Alvin Toffler defined change as “the process by which the future invades our lives.” Today, this definition reinforces itself as we witness the impact of the mobile revolution in education and in our daily lives. The emergence and rapid adoption of new and innovative methods of teaching and learning through the use of tablets, especially iPads, as well as other mobile devices, is creating a new paradigm in education. While the debate continues as to whether these mobile devices can provide as comprehensive an experience as Computers or Laptops, all UAE Higher Education Federal Institutes have embraced iPads for their Foundation programs. The mobile learning initiative is creating an interplay between Pedagogy, Technology and Content, and is transforming teaching and learning environments. An early indication of the initiative’s success is demonstrated by the increased adoption of Challenge Based Learning and Flipped Classrooms among teachers. The mobile journey has begun and its impact can be felt as you read through the journal. This year’s edition includes articles and education technology reviews that reflect the changing technological landscape amongst teaching and learning communities worldwide.
Here is a high level summary of the articles as they appear in the journal.
1) Educational technology facilitates collaboration and sharing of teaching and learning materials among educators. Millions of students around the world are benefitting from the variety of Open Courseware initiatives like MOOCs (massive online open courses) and other Open Educational Resources (OER). OERs are at an infancy stage in the middle-east region but a sound educator base, motivating leadership and favorable government policies will help in creating a strong culture of collaboration and sharing. Don, in “Mobilizing Open Educational Resources in the UAE and GCC States : A premiere of Universities” provides a comprehensive study of OERs and clarifies some common misconceptions about them. The article will provide readers with an understanding of effective utilization of OERs and will motivate them to contribute towards a regional initiative.
2) Assessment Rubrics set the expectations of learning tasks for students and play a critical role in improving their academic performance. They primarily help in standardizing the evaluation process and in making the assessment criteria explicit to students. However, the use of Rubrics goes beyond assessment. Sheri, in the article “For the Love of Rubrics: Using Blackboard Learn to Guide and Grade in Higher Education” describes the potential of Rubrics in Education and shares her experience of using them as an evaluation and instructional tool within the Learning Management System.
3) iPad implementation has taken center-stage this year in the UAE and will impact around 14,000 students and 1000 teachers in the first stage of implementation. The integration of iPads with curriculum brings various constructive changes to the teaching and learning environment – from engaging students using innovative Apps to creation and management of digital assets. Barry, in the article “Using the iPad to Create a Paperless Cloud-based Learning Environment” draws attention towards sustainable ways of using iPads. He simplifies the adoption of iPads by providing solutions to the key challenges that every teacher will go through in this exciting year of technological transformation.
4) Cathy and Jace in “Fabrication Labs as Serious Playgrounds for Meaningful Learning” share a convincing proposal of Fab Lab implementation at the Higher Colleges of Technology, especially given the nature of the institution’s academic programs and graduate outcomes. Fab Labs stimulate innovation and critical thinking where students learn professional skills, from programming to model making. Fab Labs used to be facilities of expensive and complicated CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machines but thanks to innovative technology, they are now being transformed into simple, affordable and more effective learning areas. The Fabrication Lab concept can be utilized in multiple program areas by integrating operations like Library, Educational Technology and IT. Abu Dhabi Women’s College plans to implement the prototype of Fab Lab which may be the first of its kind in the UAE.
5) Virtual Worlds are immersive and engaging platforms that are effectively being used in education. The Higher Colleges of Technology is an early adopter of the platform and since 2005, even owns a virtual island in Second Life. In the article “Virtual Worlds: Promises and Pitfalls” Christine draws attention towards the usage of Virtual Worlds in education and the potential of being a cutting-edge technology. She also analyzes reasons of its slow initial adoption. The article includes a comprehensive study of the current day Virtual Worlds and will guide educators in selecting a suitable virtual platform as per the needs of their students.
6) Innovative technologies have influenced user behavior too. Present day learners own multiple smart devices and need information available at their fingertips irrespective of the device where the content was created. Cloud technologies have further simplified the problem of access. Evernote is a cloud- based tool for managing personal content which has become popular among teachers. Silvia, in “Evernote Helps Students Study Smarter, Not Harder” presents a concise teaching and learning model using Evernote. Interactions between teachers and students improve as they begin to use any and all devices for creating, sharing and accessing information.
7) Group & Project based learning are important skills for the 21st century learner. Teambox is one of the effective tools that helps in implementing project-based learning and provides mechanisms for students to remain connected and interact as a group. Damodharan, Tamilselvan and Priya in their article “Assessment Tools for Group Projects in Higher Education” explain about the ways of using the application with their students and the benefits that students reaped from the task based approach set in the Teambox environment.
8) It is encouraging to see teachers sharing their material on open websites and open courseware. Technologies are also evolving to further facilitate the process of public sharing. Platforms such as iTunesU and the latest release of Blackboard Learn have features of open as well as controlled access for students. However, only teachers know when and how to keep a balance between openness of the learning material and the controlled classroom activities like discussions and assessments. Mark and Sean in “Blending Open and Closed Learning Management Systems” provide a model of combining LMS and public websites for teaching and learning. The article contains a study from the Sharjah Colleges for selected Liberal Studies courses where learning content was made public on websites, but assessment items and discussions were delivered using the test environment of the pre-release of Blackboard 9.
9) Alfred’s article “Theory, Practice, and Implementation of Blogs for Teaching and Learning Business in a Middle East EFL Environment ” has two notable perspectives. First, the functional use of a blogging and commerce site by which the students at Fujairah Colleges acquired language as well as business skills; and second, the technical aspect of using open source software like WordPress for setting up the platform. Alfred has used ICT models and empirical data analysis to choose technical platforms for setting up the auction site. The article also contains technical tips on the process of creating a WordPress site for similar projects.
10) Learning Management Systems have transformed into open platform structures that allow teachers to integrate new sets of teaching and learning tools in online courses. This widens the scope of educational technology and provides students with fresh and interactive ways of engaging in an online environment. Mahalingam and Patrick in “Voki for Collaborative Learning” share their experience of using an Avatar-based Voice tool, Voki, in a Learning Management System to engage students. The article illustrates the step-by-step process of creating Voki Avatars and integrating them in online courses.
Overall, this year’s journal provides a comprehensive collage of various Educational Technologies. It suggests innovative ways of delivering instructions, engaging and assessing students, and building a strong teaching and learning community, ready to welcome the advent of mobile learning in the UAE. I hope our readers will once again find the publication useful and informative. I would like to thank all authors and editors for their intellectual contributions, making it another successful edition.
UAE Journal of Educational Technology and eLearning