Digit-ally learning

DUBAI - Education is getting the tech edge with students and teachers riding the wave and giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft, and the other companies are pouring millions in to provide schools with their latest gadgets like laptops and iPads.

By (Muaz Shabandri)

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Published: Tue 23 Nov 2010, 4:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:09 AM

Students can now text answers in the class. They can manipulate images and can even study the human brain on a touchscreen device. From smart boards that project information to special handwriting recognition pens that record classroom lectures, new innovations are fast making their way into student lives.

Projectors, smart boards, virtual learning environment, science carts and tablet PCs are fast-changing the learning environment in classrooms. With more than 50 million students in the Middle East, the 90,000 schools which cater to these students look for the newest and most innovative educational technology products to enhance their teaching and learning.

According to statistics provided by Smart Technologies, less than 10 per cent of the schools in the UAE have interactive whiteboards and there is a great scope for implementing educational technology in schools across the UAE.

“Schools need to understand that the learning environment is changing. Technology has become a critical part of classroom learning and many students adapt to technological changes faster than teachers,” says Aaron Fright, regional director of Smart Technologies, the makers of the interactive smart boards for classrooms.

A recent session on the ‘use of iPod in classrooms’ at a conference showcased the educational potential of an iPod touch. School administrators welcomed the move as students showed improved attention span and a greater interest in learning when using the device.

“School kids are better at using technology than most adults. They enjoy using these sleek gadgets. Also, it’s a paperless environment where you don’t have to carry a school bag with huge geography books, dictionaries and the like,” says John McGregor, education sales manager at Mediacast, a leading education solution provider for schools in the UAE.

Students have the ability to download applications and learn various topics at their own pace. From learning the different parts of a human body to studying astronomy, developers are creating educational applications for use in schools.

“The Middle East continues to be a key growth market for innovative classroom solutions with academic institutions in the region increasingly adopting the latest teaching and education technologies,” adds Aaron.

“The wave of technology is something that schools cannot afford to miss,” says Angela Maiers, a leading international educator. While that wave is critical to keeping students engaged in learning, she cautioned that teachers still need to give students the skills to be safe.

“Learners in the digital age have unprecedented access to valuable information, primary resources and minute-by-minute accounts of news and events from around the world. This information provides students with valuable learning opportunities. Teachers need to be aware of how to make use of this information to benefit the students,” adds Angela.

The touch technology has changed the way students interact with the curriculum and classroom learning has become more intuitive. The challenge for teachers is to embrace this change and understand that students are better visual learners.

Aiman Fatima, a student at a private school in Sharjah says she feels at ease while using the digital technology. “It’s all about making education fun and interactive. Rather than listening to a teacher talk about a particular topic, I can actually interact with a device to learn the topic better,” says Aiman.

The Ministry of Education is also pushing for improved technological infrastructure in schools by providing funds to transform the classroom while upgrading the skills of its teachers. Experts say, the real challenge for schools is to provide teacher training to make use of available technology as part of lesson content.

“What we’ve generally seen in the United Kingdom is an education system that is technologically imbalanced. Schools are well-equipped with technology but under-equipped with digital content. This meant that the effective use of technology has suffered as a result of teachers having insufficient access to high quality digital teaching and learning materials,” says Julian Mobbs, Managing Director of Global Grid for Learning (GGfL).

She adds, “The Abu Dhabi Education Council’s New School Model (NSM) is a very positive move for the Middle East. However, this strategy can only be effectively realised through teachers and learners having universal access to high quality and educationally sound content.”

One of the key objectives of the New School Model in Abu Dhabi is creating a child-centred learning environment through the use of technology-rich learning environments and the introduction of multi-sensory educational resources in classrooms. Through the system, students will be at the centre of an active teaching and learning environment supported by schools, families and the community.


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