Expert advice on the benefits of using technology in UAE classrooms

Is technology the future of education?

Expert advice on the benefits of using technology in UAE classrooms

From suggesting what you watch on Netflix to who you follow on Twitter, artificial intelligence (AI) is already an ever present feature in our lives. But what are the implications of using this technology in the teaching of our children?

“The global education landscape is fast evolving” says Emma Whale, Vice President – Schools, Pearson Middle East. “There’s an increased emphasis on going beyond the school curriculum to prepare students for higher education and employment, so schools across the UAE and globally are innovating their approach to curriculum content and delivery.”

Whale says that the digital revolution is now all around us. “We predict that in about 20 years there will be at least 500 new jobs, which will demand new skills and values. Technical skills such as AI, business intelligence, data and marketing analytics, coding and programming will all be highly valued.”

However, is bringing more technology into the classroom to be welcomed when many parents already feel they’re fighting a losing battle over screen time?

Whale says: “We see the advancement of technology as a positive development.”

She adds that: “It has the potential for individuals to access a range of relevant, engaging and motivating educational programmes customised to their varying specific needs.”

According to the Pearson Global Learner Survey 2019, students believe that technology has the potential to increase accessibility to education and improve the overall learning experience. Three in four respondents said that AI could make a positive impact on education, helping it to be more engaging and providing more personalised content.

But we’re not about to see a robot replacing the teacher in class just yet.

“The majority of students and parents in the UAE still consider classroom and in-person teaching the preferred mode of learning,” Whale says. “As a result, we’re focused on developing holistic digital and blended learning experiences, incorporating both print and digital.”

So how might a greater use of technology affect the attention span of students and the ability of teachers to engage with them?

“The majority of parents and educators actually believe the perceived advantages of IT and technology outnumber the negatives,” Whale explains.

“Respondents to our survey agreed that digital channels, content and devices have the potential to improve learning outcomes and to better prepare students for any future challenges.”

She added that digital learning solutions allow educators to teach in a much more personalised and targeted manner, while also helping students to master all of the concepts being taught in the classroom.

“In addition, technology has also made it easier for teachers to engage students in learning, for example through innovative interactive content using things like video and quizzes.”

And with greater emphasis being placed on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) both in the UAE and globally, it would seem technology is only going to play a greater part in the school life of youngsters moving forward.

As Whale concludes the most highly valued jobs will be in IT, software engineering and business consultancy so technical skills in young people will be key.

“Recruiters will be looking for people who have a higher level of technical and socio-emotional skills for these positions,” Whale says.

“Bringing more tech into the classroom is actually making our students ready for the 21st century workplace.”

Seven ways to monitor technology use at home

- Limit screen time by setting a schedule and asking children to use their gadgets according to the prescribed timetable only.

- Activate Privacy Settings for different websites and platforms to keep a check on their online activities.

- Monitor and model your own technology habits. Set a good example for your kids by limiting your own technology use.

- Get them involved in other activities such as a productive board game or outdoor physical activity.

- Create tech-free zones such as “tech free” dinners, etc. which means that they won’t be allowed to use their gadgets during this time.

- Encourage face-to-face communication by interacting with your kids on a daily basis and listen to their thoughts, ideas and issues.

- Talk to them about internet safety and make them vigilant towards social media threats like cyber stalking.

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