Teach UAE Magazine sat down with Professor Christopher Abraham to discuss his thoughts on The Future of Learning. Professor Abraham is currently the Head of Dubai Campus, Senior Vice President of Institutional Development and Professor of Leadership and Behaviour at the SP Jain School of Global Management. He has presented at numerous conferences including the International and Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF). Below are a few areas that are beneficial to educators who want to keep abreast of new technologies, potential challenges and how these can be addressed.
Share with us some of your thoughts on the future of learning.
“Prediction is very difficult especially if it’s about the future.” – Niels Bohr
Over the years, many industries worldwide have taken giant leaps. Education, ironically, has been pretty slow when it comes to adapting to the future. In the last ten to fifteen years, there have been some dramatic changes in the ways people learn and the way in which organisations have embraced technology. My interest is on the future of learning, the neuroscience of learning and the future technology platforms that can enable learning. An important question is, will the future of learning be different from how it was in the past, what are the platforms/ technologies that will enable the future of learning? One should look at the individual and his/her perspective of the future of learning, as well as, the technology that can facilitate learning today from any part of the world. This includes potentially a remote, inaccessible place, which does not have a school but has a laptop and Internet connectivity. Integrate that into how the human brain understands and perceives learning.
How has technology been used to promote smarter learners in the UAE?
The biggest advantage of the UAE is its global diversity. Another advantage is its quick adaptation to technologies. Global diversity brings with it a choice of different educational systems. Each system has its own curriculum, ways of teaching and its own mix of students. The pace of technology adaptation or adoption has been pretty fast in the UAE. Many schools have already integrated the use of iPads into the learning system. Today, iPads are viewed as a platform for enhancing learning.
A number of schools have integrated the use of technologies inclusive of video conferencing where, classes can be run simultaneously across several campuses in different locations. A teacher in Dubai can conduct a case discussion with students in Dubai, Singapore and Sydney at the same time. The only challenge would be the differences in time zones, which can also be overcome.
Another key area that a number of schools have been looking at is the integration of technology in a flipped classroom. In the flipped classroom, the learning videos where the teacher delivers content become homework. The classroom work becomes problem solving, critical thinking, case analysis, and situational discussions. This completely changes the way children learn. Children learn better when learning is fun. We’ve actually made education very boring. Education should be interesting and exciting. The UAE has a very forward thinking philosophy and is already taking advantage of the new models that are evolving in education, in many schools across the region.
What are two challenges that may hinder implementing new technologies?
A lot of the new technological platforms require Internet bandwidth. The speed and the cost of Internet are on the higher side in this region. The future is going to be Internet enabled learning platforms. If these issues were to be addressed then that challenge would be subsequently minimised.
The other challenge is perceptual. In the initial stages of introducing iPads into the schools, many parents believed it would be a distraction. Additionally, some teachers and even students also had perceptual biases. Teachers who are not conversant with technology fear promoting it because they have a Luddite mind set. When the proper use of technology, teacher training and perceptual challenges are addressed adequately, then this challenge will also be minimised.