Mobile Camps in the Mountains
Openmind Projects a small organization with great ideas A nonprofit NGO, Openmind Projects Foundation is based in Nong Khai, Thailand. Openmind Projects was born in 2001 when Sven Mauleon from Sweden partnered with Gaweechat Joompaula from Thailand. They saw a lack of opportunity for underprivileged children and started using IT to improve education in villages in the Northeast of Thailand. (www.ITinIsan.org) Since 2002, Openmind Projects has supported projects and people in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal. This is accomplished through the local trainee program where young people come to live and learn at our Training Center in Nong Khai. Our Mobile Camps reach those who cannot come to Nong Khai. Overseas volunteers are invited to participate in all of our activities. Over the years they have helped many young people sculpt new lives for themselves.
Introduction 15 years ago while based in Brussels, Belgium, as director of a European consultancy, I had many discussions with academics, consultants, executives and teachers about how Information Technology, IT, would transform the way we learn and how it could help the less fortunate by providing better learning opportunities.
With many years' experience as a visiting professor at the Thammasat University Masters in Marketing Program, it was natural to test my ideas in Thailand. I wanted to see if rural children, given the opportunity, would learn to use computers much as western children do at home. I was fortunate at the start to have the help of a talented young Thai student, Gaweechat Joompaula, from Isan, Northeast Thailand. His burning interest in computers spurred the first great experiments!
Those first experiments, at two orphan homes and in a village, were based on the idea that young people learn by trial and error and are inspired by watching older brothers, sisters and friends â€” in other words, learning by doing! We called our method DED (demonstrate, explore, discover). First, demonstrate what you can do with a computer, and then let children explore. By giving them time to try, they eventually discover and learn.
After the success of these projects, we continued using IT to help schools and students in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal and arranged learning camps at our Nong Khai Center.
In 2016, we decided to try 'mobile camps' â€“ taking our camps to students instead of students coming to us. This document describes these camps and the ideas underlying them, but first I want to thank all the schools, directors and teachers for welcoming us and for their support. Also, a big thank you to all of our enthusiastic campers. They make the camps a real pleasure and a rewarding experience for us! I thank our own staff and the volunteers who work so hard to prepare for and conduct the camps. Everyone is responsible for their continued success. More thanks to our camp sponsor and much appreciated volunteer Mike Fulton, to his family foundation, and to the Rotary Club of San Jose, California.
Last but not least my special thanks to the young student and now Openmind Projects cofounder, Gaweechat Joompaula, who always works hard and without whom Openmind Projects would not be what it is today. He is indeed an inspiring learning-bydoing role model!
Sven Mauleon December 2016, Nong Khai
About Openmind Projects Camps
Our concept is to provide camps that challenge students to use technology to find information about stimulating and important issues. We offer tasks that encourage team work, exploring, thinking, sharing and discussion. Camp leaders give guidance, support and encouragement but don't teach. Our ambition is to create confident learners.
We work to boost confidence, create motivation, and facilitate team learning and critical thinking about issues vital to the world's future, at the same time improving English and online searching skills. We want campers to feel successful, to feel that they have made progress and that they have learned many useful things. This sense of achievement encourages them and makes them confident and eager to continue learning.
During Thai holidays, students aged 15 to 20 come to attend week-long camps at our training center in Nong Khai.
Upon arrival, campers take pre-tests in English, IT and teamwork before being placed into teams. The core activity of the camps is theme learning. Staff and volunteers do not teach but instead epitomize the concept of task-based learning, "learning by doing". Emphasis is placed on online searching.
Our camps set learning tasks to help campers explore the world using themes like technology, the environment, and health. We encourage and help campers to use English, IT, and the internet when working on their tasks.
At the end of a camp day, campers have a chance to interact and practice speaking in the 'English Club'. It's an informal way to talk to volunteers and staff, and it is very popular! Besides working on themes and English Club, the camps consist of other activities including healthy competition between the teams. These are aimed at demonstrating what campers have learned during the camp.
The most important of these competitions are the debates. Teams must be ready to discuss and argue both the positive and negative aspects of their topics. For instance, "Should junk food be banned in schools?" is a topic about which one team must argue 'Yes' and the other 'No'. Video logs, or v-logs, are another source of fun competition between teams. Campers are instructed in how to make v-logs. Then, they come together to document in a video format what they have learned and experienced in camp. Thirdly, time permitting, we arrange for a fair on the final day where teams hold their own exhibitions, showcasing in creative ways what they have learned. Finally, campers vote for the winning teams!
