What can you expect from EduEval in 2016?

EduEval has evolved over the years since its inception in 2010. We have enjoyed working closely with governments, private school operators, NGOs and corporate partners to help support evidence-informed decision making in the education sector. We are excited that we have been able to grow in the MENA region. Our growth is a recognition that there is a need for high quality consulting for all stakeholders who want better education for a knowledge-based society.

As we have grown, we do need to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of the community that engages with us. So we have made a few changes and we are working on a few exciting internal projects to share with you.
So what can you expect from us in 2016? 
  1. We will be changing our name from EduEval Educational Consultancy to EduEval! This represents our organic growth as we have built several verticals where we will continue to promote the same level of excellence in evidence-informed decision making on a broader scale.
  2. We are working on a School Choice Guide for parents in Dubai. We have been approached by several parents and concerned stakeholders over the years. Parents who need help in understanding how to make the best decision for their child when it comes to choosing a private school in Dubai. This guide will be available soon – so keep your eyes on us.
  3. We will be publishing more on understanding the practical link between assessment for learning, the role of technology and promoting better teaching and learning. So follow us on twitter and you will notice more activity sharing relevant information about education.
  4. We will be directly engaging with communities to promote our new initiative: Industry Connect. This is a great series of programs that are being developed with corporate partners and schools to promote a greater link between the theoretical learning in schools and real-wold applications.
  5. We will continue our commitment to excellence by relying on assessment, monitoring, evaluation and research to make informed decisions that promote the best practices in education in the MENA region.
Thank you for all of your support over the years of our infancy. We appreciate all of our followers, our partners, our clients. We also appreciate the time from the students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and high level bureaucrats who have given us their trust and engaged with EduEval.
We have received many accolades and statements of gratitude from our stakeholders. Each of these positive reflections have meant a great deal to all of the professionals who have worked tirelessly to ensure a high quality service since we started this company.

From the EduEval family, we wish you a wonderful new year and lets make 2016 one where we can focus on cultivating motivated confident happy young independent 21st century learners.

Happy new year!

Sonia Ben Jaafar, PhD
Managing Director
EduEval Educational Consultancy
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Reflecting on Ed-Tech at the Digital Education Show Middle East

The Digital Education Show Middle East has been taking place at the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre this week. At the heart of the numerous exhibitors marketing their products and services is a conference program that boasts speakers such as Sugata Mitra and Ron Packard. Dr. Sugata is a 2013 TED Prize hole_in_the_wallwinner and professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK) well known for his educational research on the “Hole in the Wall” experiment promoting the notion of self-instruction and peer-peer knowledge building. Ron Packard is the CEO and Founder of K12 Inc., one of the largest education companies in the world with $1 billion revenue, who also shared his thoughts on the significance of technology in education.

As the event progressed and various experts, educationalists, and ed-tech leaders spoke about the trends and needs of ed-tech, it became obvious that the field is evolving from a product-based focus to a personalized learning focus. This might seem obvious to many educators, but was a shift for many educational decision makers from the region who talked about the costly mistakes of attending to infrastructure and hardware rather than ensuring responsive educational tools and content that directly respond to the professional and pedagogical needs of teachers and students.

At our overcrowded round table this week, we talked through the different opportunities for ed-tech to support the personalization of instruction using technology. For practical reasons we focused on mobile learning and learning analytics as illustrated in the figure below.

edtech

 

After insightful comments and questions from the classroom teachers, school leaders, developers, and government officials at the table, there were strong common messages that surfaced:

  1. The current integration of technology in the classroom lacks a holistic approach
  2. Teachers are struggling with the alignment of assessments given current instructional pathways facilitated by technology
  3. Teachers are struggling with balancing the personalization of instruction and learning with competing demands from stakeholders
  4. Software developers need to work more directly with educators to ensure their products are effective as measured by increased student engagement and learning
  5. The disparity between English and Arabic Ed-tech is widening because of the lack of high quality Arabic language ed-tech content for the teachers and students in the Middle East
  6. Parental engagement and support is critical to success because of the demands on the students to engage individually with the learning tools

 

0digitaleducationshowme2014webheader10002302In all of the discussions at the show, the idea of integrating technology into teaching and learning had less to do with the individual tools and more to do with the process of how the instruction would change to capitalize on those tools. It reflected the needs of students who are simply not excited about technology because it is not special to them because they are digital natives. As Sir Ken Robinson states:

I wasn’t very excited about electricity …. and our kids aren’t really that excited about a lot of the technology that excite adults, they simply take them for granted.

So as we move into this next generation of teaching and learning, with almost 70% of students in the region graduating feeling unprepared and over 60% of employers in the region telling us the students are not prepared for the workforce, how can we support the needs of the Middle East to ensure that Ed-tech supports today’s youth?iStock_000000239353Small_display

Teachers are Key to integrate ICT into classroom teaching and learning

 “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” – Roy Amara 

File:OLPC classroom teaching.JPG

In the 21st century, ICT & education seem to have been coupled. The pressure on teachers to use ICT in their classroom practice is mounting. The dollar investment from governments is sending the message that ICT needs to become a part of our classrooms! From The Mohammad Bin Rashid Smart Learning Program to Connect to Learn, the message is unified, teachers need to use ICT in their classes!

Although there is a lot of promise, the challenges that are associated with effective implementation of technology can surpass the excitement of the impact on teaching and learning. Many teachers, even when they envision the benefits of integrating technology in teaching and learning, dread using it and for good reason!

Many teachers do not know where to start as there are many possibilities and the choices are limitless.

