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iPads in the classroom—naughty or nice?

iPads in the classroom—naughty or nice?

With Abu Dhabi classrooms going high-tech Eva Fernandes can’t help wonder whether it is the medium or the message that needs the overhaul.

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September 7, 2011 2:46 by



When I went to school, our teachers hated mobile phones with an incomprehensible passion. You must keep in mind that the mobile technology we enjoyed at the time was still in its infancy; far, far removed from their highly evolved smarter cousins of today.

Back then, there was little you could do with those monochrome mono-toned 32kb-sized chunky devices other than make phone calls and text the lucky few who owned other such contraptions. So you see, mobile phones were hardly disruptive because they truly did lack the vast array of distractions iPhones and the Blackberrys possess for students of today.

Nonetheless, if a teacher so much as spotted a silent mobile phone peeping out of a fellow student’s pocket, you would be sure a visit to the principal’s office and a call to your parents wouldn’t be so far away. “The mobile phone had no place in a school ground” they reprimanded us. Then again, mobile phones were not the only forms of technology that the faculty detested. I remember one teacher who insisted that every assignment must be penned down; God forbid you used a Word Processor or even, gasp, attempted to send her your work from your embarrassingly named hotmail address.

In retrospect, their reactions seem normal. That educational institutes and their patrons are staunchly loyal to the traditional or conventional teaching medium and methods is an almost inevitable fact of life, just like inertia. Which is why, I am genuinely impressed by the way in which the UAE constantly embraces the latest in technology: from non-educational spheres like the Salik toll gates, the metro cards and now even adapting technology in the classroom.

Take for instance the iClass initiative which was part of Abu Dhabi Education Council’s (Adec) New School Model launched last year. The iClass initiative will see students in grades three and four at eight government schools in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Garbia use iPads and laptops on a regular basis—the iPads will come replete with Arabic-language apps loaded by ADEC. As part of the multimedia-focused approach to their education, the iClass will require students to complete assignments in Arabic and English for subjects like mathematics and science. The iClass comes with all the trimmings including an interactive blackboards and tabletop touch screens.

TRIAL AND ERROR

Of course, this is all in its trial and error phase, and Adec intends on rolling out the scheme to all public schools within a year or so. For their part, Adec is definitely putting their money where their mouth is: since last year, the body has undertaken a Dh350 million upgrade of the IT infrastructure at government schools. As of now, over 150 such schools have been fitted with wireless internet.

Coming from an educational background which resented technology, to see Adec embrace the internet, iPads and laptops is refreshing to say the least. Providing the youth with the latest and flashiest toys Apple can provide certainly goes a long way in making education relevant and fun; but I can’t help but wonder if this is indeed the particular form of assistance the public school system in the UAE are in need of right now?

GOOD TECHNOLOGY, BAD BEHAVIOUR

Consider the findings of a survey of 5,000 teachers, carried out by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) this summer:  76.3 per cent of public school teachers said they were unhappy with behaviour in the classroom. What’s more the public school teachers said “apathy was widespread among pupils and needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

A former teacher at a public school in Abu Dhabi who wished not to be named told The National the absence of parental co-operation and unruly pupils ultimately drove her to…

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