Technology in… Education

With learning finally catching up to the craze for apps, technology is making quite rapid and radical changes to a pupil’s education

Though parents often bemoan their child being glued to an iPad at home, there have been proven benefits to letting pupils access this kind of technology in the name of learning.

Dr Christina Gitsaki is Associate Academic Dean of English at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Dubai, and a fierce advocate of ramping up technology in classrooms to get results.

In 2001, a website interviewed her about internet-based learning materials, and whether she thought it would be a trend in the upcoming years. She said: “We believe that the Internet is here to stay. It is not a fad and soon it will become even easier to access the Web.”

Nearly fifteen years later, Dr Gitsaki put her beliefs into practice. She gave over six thousand students at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Dubai iPads, with the understanding that they must be used to work on English proficiency. More than 80 percent of the students said that the iPad was enormously beneficial when it came to learning English, as well as assisting with their reading and writing skills.

As well as pupil appreciation, the informal study also found that students who used the iPads for four or more activities saw the most improvement on their IELTS score, which provides a profile of a candidate's ability to use English.

Teaching using technology has many different permutations. One is whereby the teacher “flips” the traditional learning model, assigning their class video lessons using YouTube or Vimeo and saving the classroom for group projects and individualised instruction. This means that a generalised address can be done over video, possibly with homework assigned on the content of the video to ensure pupils have watched it, and more specific problem-based learning can be saved for face-to-face contact.

Michael King, the vice president of IBM Global Education Industry, says that technology can be used to apply to measuring outcomes in education, with analytics used to identify students that are falling behind or might be at risk of not meeting grade objectives. “We can use those analytics to tailor personalised lesson plans to get them on track,” says King.

The challenge going forward in the next decade, says King, is to get teachers on board, increase funding, and generally make a concerted push to spread this way of thinking out on a global scale. As he says: “How do we scale those pockets of excellence to touch every child in every school?”