and disadvantaged areas, students often attend school just to learn how to read and write, and to master simple math. It’s hard to imagine that a sophisticated topic like technology can be taught by a Ha Nhi teacher in Vietnam’s northern mountainous region with so few resources to a class of mostly ethnic students in such an engaging and easy-to-understand way.

When she first came to Bat Xat District Middle and High School, Trang Tho Phe had to cross mountains and passes, going to each student’s house asking them to go to school.

“Now I still don’t know where and how I got my determination and enthusiasm when I was alone on the dirt path, going to each student’s house to ask their parents to allow them to attend boarding school,” recalled Tho Phe.

“I gave my old phone to a student so I could contact him and reminded him to go to school. At that time, I just thought that going to school might make his future a whole lot better,” she said.

Her effort paid dividends. After graduation, many students still remember their technology teacher and even sent her letters. One of them said, “I really miss the days when you came to my house to take me to class despite heavy rain. Now I have grown up. I miss you and thank you very much.” 

Ethnic minority teacher champions new technology in education - ảnh 2Trang Tho Phe (L) receives a gift from Vice State President Vo Thi Anh Xuan.

Bringing technology to ethnic minority students

Ethnic minority students and their parents have gradually understood the value of knowledge and learning. The children are willing to go to school. 

When UNICEF Vietnam sponsored the Lao Cai Education Department with a project to pilot VR technology, Tho Phe and her colleagues from Bat Xat High School participated in a training course on using VR technology in their own ethnic language. 

20 tablets and VR glasses were provided by UNICEF and have made their science and technology classes lively and fun. 

“With smart devices, technology classes are more attractive to students. Tablets and glasses help young students learn very fast, but on the contrary, they may forget easily. Teachers need to combine smart devices with practices so students will understand and remember the lesson,” said Tho Phe.

Future plans

Tho Phe was to represent Lao Cai teachers at the 2021 meeting “Sharing with Teachers” organized by the Vietnam Youth Union and the Ministry of Education and Training to celebrate Teachers’ Day when she received the decision to transfer to another high school in the same district. 

The new school doesn’t have the equipment and software to teach with VR but Tho Phe won’t surrender. With experience from the UNICEF project, she helps her colleagues at her new school download free VR resources to their personal phones for teaching. 

“I’m fortunate to have attended the training and received VR devices from UNICEF to use in my classes. I hope there will be more training for other teachers to better understand this modern educational technology,” said Tho Phe.

Education in remote areas still faces many challenges but dedicated teachers like Trang Tho Phe have managed to find ways to make their class more engaging and effective. 

Thanks to them, there are reasons to hope for the expansion of education across regions in Vietnam.

Link https://vovworld.vn/en-US/personality-of-the-week/ethnic-minority-teacher-champions-new-technology-in-education-1054002.vov