x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Technology is key in modern classroom, UAE educators say

Higher Colleges of Technology students participate in paperless classroom project.

Higher Colleges of Technology students at the school’s campus in Ruwais. Last year, 6,200 students from the colleges were given iPads in a paperless classroom experiment which had positive results. Silvia Razgova / The National
Higher Colleges of Technology students at the school’s campus in Ruwais. Last year, 6,200 students from the colleges were given iPads in a paperless classroom experiment which had positive results. Silvia Razgova / The National

DUBAI // Technology must be taken advantage of in the modern classroom, education experts agreed, but teachers are still the most important aspect of learning development.

Last year 6,200 students at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) were given iPads to help them improve their English skills. The paperless classroom project also attracted 320 teachers.

“The use of the iPads created a positive attitude to learning and had a clear positive impact on the students’ language development,” said Dr Christina Gitsaki from the HCT. “Most of the students were using the devices all day, they were using them out of class to do homework.”

Dr Gitsaki was speaking at the Gulf Education Supplies and Solutions (Gess) exhibition in Dubai.

More than 80 per cent of the students in the paperless classroom project said the iPad had a positive effect on learning English and that it helped their reading and writing skills.

“From our student survey we also found that the teacher was still the top motivator in the classroom,” said Dr Gitsaki.

Many of the students attributed their improvement to the support of their teacher and their willingness to embrace the use of the devices.

The course exam was based on three HCT-made tests and a fourth from the International English Language Test System (IELTS).

“The highest-scoring students were the ones who used the iPads,” Dr Gitsaki said. “The results showed that students who use the iPads for four or more activities had significant improvement on their IELTS score.”

However, she said there was still a gap between learning in class and the assessment system.

“We need to find a better way to measure their learning on digital devices. These exams are still in pen and paper and the students are using touch screens to learn.”

“You need to give the student ownership of their learning material,” said Gary Henderson of SSAT Middle East an educational consultancy company.

“They need to be able to determine when, where, what and how to learn. Provide the content and let them learn in their own time, then have them use the time in class with the teacher to discuss what they’ve learned. That is how to personalise education.”

Mr Henderson suggested students be allowed to bring their own devices to school.

“Should we be worried about students relying too much on technology when the adults teaching them are already reliant on technology?” he asked. “These devices allow them to be more creative, be it through games, making presentations, or even coming up with solutions for real-world problems.”

He added that schools really don’t have a choice. Students will still bring the devices with them anyway and it would be better to teach them how to use them effectively.

The Arab Bureau for Education in the Gulf States (Abegs), and International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE), jointly announced a new programme that will prepare educator-mentors in the Arabian Gulf states. The programme is designed to provide sustainable support and training to classroom teachers on the effective use of technology and digital resources for learning.

“Teachers are the focus of our work,” said Dr Ali Alkarni, director general of Abegs.

“Investing in technology will not enhance learning unless teachers are equipped with pedagogical skills so that they can meaningfully integrate technology into instructional strategies in their classrooms. We believe ISTE is in the best position to help deliver this vision.”

Beginning in 2014, ISTE faculty will lead two, three-day workshops for the Gulf region, followed by virtual professional development.

Those taking part will demonstrate their learning through assessments to earn an Abegs and ISTE Standards Coaching Certificate, qualifying them to facilitate the ISTE Standards Teacher Training programmes in their home countries or regions.

malkhan@thenational.ae