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Innovation and collaboration in Dubai’s schools were the buzzwords of the day when teachers and top educators gathered for the second What Works of the academic year, What Works Makers.

What Works – the education event organised by schools for schools – saw more than 600 teachers, school leaders and educators from all subjects from private schools in Dubai gather at Emirates Aviation University in Dubai International Academic City for a day that focused on making and ways to create something out of nothing or very little.

The theme highlighted how schools in Dubai are already creating a far more advance type of maker when students’ demonstrated their skills in coding, embedded electronics, design and all things computer-related. It was evident however that the theme of making in schools is of increasing significance to student learning across all subjects when an impressive line-up of prominent guests from very different backgrounds took to the stage.

The first talk of the day came from John Kao, who is also known as ‘Mr. Creativity’ and ‘Innovation Maven’ through his work as a Harvard Business School Professor, a Hollywood movie producer, and a best-selling author. Most recently, he founded EdgeMakers, an organisation that empowers young people to become innovators and to step outside of their comfort zones. Enthusiastic students were able to experience Kao’s EdgeMaker approach first hand at What Works and were fascinated to hear the activists’ thoughts and predictions for the impact of the ‘age of innovation and creativity’ in their schools.

Also drawing a crowd was teenaged Emirati baker, Bader Najeeb, one of the most successful and celebrated young culinary faces in the region.  His motivational presentation to the What Works audience demonstrated exactly the creativity and confidence needed to become a young and inspirational self-made maker.

Mouza Al-Suwaidi, Chief of Engagement at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), explained: “Anyone can be considered a maker if they are creating something from an idea and little else. Although today’s makers primarily focus on computer-related design, technology can be applied across all school subjects and the making theme is of particular prominence in Dubai’s learning community as schools continue to work towards even more innovative ways to learn across all subjects to support the UAE National Innovation Strategy.”

On an international level, educators from Korea encouraged Dubai’s school leaders and top educators to think outside the box. The Lighthouse National Agenda workshop gave principals and educators the opportunity to understand how Korean students are able to achieve particularly high TIMSS and PISA results and, more importantly, to consider how such practices could apply to schools in Dubai.

The topic of innovation was an ideal fit for the all-new What Works for 2015/16. Each of the six events during the school year are now based on themes rather than subjects, making each What Works relevant to all teachers of students of all ages. This change means that every event is for every teacher. Not only that, the topic of each What Works in 2015/16 is based on ‘next practice’. This means that each session and workshop at every What Works brings to educators in Dubai the latest thinking and research to drive school improvement, encourage more learning and engagement and promote innovation.

Al-Suwaidi commented: “Today’s event has been attended by a variety of subject teachers and has shown that our schools are already full of makers. This is a great indication of the positive practice that is happening in schools in Dubai. Without makers, there would be no innovation and creativity.”

What Works visitors were also reminded about the popular Arabic language event, which has been added to the academic calendar. Living Arabic – an initiative of What Works – shares the best of what language teachers are doing to inspire the love of Arabic in their students. The second event of six, slated for this academic year, shines a light on how technology can enhance and support students’ learning of the Arabic language. Just as important, is how a digital approach to learning will help Arabic teachers to deliver lessons that give students exactly what they need and want.

Living Arabic takes place on selected Saturdays to all Arabic teachers in schools in Dubai, with the next event taking place 21 November at GEMS Winchester School Dubai.

The What Works movement of sharing positive practice in Dubai’s schools continues with What Works SteAm, taking place 18 January, 2016. This event is for all teachers who are integrating art and design into a number of school subjects – and motivating students to see old ideas in new ways.

To date, more than 15,000 teachers and principals have attended 19 What Works events over three years.