“New technologies are a key to modern education in order to stay abreast of development trends. The world outside school has now changed. The technology has taken the center stage in education system. The goal of a new education system now is to make children innovative and creative.,” said Sheikh Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, UAE.
Technology in classrooms is the way forward for an innovative and futuristic tomorrow.
Midst rapid growth in EdTech and focus on curriculum changes, UAE is focussing on student well-being. An important part of the UAE’s Vision 2021 is “First-Rate Education” scheme, aimed to systematically revamp education in curriculum & professional development. The nation’s governing body dedicated over one-fifth of the federal budget to the education sector.
“Our economic growth depends on investing in education to build a knowledge-based society, and we have made massive strides for the children, women, and men of the UAE.” The comment shows the resolve of Minister for Education H.E Hussain Al Hammadi to encourage growth, predominantly through education and youth agility.
Of late, UAE has shown keen emphasis on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, especially with top recruiters in emirates emphasizing on technological know-how for the evolving job market. Heading forward with the change, government and private companies have tweaked their plans and are laying more focus on academic betterment, coupled with job-ready skills.
There’s a huge demand for e-learning and a heavy spending by the government to equip the schools and colleges with smart devices.
UAE’s investment in ICT and education technology grew to more than $15 billion (£12 billion) in 2014. The government will be spending Dh10 billion ($2.72 billion) on education through 2021. A significant part of this budget will be used to develop the IT infrastructure in Dubai schools. The education spend clearly shows that Emirates are unified in ambition and determination for robust growth.
The Ministry of Education’s 10-year development plan for 2010-20 aspires for top-quality curriculum, best pedagogical methods, improved student life, inexpensive education to inculcate national identity, social responsibilities, and moral values.
Education technology in UAE is on the ascent, thanks to private initiators allowing the inflow of innovation. Go-to School Program in the region is another step in the right direction. The program which takes Google Expeditions one step closer to Middle East schools is an initiative to promote technology in classrooms in the form of Virtual Reality education. Dubai became the first beneficiary of the program where teachers and students experience the immersive technology using VRXOne.
Better education outcomes are possible through a combined effort of the citizens, updation of teaching methods and judicious use of classroom technologies. UAE is an emerging hub for higher education & continues to be a trendsetter.
The notion of immersive experiences and barrier-free learning is formed of numerous building blocks. Important parts of this notion are EdTech and the technologies supporting it. When Virtual Reality expeditions were launched in the Google I/O 2015, people anxiously waited to try their hands on the much awaited VR experiences. Since then, more and more studies have established the power of immersion in VR.
What is the real value of VR for education? Well, the answer revolves around the benefits of this groundbreaking technology. When one dons a headset, all physical connections to the real world are suspended and a student is immersed in an engaging 3D scene.
Virtual Reality field trips have kicked off a big growth wave. Leading this drive of EdTech in Middle East is a Virtual Reality trainer and Women of Wearable’s President and Ambassador for the region, Dr. Sana Farid. A pioneer ARVR strategist in MENA, Dr. Sana is working to fulfill her long-term vision, i.e. to nurture an inclusive society with high education standards.
Under her leadership, Middle East region is witnessing the ‘Go-To School’ Program, a pioneer program reinforcing the idea of ‘one-on-one learning’. It is a tech awareness drive allowing the Middle East schools to experience demo Virtual Reality Expeditions with the Google-powered VRXOne. The demo sessions will teleport the students to interactive field trips. The engaging experience of these trips permits the students to leave the classroom periphery and learn through the tours of landmarks. Dr. Sana and her team are toiling relentlessly so that maximum students can reap exponential benefits from the engaging virtual experiences of VR.
Through her ongoing research and experience in EdTech, Dr. Sana understands the influence of reality technologies on student learning and pedagogical practices. The Go-To School program by her which kicked off in the last quarter of 2017 in Dubai has been acknowledged by all the participating schools. Teachers have reported visible signs of development in students, major improvement areas being ‘knowledge retention’ and ‘student engagement’. This is feasible through 100% engagement and attention capture which is possible through the high immersion in Virtual Reality.
