Content managers, social media strategists and user experience analysts were not easy to find in companies 10 years ago.
With knowledge and technology growing exponentially, a highly viewed YouTube ‘Do You Know?’ video by Karl Fisch states that half of what a student of a four-year degree learns in the first year of study will be outdated by his or her third year of study.
It’s a society of ‘knowmads’ where young minds need to be moulded for Education 3.0 to keep abreast of the whirlwind change.
Learners need to be a part of the Connected Learning Society where learning meets the demands of the 21st century, and the process is personal, flexible and lifelong, explains Michael Stevenson, vice-president for Global Education at Cisco.
“The institutions that we have in 2010, our schools and universities have to be the bridges for the future.
“They have to prepare young people for a learning society and embrace Education 3.0.”
The concept looks at the holistic approach to the transformation of the education system. Education exists in a digital universe and is infused in every aspect of society with every individual looking to innovate and grow intellectually.
“So it’s not about teaching traditional subjects... facts... facts... facts. They offer young people skills to succeed.”
The teacher is no longer the centre of attention with a student’s needs taking precedence.
“Instead of a single teacher in the front wagging a finger at 30 students behind desks, docile and well behaved, it has to be about kids sitting around a table, working on a complex problem with a multi-disciplinary approach, a bit of biology, mathematics and technology to solve it.”
Schools need to be equipped with a network and good bandwidth with access to mobile devices and laptops.
“We want to support education institutions with performance tools for online collaboration, manipulation of digital video and audio and, most importantly, a repository that allows viewing of content,” he said.
It needn’t take a full generation to bring about these changes, claims Stevenson. With the right building design, use of technology, better teacher recruitment and training and governance, the vision is attainable within the next three years.
“Education does not have to be different from any other sector.”
“Once the leaders know what to achieve, it can speed up the process and that is the final fundamental of Education 3.0.”
Case for wiring up schools The critical first step towards such a change begins with networking schools for access, connectivity and content, says Stevenson.
“There is a real interest in the use of technology in many schools in the UAE but I think they are not being put to more dynamic and exciting uses yet which will allow the young people to extend their learning,” he said.
“My impression is that many schools in the UAE have a very long way to go.”
Private education has taken much quicker strides towards a technology-based learning methodology with the implementation of information, communication and technology (ICT) programmes. Teaching is being complemented with smartboards, content creation and resource finding via Internet tools and better connectivity with students, parents and peers through collaborative platforms.
In public schools, teaching still remains more textbook driven, though the Ministry of Education is working towards a student-centred approach with the an overhaul of the system.
Racha Mourtada, research fellow at the Dubai School of Government, says the use of ICT is required in education to empower youth and enhance their employment opportunities and create an innovative society to boost the UAE’s competitiveness and economic growth.
In her policy brief on innovation culture for youth empowerment and the role of ICT, she recommends a national strategy for e-learning at the primary and secondary school levels.
“Such a strategy would guide the development of ICT infrastructure, tools and skills that allow youth to benefit from the many educational and creative uses of the Internet.
“It should focus on the integration of ICT tools and the Internet in the classroom and into the learning process from a young age.”
Internet connection prices for educational institutions and restrictions on ICT software like VoIP are roadblocks to the development of student skills as well.
The Cisco Learning Society Model was tested in New Orleans, New York, China and Mexico where, a combination of technology and school leadership helped transform the education scene.
After the Katrina hurricane, Cisco began working with the disadvantaged areas of Louisiana and found students scoring higher at all levels and grades than in the rest of the state.
In their work with New York schools, the curriculum for an entire year was replaced and dedicated to solving six complex problems using different technological devices and content from the Internet. They also introduced new forms of assessment to test individual learning capabilities. The module will be used in 1,600 schools in New York.
The Cambridge International School in Dubai runs the Cisco Networking Academy where students are taught higher-level practical skills like how to assemble, disable and troubleshoot on different devices. Certified instructors run programmes in ways to set up networks for home or small enterprises for senior students after school hours.
Sabah Adnan, strategic director of innovation and technology at the school, said the curriculum does not tap the full potential of the students.
“Students are digital natives and know so much but their regular course touches very briefly on IT-related topics,” she said.
“The Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing & Switching programme is part of many university degrees as well, so this is beneficial.”
More than 75 students of the school have graduated from the programme. This year, the school also became a member of the Microsoft IT Academy and the e-learning programme, giving students the opportunity to gain a digital learning certification.
In Ras Al Khaimah public schools, Anna Batchelde, CEO and founder of Bon Education trains middle school teachers to use technology and social media tools in their classes and noticed that its implementation motivated students to learn.
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