x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pupils left to own devices

The pupils from six government schools in the capital are part of a new high-tech classroom project.

ADEC launched its iClass pilot project across six public schools in Abu Dhabi.  Students will use iPads, high tech white boards, laptops and other multimedia tools in their learning process.
ADEC launched its iClass pilot project across six public schools in Abu Dhabi. Students will use iPads, high tech white boards, laptops and other multimedia tools in their learning process.

ABU DHABI // More than 300 pupils in government schools will learn their multiplication tables with an iPad game and take lessons through video chat.

iClass, the technology-driven classroom project announced by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) in September, will allow Grade 3 and 4 pupils in six government schools to learn with touch-pads, multi-touch tables, digital slates and 3D software every day.

"This is a shift from books being the only source of information," said Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, director general of Adec. "Teachers will have to use all methods for pupils to become active learners."

In a display of a connected classroom yesterday, Hamdan Khalfan, 9, from Al Ameen School, raced against the clock to solve as many maths questions loaded on his iPad as possible.

His schoolmates waved to pupils at Al Marfa School through video conferencing.

To ensure the iPads do not get lost, damaged or misused, the children will leave them to be recharged every night at school.

Al Ameen and Mubarak bin Mohammed School in Abu Dhabi, Al Marfa and Al Siddique School in the Western Region, and Amro Bin Al Aas and Al Raqiah School in Al Ain were selected for the pilot project. Adec aims to gradually roll out the initiative to all government schools in the capital.

Richard Mehrer, the programme manager in the special projects division at Adec, said various providers including Microsoft, Smart Technologies and Acer were invited to set up the project.

"Children will take their digital slates to every class," Mr Mehrer said. "The schools also have learning resource centres where teachers can build their own material and teach certain topics on the smart boards and touch-tables."

The devices will be loaded with Arabic-language content being developed by the authority.

Officials said they had to create a school environment that emulated the one to which children were exposed at home.

"Pupils are constantly hooked on to more than one device all the time and we have to channel that power to make classes interesting," said Dr Al Khaili.

Dr Rafic Makki, director of the office of planning and strategic affairs at Adec, said school systems had not caught up with technology.

"Classes have become less relevant and attractive for children," Dr Makki said. "We want the iClass to provide a more student-centred education where they can, along with the teachers and parents, collaborate."

He said schools had the added responsibility of ensuring pupils made informed decisions.

"Children have easy access to good and bad information, so the teachers are responsible for steering pupils to the right information and knowledge," Dr Makki said.

Teachers can record their lectures and parents can monitor classes through live feeds.

aahmed@thenational.ae