Elaborating about her belief in the technology Dr. Sana says,”The world of VR is entertaining. We get that validation every day from students we meet in different schools. The amusement and excitement they show towards field trips make us more optimistic about VR. It can transmute a simple classroom into a fun-filled & productive classroom where every student thrives. The program is receiving great response from kids, and their teachers who see a notable improvement in their students’ learning graph.”
The Go To School Program is pronounced to be one of the foremost large-scale programs in the region for EdTech. The program spreads a clear message that the implementation of Virtual Reality in classroom is now possible and very much realistic.
If it’s been long while you’ve had a tete-a-tete with science, this might just be the perfect time. A time when technology seeks wider scope than ever. Often perceived as entirely discrete, Technology and Humanities have only walked hand in hand. With grand new pronouncements and evidences of application, new innovations are vying for your attention.
But there’s something that doesn’t have to.
Every big economy has allocated a special budget to it. Mars Mission is in vogue.
The latest development comes from UAE where the government seeks talent acquisition through its Space Settlement Challenge. The Space Settlement Challenge looks for ‘innovative high-risk, high-reward projects that would be difficult to fund otherwise’. While this might seem to be an uncanny description to many, it actually speaks volumes about UAE government’s penchant for innovative ideas.
The Mission sparks an encouraging renaissance in the already confident space program by UAE.
Noah Raford will oversee the challenge and is also currently serving as the chief operating officer and futurist-in-chief at the Dubai Future Foundation. The far-fetched vision behind the program becomes evident when Noah describes the country’s keen-eyed aspirations:
“It’s not just engineering solutions. We’re looking for social scientists, designers, and artists to tackle not just the infrastructural issues around space settlement, but also the business models that are going to help us get off planet.”
The UAE government has planned for the Mars spacecraft to arrive on the planet’s surface in 2021. The year has been strategically planned to coincide with the country’s 50th foundation anniversary. The mission is thoughtfully named’ Hope’ – inducing optimism for a new place for human life.
With such trumpeting missions and the ongoing hustle for space projects, it now seems that a common man can ‘practically’ start wondering about how life on the Mars would be. Interestingly, UAE has also confirmed that it aspires to create a colony on the Red Planet by 2117.
But maybe we don’t have to wait that long.
Perhaps we don’t have to fantasize this scenario since many schools kids are actually living it!
Maybe we should explain.
We’re talking about the Google Expeditions and its highly popular field trip to Mars. When we reflect on the idea of Mars mission, it would be a sin to skip mentioning the pioneering efforts by Google to bring Mars in the classroom.
Students worldwide are using cardboard to tour Mars through Virtual Reality. This particular field trip was a strong bet by Google in mainstreaming VR and inducing enthusiasm in kids towards space. The trip shows the terrain on Mars in real depth. The rocks and cliffs are projected out towards the user. The shadows over the surface make the interface even more realistic.
Students who have experienced a trip to Mars by means of Virtual Reality talk eagerly about their experiences. Their young minds are swayed as they walk on Mars, tilt their heads, and examine the space around.
Education is the ‘tipping point’ that will make Virtual Reality a rage amongst the masses.
Interestingly, Middle East is recently witnessing staggering advancements in the development of autonomous technologies.
A fair share of this progression is attributed to Google & its efforts in deepening the roots of wearable technology in the region. The tech giant is offering field trips in the ME with the Virtual Reality kit VRXOne.
Google’s Middle East partner for field trips, Munfarid goes on to stress the effect of VR with a ‘go to school program’ – a VR awareness program aspiring to demonstrate 1 million expeditions in the Middle East. Amongst the many field trips being shown through this ongoing program, the ones that are fondly reviewed by the students are of Mars and Antarctica. While this VR trip enhances the students’ curiosity towards space, it also generates a will for them to take up astro-science as an option.
It won’t be wrong to make this statement. Mars mission has taken the world by storm. Also, it has given the hope of stepping on a new celestial body other than the moon.
So is there long time ahead when we’d actually step on the Mars?
Sure. But have we already progressed enough to virtually step on it? Absolutely!