UAE classrooms go from chalk board to smart board
Classroom designs have changed drastically over the last decade. Khaleej Times looks closely into the journey of how technology integrated itself into classrooms.
For 14-year-old Asma Hassan Al Suwaidi, the use of tablets in her classroom is definitely a boon. A student of Princess Haya bint Al Hussein Girls' School in Al Rashidiya, Asma is now a Grade 8 student and has been part of the Mohammed bin Rashid Smart Learning Program since she was in Grade 7.
"Homework has become easy. you can take the tablet anywhere you want and it is definitely easy to work on devices. It's fun too and team work has also been made easier," said Asma.From dingy portacabin classrooms and dusty chalkboards, the classroom has definitely evolved over the years in the UAE. Asma and her classmates Maitha Nasser (14), Alia Ahmed (14), Meera Khalifa (14), and Aisha Jamal (14) have now completely integrated themselves into an environment where smart learning is the norm. "We started using this in our classrooms from Grade 7. Now it's the best way to learn," said Aisha.
Integrating technology classes in schools are more than just one-hour computer classes and teaching pupils certain softwares. Fortunately, schools in the UAE have fully adopted the use of devices in the classroom, in both the public and private sector schools. The Mohammed bin Rashid Smart Learning Program (MBRSLP) is a classic example of use of technology in classrooms.
The Program started in 2012 with its Pilot Phase, which took place in 14 government schools involving Grade 7 students. Phase I of the Program covered 123 schools and fully implemented Smart Learning techniques with 11,000 students in the 2013/14 school year. Phase II of the Program included 25,000 students from Grade 7 and 8 during the 2014/15 academic year, as well as Pilot Phase for Grade 9 students.
How program engages
To date, the program includes 208 schools, 5,295 teachers and 34,513 students across the UAE. As the Program progresses, regular updates of all its elements including technology devices, teaching methodologies and supporting platforms will be made available.
"As teachers we want to improve the learning outcomes of our students while at the same time expanding our own skills to significantly impact student achievement and empower them to become the UAE's future leaders. The Program has been instrumental in ensuring that our students are focused, engaged and excited about learning. Through the effective and innovative use of technology, we have seen an increase in student engagement and it has had an overall positive impact on student learning," said Maryam Al Hattawi, Principal of Marya Al Qubtya School for Girls.
In the private sector, schools (both teachers and students) are using extremely interactive hardware and software inside and outside the classroom.
Last year, GEMS Wellington Academy - Dubai Silicon Oasis formed an innovative partnership with Pamoja, the only provider of online International Baccalaureate Diploma Programmes. Students have the option of studying each programme online, face to face or within a blended model, and this freedom has resulted not only in improved outcomes, but has also provided learners with more time to pursue other interests in the arts and sport.
How it helps
Students have reported that the programme is helping them to become more disciplined, as they take ownership of their learning and are visibly accountable for completing the work on time and to a high standard. Lead teacher, Catherine Brandt, GEMS Wellington Academy - Dubai Silicon Oasis said: "Even though I no longer teach the students in the traditional sense, my knowledge of their progress and achievement has been significantly increased by the smart data analytics available. These have enhanced my ability to make effective interventions whenever necessary ... I now know my students better than at any point in my career."
Asha Alexander, Principal of The Kindergarten Starters - Dubai said: "Technology has played a critical role in how we have developed and implemented our curriculum, incorporating within it the STEM principles (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) that truly enhance creativity and innovation and are transforming both learning and teaching for all of our children."
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