Digital learning in the making

Developed in response to COVID-19’s impact on education in Lao PDR and the rapid closure of schools, Khang Panya Lao now has approximately 90,000 users

Irem Karakaya
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
30 May 2022

On a cold and foggy morning in the northern province of Xiengkhouang, Lao PDR, 75 teachers and school principals from Nonghed district travel 110 km (about 68.35 mi) to the central district with a mission that will change the course of learning for their students: discovering digital learning and a national digital teaching and learning platform with quality learning content. They quietly enter the training area to ready to wear a different ‘hat’. This time they are not the ones before the class, but the ones seated in rows, eagerly ready to learn.

A teacher taking training
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
A teacher checks the agenda during the Khang Panya Lao training in the Xiengkhouang province.

After a round of introduction with statements of excitement and curiosity, an instant messaging group gets created to share information, resources and stay in touch.

Unicef staff
UNICEF Laos/2022/Irem Karakaya
UNICEF staff members Aapo Kuusela (L) and Houmphanh Keoudom set up the tablets for teachers use.

“We create an instant messaging group for every training because we want to update the teachers with new features and be accessible when they face an issue or have a question. Keeping the conversation going via instant messaging also facilitates the exchange of materials and videos. This means parents can also support their children’s learning at home as teachers and parents have their own group chats,” says Houmphanh Keoudom of UNICEF.

A tablet
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Teachers using tablets
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Teachers discover tablets distributed by UNICEF

Hands-on experience starts with the distribution of tablets and accessories, thanks to funding support from the EU, GPE and UNICEF. Teachers can then take these tablets back with them into classrooms to support their teaching and for student to use as well. Some teachers have previous experience working with tablets but for others it is uncharted territory. With curious eyes, an exciting opening session and shy ‘where-to-touch’ moments, the training takes off.

Teacher using digital platform
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
A teacher check Khang Panya Lao content on a tablet distributed by UNICEF

Teachers start by downloading the Khang Panya Lao app. Khang Panya Lao is the Ministry of Education and Sports’ (MoES) new national digital library developed by UNICEF with the support of the European Union (EU) and Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Teachers set up their accounts on the platform and start discovering the various content available from official curriculum textbooks to videos, games, and other local and international resources accessible via the tables as well as their mobile phones. MoES and UNICEF staff are on standby, helping teachers and school managers with technical issues they face and introducing them to courses and content.

“Using Khang Panya Lao as a supplementary teaching resource can help illustrate lessons to my students effectively. Using the videos and other materials found in Khang Panya Lao will help my students better understand lessons,”

Mr. Sandiva Sithithongsai, third grade teacher at Phou Hua Xang Primary School
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Sports teams support Mr. Sandiva Sithithongsai (2nd left) with the technical question he has on tablet use.

After getting familiar with the resources for learners, teachers also dive into teaching resources available on the platform to find out how Khang Panya Lao can support their professional development.

“Khang Panya Lao will also be helpful to me as a teacher. It gives me more access to professional development resources and can show me different teaching methods. In some ways, I am also learning alongside my students when using Khang Panya Lao,” states Ms. Vanmany Sibouaphanh, primary school teacher at Yod Sa Primary School in Nonghed district.

UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Ms. Vanmany Sibouaphanh (R) listens to the presentation on digital learning given by UNICEF and MoES

The training continues with MoES and UNICEF presenting hybrid, blended and remote learning concepts and providing guidance on how to integrate content from Khang Panya Lao in the classroom and support learning at home.

UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Mr. Chantala Philomlasack, Deputy Director of the Teaching and Learning Material Development Center of MoES, hands over tablets, accessories, and posters.
Mobile display
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
MoES staff member shows how to register into Khang Panya Lao via mobile app.

“Digital learning is so important for children because it enables interactivity which helps make learning interesting for young learners. They learn better and easier. Most students have mastered using smartphones and tablets, but they do not know how to use technology for learning. Khang Panya is a chance to show what can be achieved through digital learning,”

Mr. Chantala Philomlasack, Deputy Director of the Teaching and Learning Material Development Center

Developed in response to COVID-19’s impact on education in Lao PDR and the rapid closure of schools, Khang Panya Lao now has approximately 90,000 users. It’s being used as a supplementary learning resource at schools and as an additional resource for learning at home. Khang Panya Lao is based on the Learning Passport, an award-winning platform developed by Microsoft and delivered by UNICEF. In Lao PDR, global content is made accessible in Lao language as an online, mobile, and offline library. Thanks to funding support from the EU and GPE, Khang Panya Lao is continuing to grow rapidly, and UNICEF is working with over 10 local development partners to expand access to quality digital learning resources via the platform.

Children using digital learning
Ms. Bouavanh Heuangmontee
Students watch educational video on Khang Panya Lao in this photo taken by their teacher Ms. Bouavanh Heuangmontee who attended digital learning training in central district of Xiengkhouang.

After two days of training, teachers and school principals leave the training with tablets in hand and a sense of excitement; for the first time, these teachers are bringing technology and new ways of learning to the lives of children in rural Laos.