x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Technology 'integral to life'

With supervision, gadgets can assist in better learning.

Eleven-year-old Josie Proto uses an IPad as part of her classroom activities at the GEMS Royal Dubai School in Dubai.
Eleven-year-old Josie Proto uses an IPad as part of her classroom activities at the GEMS Royal Dubai School in Dubai.

DUBAI // The idea of looking up an unknown word in a bulky dictionary seems pretty silly to 11-year-old Josie Proto. Using Google is so much faster.

And, to boot, she gets an encyclopaedia of related information on the word she is searching for at the same time.

"If we are sitting in a storytelling class at school and do not understand something, we immediately get out our iPads or laptops to find out more," said the Year 6 pupil from GEMS Royal Dubai School (RDS).

Her school is among the few that allow pupils to bring their gadgets to class for educational purposes.

Josie, who has her own iPod and laptop, uses technology to give a creative twist to her assignments by making videos and presentations. But she knows her every move is being watched and she has to be mindful of cyber ethics.

"We have to have a balance and we have classes where we are taught how to blog and what not to blog, what sites are good for us, how to avoid strangers online and [how to] report any abusive behaviour," she said.

Philip Redhead, the director of curriculum development and innovation at the school, said preventing pupils from using technology on campus was no longer an option. "It is an integral part of their life and that should be used to encourage them to create, innovate and collaborate."

He said pupils are also taught to be responsible individuals while using technology. "Children chose when to use the device to meet their learning objective," he said. "But even if they want to use an application they have to justify the need to their teacher first."

The school has introduced rules to guide pupils in staying safe online: they are told not to give out personal details, avoid meeting anyone they befriend online, reject emails and messages from unknown individuals and report suspicious behaviour.

At home, Josie's mother monitors her browsing activities. "When mum thinks we have had too much time on the laptop she does not allow us to use it anymore," said Josie.

Children need know their boundaries while using technology, explains mum Michele.

"Josie is not allowed on Facebook because she is really young and will not be able to handle the safety issues that crop up on social networking sites yet," she says. "I also have the administrator password to her laptop so am aware of what she downloads and how long she spends on each website."

She said parents must also keep abreast of the latest applications and programmes to keep their children out of trouble. "I was wary about it in the beginning because I did not understand it myself," says Mrs Proto. "But now I know how to use the different social networking sites and so I understand what they are doing and it allows me to ensure there is a balance."