With the introduction of ICT, teachers are no longer isolated and the four walls of their classroom dissolve. They are no longer the primary source of information and knowledge for their audience. Children with internet access can find information within seconds by using search engines or by simply exchanging ideas using social platforms. This 21st c. world has rendered the teacher as information pharmacist dolling out capsules of facts to be digested by kids, an idea of a distant and archaic past.

Prominent defining features of ICT in education are accessibility, mobility and flexibility.  These features are what differentiate teaching and learning in a technological age.  In order to maximize the effect of ICT on student’s achievement, there are a number of considerations when integrating technologies in the classroom.

  • A fundamental shift in the mind set of teachers

While everyone agree that integrating technology in teaching and learning will lend itself to a more student-centered approach, unfortunately many are still utilizing technology to replicate conventional educational models that do not engage students. sad face emoticon facebook

  • ICT integration should be linked to the teacher pedagogical beliefs

It has been argued that technology itself can neither be good nor bad and that it is how you use technology that matters (Bates 2005, Nichols 2005). For example, simulation and modeling are good example of how technology can help to explain abstract concepts in math, and how emails can be used to help in utilized in language acquisition and communication skills and how wikis and blogs are best suited for collaborative work.

  • Teachers need to acquire technological knowledge in addition to their content and pedagogical knowledge

The digital divide between teachers and students is sometimes night and day! Some Teachers are insecure about their technical knowledge and fear of loss of control of the education process. Helping to bridge the gap between the digital generations means supporting teachers to develop some critical skills to fit in the 21st c. educational paradigm. Teachers are still key players in this education paradigm and they need to acquire certain skills to make this transformation happen.

  • Teachers need to define the purpose for utilizing technological tools

Although this statement seems self-evident, in practice, the success of ICT integration in classroom is often measured by the presence of the hardware rather than the engagement and increased learning of students.  A great checklist for teachers to use in deciding when and why to integrate ICT in their teaching is from Sue Lyon-Jones which you can access by clicking here. Prior to just introducing a technology, teachers should be asking themselves:

  1. Will the technology be used to enhance and support learning?
  2. Will the technology be used to do something that could not be achieved otherwise?

    http://knowdoservelearn.org/tips.html

    Our quick think checklist will be published in the the April TIPS FOR AMERICAN CURRICULUM SCHOOLS

  3. How will the technology make this goal more achievable for the students? For the teacher?
  4. Etc….

Before introducing any ICT, teachers need to recognize that it is a tool – and only a tool! This fact necessarily means that it can be very helpful, useless, or a distracting element in the class depending on how, when and why it is used. ICT is not always the answer and teachers are the class-level educational leaders who need to think through the introduction of any tool as it relates to the learning objectives and their group of students.

GCC Focusing on Technology in Education

A flurry of vendors and educational provider were sharing ideas, buying and selling this week in Dubai at the Gulf Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS) exhibition and Global Education Forum (GEF). There was no doubt that the introduction and integration of technology dominated the educational souk this year. The opening session had GCC Ministers of Education sharing their kids-ipad-e1322566682803intentions for greater investment and attention to making sure all schools have technology. HE Humaid Al Qatami announced the expansion of the Mohammad Bin Rashed Smart Learning Programme in the UAE while Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al-Saud talked about the need to ensure the use of technology in schools was responsible to protect the youth of Saudi Arabia in these fast changing times.

Corporate ICT giants were there promoting the use of robots, tablets, online textbooks, simulations, gaming, and the list continues. The promise to educational providers was loud and clear: If you want to produce 21st century learners, these technologies need to be in your classrooms. Kids today are already using computers, tablets, Smartphones, etc. They know more about how to manipulate social media and access information than most adults. If a child is curious today, they will find the information they need online. So the education community needs to keep up – and they do this by making the leap and buying the hardware and software.

So what about the role of the teachers?

HE Dr. Madiha bint Ahmed Al Shibaniyah, Minister of Education in Oman, consistently attended to this point in the opening panel of GEF. Teachers are at the heart of learning and they will be the ones who create the opportunities to learn for students utilizing the technology in classrooms. They are the facilitators of learning. So it is the teachers who require support and training to enable them to readily guide this next generation in using the technology as a tool to develop the skills and knowledge to succeed.

This is a shared challenge with parents who find themselves at a loss wondering how to make the time their kids are connected on a devie more worthwhile? This parental concern is the motivating force behind groups like Technorati, hosting women bloggers (including former Silicon Valley Moms Group) that offers content about parenting in the digital age. Consider the latest post from Beth Blecherman, founder of TechMamas.com, asking:

Does Gamification Help Classroom Learning?

She offers strategies like using Minecraft to better understand Newton’s Law of Physics has been beneficial for her son. She promotes this use of a game because she has the immediate feedback from her own son. Notwithstanding this evidence in her home, she still asks the question of the utility of this approach in schools reflecting on the idea that it is only a tool.

She asks because she knows that it is HOW we use the tools to engage kids in learning that matters.

These mothers are asking the question that was markedly absent from the prevailing discourse at GESS:

What is the effect of these technologies on learning and achievement?

After several conversations with various vendors and operators at GESS, it seems that there is a minimal level of monitoring to determine teacher perception on using certain technologies like i-pads in their classrooms. The question of impact on student learning and achievement seems to fall silent under the roar of marketing promises and the demand for ICT classrooms.

I look forward to next year when vendors and operators will perhaps share evidence on how these investments have improved student success, as defined by student engagement, learning, and achievement.