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|Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Learning Program
Al Nahda Rd, Near Al Qusais Metro Station
P.O.Box 3962 – Dubai
Where did the idea of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Learning Program (MBRSLP) originate from?
The MBRSLP was established in 2012 under the visionary leadership of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and subsequently the Program has been carried out by dedicated partners and stakeholders.
The Program aims to deliver a world class education through leading technology solutions to UAE’s youth in order to fuel higher academic achievement, excellence, innovation and creativity amongst students.
The MBRSLP is currently operating in 146 schools, reaching more than 24,000 students and more than 3,500 teachers.
What is smart learning?
Smart learning integrates technology into the classroom in order to help teachers and students learn and create content in a technology rich environment with opportunity to apply critical thinking. Based on this ethos, the MBRSLP aims to shape a new learning environment in government schools through the launch of “smart classes” that will provide every student with an electronic tablet and access to high-speed 4G networks by 2019.
Smart learning allows students to lead their own learning experience and empowers both students and teachers in education. The Program is the first to provide a comprehensive system for evaluating technology used in federal schools and aims to shape a new learning environment for students in the UAE.
What is the long term mission of the MBRSLP and the rationale behind it?
The Program is committed to elevating the UAE’s education system to meet international standards, while setting new precedents in terms of equitable access to a technology enabled education system. The MBRSLP empowers students to be active participants in their own learning process, building a sense of ownership, responsibility and innovation early on, to prepare them to become future leaders from the region, competing in global markets.
The Program equips students in the 21st century with the knowledge and skills needed to compete in today’s competitive market, acquire desired jobs and eventually set the benchmark on a global stage with the youth of other prosperous nations. Also, students in the UAE context will be able to develop their strengths and capabilities, while maintain cultural understanding of the region. Eventually, we believe that empowering individuals and giving each person the tools to grow will essentially drive our country forward to reach its highest potential.
What does a MBRSLP classroom look like?
The MBRSLP classroom is equipped with Wi-Fi internet connection. Teachers use large smart screens, similar to a flat screen computer monitor. Students use tablets with keyboards or laptops. Students are offered both hard copy curriculums, books for each subject, as well as digital curriculums. The seats and desks are arranged in circular formations to facilitate group discussions and brainstorming, encouraging peer learning rather than depending solely on teachers to lecture information and provide answers. Online portals allow students to interact amongst each other on assignments and with their teachers for extra questions outside of the classroom time.
Who are the main stakeholders of the MBRSLP?
The decree called for the formation of a team to drive the Program with representation from the Ministry of Education, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), and the Prime Minister’s Office. In addition, the Program is funded by the TRA’s Information & Communication Technology (ICT) Fund which will support the Program for the next five years to cover the rollout to all federal schools in 6 emirates of the UAE.
Our technology partners also play a crucial role in providing the software and the physical infrastructure to make our classrooms smart.
How do you measure the success of the Program?
We have different measurement tools that we use to assess the success of the Program in addition to setting achievable targets from the onset. We conduct a large number of surveys, nearly 7 so far, while keeping in mind that true results of the Program will materialize over time. This is a long term process and will require a generation of students who have used the Program for several years to gauge its true success down the road, when comparing that cohort of students to those from the same grades who studied in regular classrooms using traditional tools.
However, based on evidence from our students’ contribution to our platform, through the amount of data that they share with us, there is clear evidence of the positive impact the Program is having on them and just how quickly students and teachers have embraced the Program. We have received video testimonials from many students and teachers showing how the Program is changing their lives on a daily basis including one particularly moving video from one of our special needs students on how technology is helping her overcome her handicap. Check some of the videos in Our Featured Stories page
Overall, students have reported more ease in learning subjects using the MBRSLP tools, are enjoying the learning process more and are scoring higher grades in subjects they felt weak in formerly before they participated in the Program.
Have you had any resistance from the teachers on this new teaching methodology?
Contrary to some doubts, new and more experienced teachers responded positively to the Program after observing its first roll out phase. There will always be challenges and the Program is made to be malleable enough to continually renew itself and adopt changes based on feedback from all stakeholders. It is about personal perception of how one embraces change and what the individual does about it. The majority of teachers embraced the change. We did not impose the change on the teachers, we made them part of it. We invited them to awareness lectures before they went through extensive training for a full five weeks. We listened to their concerns. By the end of Phase I, teachers are eagerly waiting for their turn to receive the training and join the MBRSLP within their school after seeing how it has helped improved the experience for neighboring classrooms.
Below are samples of teachers’ answers in a survey about MBRSLP:
Who helps the teachers and students when they have a technical difficulty or need help using a device?
Adoption experts from the MBRSLP are present in each school during school hours to address any student or teacher queries. Also, a hotline (800757) is available to students, teachers, parents and educators 24 hours a day to handle queries.
The teacher training sessions are not time limited and we welcome teachers to come to us if they ever need a refresher course or to improve their skills.
Are children protected from unsafe or unsuitable content on the internet?
Yes, the internet available in the classrooms is restricted and prevents them from logging onto inappropriate sites or accessing unsuitable pages. We have also set up an Innovation Forum with the Ministry of Education to oversee the Program, address concerns, and enrich the Program with current innovations, ensuring that we have the most up to date e-security technologies and procedures in place.
Are you encouraging a generation of tech addicts?
We do not believe that there is such a concern. The MBRSLP is simply adapting the learning process in light of the changes that have already happened globally in the technology realm and from what we understand in terms of best practices. When devices are used for educational purposes, they do not become addictive as games. The devices in our schools are not conducive to gaming but are designed for students to fulfil their educational requirements in terms of production and interaction with teachers and each other to involve them more meaningfully in their own learning process. In today’s world, engagement with technological devices is inevitable and has become an integral part of everyday life. We work with schools and teachers to ensure that students do so in a beneficial way.