FACULTY SEMINAR, 2003.
Panel members being introduced by the moderator, Dr. Pratit Santiprabhob at Faculty Seminar on May 26, 2003.
Panelists holding tokens of appreciation pose for a photograph with President Dr. Bancha Saenghiran at centre and Dean Dr. Pratit on extreme right.
Mr. Mark Turner of the Sisco System Inc. who spoke on "University of The Future" based on notes and photos flashed from his electronic notebook.
Contd. from May 2003 issue.
Speech by Professor Dr. Yongyuth Yuthavong, President, Thai Academy of Science and Technolgy
But Mr. Pui has said the pick of the future might make the elephants cry or might make the elephants shiver. And we asked our cartoonist to draw something about cloning, and this is what he came up with. So he thinks that if we had cloning back in the Bang Raj an day, perhaps Thailand would not lose to the Burmese, you know, when the Burmese came because we had Mr. Bunlerd, that buffalo, but we only had one and he died very quickly. So if only we could have cloned Mr. Bunlerd, you know so the Burmese would not have defeated us on that day.
Anyway, as we talked about the new biotechnology, there are new trends coming out, which not only encompass biotechnology but also other types of technology and engineering like the processing technology, material technology, electronics technology. And the gist of this new technology is in the size so this is called Nano Technology. By Nano means small, or Nanometer is one in the ten to the ninth of a meter, so a very small, indeed it's a very molecular size of technology. One might just call it molecular technology. And Nano technology is important. I'm sorry I did not have time to convert to English.
So this will be very important for products such as the electronic components, and in the future perhaps electronic will become less important while other technology like Photonics, which rely on light of photons which of course travel much faster than electrons. These kinds of technology will come out, so you do need new materials for the components. The technology can control the movements and the assembly of atoms and molecules as needed.
And you have two main approaches to nano technology. The first approach tends to be used by the engineers, and that is to make things smaller and smaller. Make what's called nano-particles rather than micro-particles. Make Nano machines rather than Micro machines. But another approach is to magnify it from nature, which nature already has nano technology in all its life forms. So if we can manage it, for example, this is the scheme of a Bacterial Flagellum. The flagellum of the bacteria which beats when it moves, and in fact you can analyze it in terms of the motor and the rotor. So these molecular components can be imitated and then can work as a nano machine.
Example of nano products, I just go very quickly, something called Carbon Nano Tubes, which can transfer electrons very quickly, and you could almost say it's like molecular wire. Very small particles or nano particles that can then be assembled very precisely so it can become much, much better catalysts or something that will catalyze the change of a chemical reactions or in motor cars much, much more efficient than before. Nano fabrics which can sense the environment and then can change its properties according to the environment. For example, you wear clothes like this and come into a very cold room and then the Nano fabric switches to a kind of much more like wool in property. But when you go outside -it's hot - the Nano fabric changes because it senses the environment, it changes and then becomes something that is much more cooler. And the targeted drugs, drugs which target to the tissues of those that are sick and ill like the tumors and so on. And small machines, these are some of the parts, you can see that some of these are dreams but some are already reality. So all these are going about so quickly.
I talked about this with Dr. Koson Petchsuwan that Dr. Srisak knows very well, and he said "we're missing the train". So I asked our cartoonist to, in his opinion, what will happen if we cannot catch all these technologies. And this is what
he came up with. We maybe missing the train. We are left behind. Of course, we don't want to be poor. So we got to do something.
Now I come to the main part of my talk here, and it's about learner-centered education. Bro. Bancha gave me homework, so I went up and looked what's really learner-centered education. And I came up with 3 names, 3 P's. The first one is Sean Pierche, who already died a few decades ago. Early last century, he came up with what's called "Constructivism". The theory of learning, which is called constructivism. Then I had a good fortune to meet Simore Pappert from MIT. He came to Thailand a few times. He based his theory on Pierche, but he went a bit further. And he called his theory "Constructionism".
So "Constructivism" and "Constructionism", what are they? In short, this is my understanding, in a few ways, teaching is indirect. Whenever you teach, you can never make learning direct, it's always indirect because it's from the teacher; it's from the bias of the teachers. So whatever method you use - if you teach - always indirect. Learning is only achieved when the learner constructs, when the learner can construct her or his own system of knowledge in her or his own mind; very, very important. Learning can only be achieved that way whereas teaching can only achieve an indirect result. So Pappert differs from Pierche a little bit in that he emphasizes the importance of tools, especially the computers, the media, and contexts in the construction of knowledge. So this millenium is very important in that we have the technology, we have the tools to achieve learning.
