Teachers and the learning curve for the digital future

Digital skills are no longer an afterthought, especially in the new normal.
Digital skills are no longer an afterthought, especially in the new normal.

Dubai - 'Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world'

By Vishnu Taimni

Published: Thu 15 Jul 2021, 2:37 PM

Last updated: Thu 15 Jul 2021, 2:40 PM

When the pandemic shook the world's economies and society as a whole, the most difficult task was figuring out how to adapt. Schools around the Middle East were forced to close and, as a result, they had to immediately implement distant learning ways to educate students. Teachers, on the other hand, had to adjust to the unexpected change in their regular approaches. Where technology was accessible, teachers typically felt unprepared to conduct lectures digitally, despite having adequate access to devices and internet. That's because, prior to Covid-19, it wasn't a required talent — it was merely a "good to have" complement to core subject matter knowledge and traditional pedagogy. As a result, digital skills are no longer an afterthought. They were called upon during the pandemic's peak and will be called upon again in the future. While attempts are still being made to close the digital divide, teachers' capacity to operate in a digital world is critical.

There are efforts underway to provide young people with improved learning possibilities and to give instructors the confidence they need to flourish in the classroom utilising digital technology. For example, Unesco formed the Covid-19 Global Education Coalition in March 2020, a multi-sector partnership aimed at achieving the global education target (SDG4). The programme calls for equal access to high-quality basic and secondary education, as well as further technical and vocational training possibilities.

An 'Idea' to innovate

Many additional organisations and countries are either participating in or supplementing these schemes with their own initiatives. HP, for one, has pledged to accelerate digital equity for 150 million people by 2030, with an emphasis on enhancing access to hardware, connection, content and digital literacy, allowing more people to realise their full potential. The HP Innovation and Digital Education Academy (Idea) initiative is linked to this. The initiative, which was launched in the UAE in September 2020 in collaboration with Mirai Partners and Intel, aims to improve educators' digital capability and innovation capacity so that they can provide classes across linked platforms for an increasingly connected society.

The educators are ecstatic to be a part of the programme, which will allow them to learn from well-known industry figures. Skills conferences, weekly innovation sessions, mentorship, and inspiration calls are all part of HP Idea, which works toward the SDG4 goals. It is currently operational in ten countries across the Middle East and Africa, with the objective of graduating 30,000 teachers in the next three years. So far, almost 400,000 kids have benefited from the initiative in a cascading manner.

Better approaches

The initiative isn't a course that teaches educators how to use computers; it's a programme that empowers them to experiment with new ways of delivering education now and in the future. By ensuring that digital technologies do not get in the way of teachers' curriculums and techniques, we hope to give them a revitalised feeling of purpose and zeal for their profession. As a result, there are no boundaries to how far the program can expand in terms of scale or geography.

So far, the response has been overwhelmingly good. Teachers are energised, challenged, and, most importantly, they believe they have the resources to try new things in the classroom in order to teach their students in an interesting manner. It has given them a sense of accomplishment and is assisting in the development of children's and young people's imaginations.

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela. It's also the most valuable gift we can bestow on the next generation of leaders and innovators. Not only do we need to enhance and polish our tools to get there, but we also need to develop and refine our approaches. The classroom is transitioning from a physical location to a hybrid model. As a result, both students and teachers must be prepared to learn and teach any place, and to do it in a creative and inventive manner.

The writer is managing director for HP Middle East, Turkey and East Africa. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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