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Children take to iClass with glee

Olivia Olarte / 7 October 2011

Nine-year-old Khalifa Khaled is fascinated. He cannot keep his hands off the iPad screen which he scrolls every now and then.

ABU DHABI — Nine-year-old Khalifa Khaled is fascinated. He cannot keep his hands off the iPad screen which he scrolls every now and then. Similarly, his peers are curiously playing with their own touchpads (or slates), trying their skills on all sorts of games.

The interactive touchtable in the classroom, meanwhile, caught the attention of some Grade 4 pupils of Al Ameen School, excitedly taking turns in responding to queries on the screen by tapping the board lightly or using their fingers to solve a problem.

While others take part in a video conferencing lesson with schools in another region or with a student at home, some sit in a lecture in front of a large 3D screen. As they wander about the digital learning resource centre (DLRC), they periodically check the digital board for the school announcement.

Afra Rasheed, their ICT teacher, tries to control the classroom by monitoring what her students are doing or searching on their slates using her classroom manager device.

Sounds futuristic? Yes, but also a soon to be reality for the more than 270 government schools in the emirate following the successful implementation of the ‘iClass’ pilot programme in six select schools in the emirate.

“I am so excited,” says Khalifa.

Who wouldn’t be? With these latest gadgets available for the students to choose from, their classroom looks more of a playroom than a traditional educational institution.

“We have to move with the times,” said the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), which initiated the programme as part of its new school model (NSM) curriculum that was implemented in Kindergarten to Grade 4 (Cycle 1) this academic year.

Noting the fast way kids learn technology applications and their fascination with them, ADEC Director-General Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili underscored the need to “create the classroom similar to the environment at home” in an endeavour “to develop in them the desire to go to class”.

“If we want to punish our children, we can now tell them ‘I will not send you to school’ instead of the opposite,” he told a gathering of educators and technology vendors on Thursday.

He stressed the concept of the NSM, which is “teaching through playing”.

“iClass is a paradigm shift in the way we learn, assess and develop our curriculum,” said Dr Rafic Makki, Director of the Office of Planning and Strategic Affairs at the ADEC.

At the student-centred education system, students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills are being developed.

In the continuous assessment process, every lecture will be recorded to enable teachers and principals to review and evaluate their teaching performance. Parents can also watch how their children are being educated online.

“Content is really the crux of what we’re doing... the way students learn,” Richard Mehrer, Programme Manager, Special Projects Division at the ADEC, pointed out.

“(So) we will be creating our own content. The students will be creating the content for us,” he said, noting the present lack of Arabic content for the new digital learning resources.

Approximately, 300 students from Grades 3 to 4 in six schools — Al Ameen and Mubarak bin Mohammed Schools in Abu Dhabi, Al Alaas and Al Raqyia in Al Ain and Al Marfa and Al Saddique in Al Gharbiya — are involved in the pilot phase.

The schools were chosen based on their successful implementation of the NSM curriculum, IT infrastructure readiness, high student performance levels and teachers who are willing to implement the digital learning resources.

In the whole-year pilot phase, the vendor’s digital learning tools will be assessed to determine the most effective combination that would enhance the student learning objectives.

olivia@khaleejtimes.com

 
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