Over the past decade, educators around the world have been questioning the benefits of enormous investments in information and communication technology (ICT) for schools. Schools invest in ICT with the aim to provide high-quality teaching and learning as a way to equip students for the knowledge society. The use of ICT is integral to good teaching practice in promoting students’ inquiry and research skills. Throughout Dubai, school access to ICT resources has been improved through the years. Interactive whiteboards and projectors in the classroom are commonplace, and teachers use video and other media as a routine part of their teaching. Even in schools where ICT portals and resources may be more limited, few teachers and their students are able to make creative use of ICT.
In this edition of KHDA Chatter, we illustrate how technology is used to support students’ learning in the classroom in three Dubai schools: GEMS Dubai American Academy; GEMS Modern Academy; and Kings School Nad Al Sheeba.
Dubai American Academy (DAA). DAA employs the Future Fluencies approach to ensure digital literacy throughout the curriculum. Lessons, units and extended projects are planned to meet objectives related to the following themes: Creative, Media, Collaboration, Information, Digital and Solution Fluencies. Student engagement is not just geared toward the development of technological skills, but also the mental and practical development necessary for adapting to any technological environment.
Students at DAA use technology in a myriad of ways. Kindergarten students learn to program Sphero robots to measure distances and create art projects. Middle and High School students engage in advanced robotics such as Hummingbird kits and Internet of Things sensor kits, as well as virtual reality and drones to create personal representations of their learning. Students of determination identified as struggling in math and literacy build skills through customized robotics and creative multimedia production program.
DAA prioritizes coding skills and advanced technology skills just as much as reading and writing skills. It is believed that mastery in the different competencies reinforce each other and enable students to become well-rounded. Student assessment at DAA is based on technology. The use of digital portfolios allow student to reflect on their learning journey and record key milestones.
Along with teachers, students at DAA are empowered to explore technologies and evaluate them as tools for learning. For example, both teachers and students evaluate DAA’s suite of educational apps on an ongoing basis to inform how to further modify the suite. Students are encouraged to research and select their own tools for innovation projects. They engage in an evaluation of the available technology and its affordances. DAA aims to encourage constructive conversations about the best uses of technology throughout the school and to ensure appropriate use.
GEMS Modern Academy (GEMS Modern). GEMS Modern is a school certified by Commonsense Media. The certification recognizes it culture of digital teaching and citizenship. This type of culture is foster through GEMS Modern’s adoption of the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model and the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) Framework to guide integration of technology into teaching and learning. The SAMR model and TPACK framework help teachers and staff at GEMS Modern to introduce technology effectively into classroom learning as the framework helps teachers and staff to understand the necessary conditions for effective technology integration in learning, and the SAMR model, helps them to focus on the optimal ways to implement technology into the classroom. Both methods are coupled with Bloom’s Taxonomy which classifies educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity.
From Kindergarten to Grade 2, students at GEMS Modern share tablet devices which contain teacher curated apps. These apps provide continuous opportunities to acquire fine motor skills. The Finch Robot, in conjunction with iPads, help students develop computational and robotics thinking. Students in Grade 3 and upwards are able to bring their own devices to use teacher curated apps and e-books. Classrooms are equipped with technology fostering collaborative learning among students. Students also use their devices at home for creating flipped learning content to reinforce classroom learning.
Current technologies at GEMS Modern that are used in the classroom include artificial reality and virtual reality for immersive learning opportunities; and collaborative platforms, such as Microsoft TEAMS and OneNote, which students use to maintain their e-portfolio and organize their own learning. The Budhayan Centre is the school’s multi-disciplinary lab which helps students to build prototypes and learn life skills through technology. Students regularly participate in app development and innovation competitions requiring the use of technology.
Kings School Nad Al Sheeba (Kings). Kings aims to promote essential learning and innovation skills to create a 21st century classroom through collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking, and problem solving. Technology plays a critical role in this at Kings. Teachers and staff seek to employ technology into a wide range of subject areas and year groups which identifying ways to encourage students to think critically, communicate with one another, collaborate as teams, and be creative with the use of technology. The development of a toolkit of apps, media and website resources are integral to this approach at Kings.
Kings ensures that Digital Leaders are in all classes to support technology in the classroom. Students commonly use Seesaw Digital Portfolio which showcases their learning to a wider audience.
Schools in Smart Dubai. The three schools featured here provide insight
into the overall approaches guiding technology integration into classroom
learning and the priority for students to develop 21st century
skills integral to building a knowledge society. Through the Smart Dubai 2021
strategy, Dubai aims to embrace future challenges through technological
advances that will benefit the city’s people and its economy and resources.
The schools of Dubai will need to maintain their focus on student development
through technology in order to prepare citizens and residents to sustain and
further develop Smart Dubai. “Smart Schools” can be building blocks to forming
the foundation for Smart Dubai.