I talked about three P's; in fact the third P, I would give to Khun Paron Issarasena, who was the former CEO of Siam Cement Company. He's really a pioneer of Constructionism in Thailand and he's a practitioner after he retired from the Siam Cement Company. He devotes his own interests to education and education through the learner, not through the teacher.
Increasing importance of learner-centered education is felt when you come to realize that in the knowledge economy, knowledge increases and becomes obsolete very, very rapidly. What you learn today here, or from what you teach to the students in four years or so in university will generally become.. .you know, about twenty or thirty years ago, it would have become obsolete in about ten maybe twenty years. But nowadays, what you learn or what you teach today becomes obsolete in less than ten years, sometimes five years. Just like the computers, look the computers; whatever you buy will become obsolete in six months, right? So this kind of trend is very real. Obsolesce comes very quickly. So no teacher, no matter how genius that teacher is, no teacher can hold the stock of relevant knowledge for very long, maybe five, ten years. So network of knowledge sources become very important. You cannot hope to know everything, but you have to rely on the network. And the students, students cannot hope to get the contents and then use that content forever in her own active working life. The students must learn continuously as also do the teachers. Teachers must learn how to guide active learning, and not to teach but to guide the students to learn.
So information and communication technologies provide the new tools of learning. They happen to come just at the right time, at this moment of history. So implications for universities of the future is that active learning will take the place of active teaching. We have been used to active teaching, but active teaching will now become, will have to become active guidance or active facilitation. We've just been talking just before this; A.Srisak said from now on teachers will be facilitators. Training in skills, however, I don't want to go all the way and say "Throw out all the teaching, throw out all training". Certainly training and teaching still have a place. For example, training an skills still retain importance. But remember the skills have to change as technology changes. And universities must provide environment for active research and discussions, and not just an environment for teaching. Teachers must continuously refresh knowledge and, as I said earlier, not only knowledge in terms of content but in terms of management. Knowledge management becomes more important. So I think this is the gist of the universities of the future and I hope you care because the title is "Who cares?" If you don't care, then who can care. The university will change from the teaching side to learning environment, not just one place but the whole world becomes a university. We come to this
university in order to connect to the whole world.
Of course, face-to-face contact is still important, very important, and is supplemented by active learning and discouraged by the learners. So classroom teaching and classroom learning, of course, very important because after all what is best, how best can humans communicate with one another except through looking through the eyes, you see. The student looks through the eyes of the teacher and the teacher looks through the eyes of the student, and knows immediately where the student is, whether she/he is with you or whether it's far beyond the heads. However, distance learning becomes more and more important. And libraries would have to rely increasingly on electronic media like the CD-ROM, the web, teleconferencing, etc.
A few years ago, I was asked to help in looking to the future, what's called "foresighting, foresighting in human resources". We painted two pictures, remember this was just a few years after the bubble burst in 1997. This was the year 2000. And if we look into the future in the year 2020, there would be two futures. One future is I think I call him Mr. Prakob because he's so used to assembling things in the old ways. Or maybe Mr.Prakard because he's used to reading job advertisements in the newspapers and try to find a job. But where can a job be found when everything is bankrupt, when you know Bangkok went about business as usual. This is one scenario. I hope this is not true. But if Bangkok, if Thailand goes about business as usual in the old way whereas it's already the new millenium, then Mr. Prakob or Mr. Prakard will have a very bleak future, indeed. So that's one scenario: Bangkok 2020. Let's take another scenario whereby we call her, Miss Prakai or Mrs. Prakai. Miss Prakai doesn't even need to live in Bangkok. She lives in Nakhon Nayok or somewhere. She just maybe in the year 2020, the notebook might be smaller or, I don't know, become the new tablet or whatever. Anyway, we can only think so far about the future. Miss Prakai directs the company called Evergreen, which calculates the carbon credit in order to earn some points for developing countries that are helping the environment by growing trees. And she doesn't need to be in Bangkok because her work is done through the information technology. She is very happy because she directs her own work, does her own work. She has a small company, have a very happy family.
Which of the future do you want, you want the old way -business as usual future or you want a new future with new concepts, new aspects, new strategies for education? So I think it's clear that we would like to be in the world of Miss Prakai rather than Mr. Prakob. Miss Prakai and other people in the future, as I said earlier, will have need for continuing education because rapid changes in production and transaction of goods and services will demand this.
The University of the Future will be the place for re-learning. Re-learning - not only the place where you come for four years and then graduate, but it's the place where you can continuously, come back. Of course, you don't need to come back in person; you can come back through virtual means, through electronics means for re-learning of past graduates as well as learning of new students. And the virtual system can help solve the problem, especially with the learner-driven approach.
