x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Educators wary of tech overload

Experts warn that over-dependence on technology could make students complacent.

Dubai // Experts warn that over-dependence on technology could make students complacent.

The Emirates Competitiveness Council and Ministry of Education hosted a conference yesterday at which educators from the UAE and abroad discussed the role of information technology (IT) in the learning process. 

While educators agreed IT was crucial, they warned that a balance was needed to minimise its adverse effects. 

"It is important that we give students the skills to interpret the information that is readily available to them through the internet so that they can use it creatively," said Baroness Susan Greenfield, a British researcher on brain physiology.  

She said a child's brain was vulnerable, and an overuse of technology, especially social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, could be damaging.

"It can lead to a shorter attention span, loss of creativity and even one's identity," she said.

Ali S Alkaabi, the dean's assistant for students affairs at UAE University, said technology needn't be used just because it is there. 

"It is required to meet international standards, but must be used wisely," he said.

"Rather than focusing on the use of technological tools, we have to work towards building student competency. Technology should not result in isolation of students, or cause a loss of identity and culture."

Mr Alkaabi said educators should develop their students' abilities to think and solve problems. 

Dr Chan Lee, a Korean expert on competency-based curricula, said several online resources could be used for continued learning among students. 

"There are cyber schools - virtual learning - where students can interact with students and teachers in different parts of the world, expanding their knowledge base," he said.

"Knowledge games and open sources like Wikipedia can be used as platforms to collaborate and create content."

Ms Greenfield said parents should be involved in monitoring the child's technology habits as well.

The ministry has been promoting the use of technology in teaching, and recently began upgrading public schools with the free WiFi connections and equipment this year. 

Shaikha al Shamsi, the deputy executive director for Educational Affairs at the ministry, said they are working to redesign the curriculum to accommodate technology.

"This includes training the teachers for its optimum and appropriate use in lessons," she said.

aahmed@thenational.ae