The Benefits of Learning Camps The principle of task-based theme learning is to make students take responsibility for their own learning! Our campers get used to online searching and learning in teams, using the Internet to find facts about topics that affect them and the world around them â€“ all this while learning the relevant English!
Campers learn to research and consider the advantages and disadvantages of important issues like the effects of farming on the environment. Other environmental topics may be deforestation or global warming. Food and health, jobs and technology, and education and technology are other theme areas for research and debate.
Our camps build motivation, confidence and skills. Students walk away more aware of important issues and feel more confident to have and express opinions. The learning is on the campers' terms; it is social and enjoyable. Campers think about and discuss issues and get a chance to feel successful together.
Volunteers and Campers Talk about the Camps
"There was an openness of adventure, exploration, motivation, fun in learning... at the end of the 7 days you see the progression on all levels and everyone is speaking English to each other." Carla, Dutch volunteer "In school we follow the teacher and we follow the books in a passive way – In the OMP camps we learn how to use internet and we learn to be active learners.” Akhom, Lao camper "The debates make me more confident. I learn English by searching, discussing, not by heart! First the volunteers teach me and then we have to search and find information and discuss with our friends before we present the information." Wah Wah, Burmese camper "As a volunteer I was lucky enough to have participated in 3 camps. The OMP camps are a great way for underprivileged youths to learn and bond... friendships forged in eternity. It opens up boundless opportunities for them and I'm happy I still get to stay in touch with all of them via social media." Shona, Singaporean volunteer "I feel, enjoy about it and don't worry about grammar. I practice English in camp but in school I think difficult because I don't practice speak English. But I practice grammar everyday and I feel bored." Jaa, Thai camper
"My feeling in the camp happy as I am at my own home. Every staff has a smile. This camp gives me confidence and motivation to use English. And not afraid to talking by using English with foreigners. The food is very delicious. Fun activities are not boring at all. If I go to camp again, I can go 100 times with my willingness I love this camp." Suras, Thai camper "With OMPâ€™s learning style, the camp helped me to find myself and realized that everybody has abilities we just need opportunity to use them, I have more confidence than before, I've improved my IT and English skills... and realize that there are lots of things we can do to help other people as well!" James, Thai camper "Being at the camp immerses you in the learning environment with lots of opportunity for individual practice outside the classroom." Rosemary, Australian volunteer "As a business leader and volunteer at camps, I have witnessed many campers who have shown me that they have the capabilities to be tomorrow's engineers, scientists, teachers and leaders, if just given the tools and a little push. And that's exactly what our camps provide... I enjoyed everything about these camps except the last day. That's the day of camper tears, as they say goodbye to an experience of a lifetime. It's that impactful...for them and me." Mike, American volunteer "I now know what I want to do in my life and how I can use my ablilites in my life for a better future. It made me be able to think for my self and also listen to what other thinks too. It made me to the Guy I am Today." Ghom, Thai camper
Our original ambition was and still is 'Reaching Out', so we plan to continue inviting teachers and students to our Nong Khai camps to learn and be inspired. We especially want to reach out to more students who are unable to come to our Nong Khai center by working with sponsors, local partners, schools and teachers to set up more mobile camps. We look forward to 'camping' with our first groups of mobile campers at the Umpang Vittaya and Klothor Schools along the Thai-Myanmar border again, and we want to spread our camps into southern Thailand and Laos as well!
About Openmind Projects Cofounders
It's an unusual, cross cultural and winning partnership! Sven Mauleon, chairman, is from Sweden. He has many years of international experience working for governments, private corporations and the United Nations. He was also a visiting professor at Thammasat Universityâ€™s Masters in Marketing program for several years. Gaweechat Joompaula, operations and IT manager, is from Isaan, Thailand. He's a brilliant, autodidactic IT expert with a deep understanding of local studentsâ€™ wants and needs, and he's anxious to help them!
For more info visit... Website: Openmindprojects.org/camps Youtube: Youtube.com/openmindprojects Facebook: Facebook.com/OpenmindProjects
"Learning for life, nature and future www.openmindprojects.org Info@openmindprojects.net
Openmind Projects Learning Camps Booklet www.openmindprojects.org