So I've been talking for so long, we need a few minutes for commercials. I've been helping the National Science and Technology Development Agency on what's called the "Learn Website", "Learn Online". And it's very easy; you just type "learn.in.th" - learn in Thailand. The Learn Online system just gives you a few web-based courses. For example, today it starts the course called "Cyber Tools in Research". Now a few words about the Learn Center, it's virtual Science and Technology... I think I wouldn't like to call it university that would be a little bit presumptuous. But it's a learning place where you can learn from the web because this web offers information on virtual learning, not only of our own system, but also virtual learning everywhere in Thailand and elsewhere. And we offer virtual web-based courses at three levels: one is at the Advanced Graduate level, second is a Professional and a Training level, and third is General Education level for life-long learning. But we found over the years, we've been doing this for about five years and we still consider ourselves doing experiments. We found that it's very important to mix it also with other types of learning, especially face-to-face learning. So we always offer opportunities for students to come to class limited time rather than just computers teaching them. But the students can go into the web at any time and learn all these. For example, for a few years now we've been working on a course - we call it hyper course or "Bio-informatics".
Bio-informatics is a very new and interesting field, combining Biology on the one hand with the IT on the other hand. So it's very important and very suitable for web because a lot of the data are already in the web. For example, the human genome sequence is already in the web, other types of genomes, all the information about the genes; you can already access without having to pay anything if you know how to access them. And of course all the algorithms about how to compare the genes and the proteins and the various biological features are all there in the web. So if you can learn how to access this, then you already
have a treasure in your hand.
And of course, we have another type of treasure called Biodiversity. So we have a course called Bio-diversity in Thailand where you don't need to go about the whole country to see where the trees are being planted or where the animals are being preserved, conserved and so on. You could take the web-based and you could have the virtual biodiversity tour in the web. Risks and dangers of chemical products are more for professionals, people who work on chemicals. Of course, this is very important. Every now and then, we hear about big accidents and so on. So how to keep chemicals safe.
The Cyber Tools for Research, this is for students - new graduate students who want to be able to access the Internet and the other sources of information for their own research. From this, we hope that we can go on. Of course, I think there can be the kind of the global virtual university but since that's very big, we aim to concentrate on the region first - so first on Thailand and then in the ASEAN.
The ASEAN virtual university, Virtual Institute of Science and Technology - we call it a VIST. A VIST is easy to remember because it's somewhat similar to AVIS, which is not number one but number two. So we try harder. This concept actually was proposed by the Thai Prime Minister, not Khun Thaksin by the way, at that time it was Khun Chuan Leekpai, as endorsed by the ASEAN Summit in 1999. The ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology developed the concept as a part of continuing professional education. In fact, Prime Minister Thaksin is very keen and now tries to have this enforced, and realized. Series of planning meetings were also organized by UNESCO, and feasibility studies have been finished and commissioned by the ASEAN. So it's not the real entity yet, but we hope that it will be, and Thailand would be an important part of this. In conclusion, the universities of the future will become more accessible in the sense that there'll be powerful tools for education anywhere, anytime. You can't sleep; you wake up at 2 o'clock in the morning and you can go to class. You are somewhere in Nakhon Nayok, you can go to class. So anywhere, any time. Digital libraries allow access to information sources worldwide. Network of education and research will give rise to what's called Global-type University, global university. So networking will become more and more important. But the University of the Future - be careful! It could become less accessible. Why? Because the poor and the underprivileged may not be able to meet the entry cost if the entry cost is too high. So the society must take care, must make sure that people have equal opportunities to access University of the Future. And if they fail to do so, there could be backlash, hi fact there is a backlash against globalization. The backlash could get stronger if people are frustrated. If the strong get stronger, and the weak get weaker, if there is no social justice; then this backlash will become even stronger, not only within the country but worldwide. Lastly, for all the good tools that we have, for all the technology that we have, if we don't have poor contents, or even bad contents, then knowledge is polluted by trash. So be careful. The University of the Future will not become like this - Super Information Highway, Information Super Highway or whatever, where you can really go or theoretically, go very fast. But if you have all the garbage trucks on the highway coming from somewhere in town, you will not be able to reach Assumption University. Lastly, just for optimistic view because we have to have some hope. We hope that if we can avoid all those pitfalls, maybe the cartoonist, after drawing such a pessimistic cartoon can start on another cartoon whereby we are overtaking Japan or Korea or whatever. And then we have, I don't know, unfortunately he did not put other countries in the same train. I hope at least Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and ASEAN people and what's called the Greater Mekong Sub-region people can join in our train, and maybe the two trains will merge in the future. Thank you very much.
Transcript by Yupa K-4313985
Faculty Seminar 2003 in Picture