Now a ‘smart’ classroom for the hearing impaired

Now a ‘smart’ classroom for the hearing impaired

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Learning Programme has recently transformed three new classrooms at the Al Amal School in Sharjah.

By Muaz Shabandri/staff Reporter

Published: Wed 18 Feb 2015, 1:05 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:50 PM

Mohammed Gheyath interacts with students of Al Amal School during the launch of the smart learning classrooms at the school in Sharjah on Monday.  — KT photo by M. Sajjad

Sharjah - Hearing impaired students across UAE’s public schools will soon be able to benefit from the government’s smart learning programme. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Learning Programme (MBRSLP) has recently transformed three new classrooms at the Al Amal School in Sharjah and handed out tablet devices to its students.

What is MBRSLP?

The MBRSLP began a pilot programme in the academic year 2012-2013, which started with eight schools and increased to 14 during the course of the year. In September 2013, the programme was introduced to 123 schools across the United Arab Emirates. A standard model was implemented in each school.

Giving each deaf student a tablet device, the MBRSLP is hoping to make the initiative more inclusive. The specialised school for deaf and hearing-impaired students has now integrated smart technology in its Grade 8 and 9 classrooms.

“We will assess the impact made by technology (on deaf students) before rolling out the programme in more schools,” explained Mohammed Gheyath, Director-General of MBRSLP.

Inside the classroom, students watch special videos with text overlays on a smart board. The same video plays back on student devices, allowing students to raise questions or answer quizzes after watching the content.

“Learning is no longer confined to classrooms. They can carry lessons with them wherever they go. Our ability to help students interact with teachers after school hours has been our biggest achievement. It is a continuation of learning beyond school boundaries,” said Gheyath.

School teacher Fairouz Saker, who used a smart board to explain air density to a group of deaf students, was able to explain the concept to students in less than five minutes.

“It really makes our job easy and helps us prepare ahead of time. Even if a student has a doubt after going home, they can even send us a video in sign language and we can reply to them,” said Fairouz.

For 16-year old, Abdul Hadi Bassam, a Palestinian student at the school, the ease of carrying a tablet was the biggest convenience. “I can understand concepts faster and the teacher also doesn’t have to use a lot of gestures to explain the topic. The best thing is we don’t have to carry heavy school bags because the tablet is all we need,” he gestured in sign-language.

Another Grade 9 student said: “I really enjoy the freedom that comes along with this new mode of learning. I can now access the syllabus ahead of my classes and even at home. The classes are also far more interesting as we have smart screens where our teachers show videos, ask questions and we can also participate by writing on the boards.”

While teachers and students at the school looked happy with the programme, a comprehensive study will be undertaken to evaluate the success.

“Although still in its early days, we have started to witness the positive effects that smart learning environments have had on our students at Al Amal School and look forward to expanding the programme in the future to more special needs facilities throughout the UAE,” said Shaikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Director-General of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services.

Bringing the technology to deaf students was made possible through a multi-partner collaboration with Hewlett-Packard (HP), Microsoft, Etisalat, ITWORX Education and Carawan Electrical Mechanical Works working on the project.

“This is part of our commitment to inclusive education. It was an opportunity to innovate on the smart learning platform where we use the latest innovations in software to integrate sign language with an engaging classroom experience,” said Samer Abu Ltaif, Regional General Manager, Microsoft Gulf.

Al Amal School joins over 24,000 students from 146 schools across the UAE that have been integrated in the MBRSLP, an initiative aligned with UAE Vision 2021 to establish a knowledge-based economy through the integration of technology in education. The third phase of the smart learning programme is expected to start in September 2015.

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