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Technology won’t kill your jobs, teachers told

Microsoft expert urges 1,200 teachers attending BETT Middle East trade show to use tech-based educational tools

Abu Dhabi: The workplace of 2030 will be vastly different from today’s offices, with the transformation being driven by a blend of augmented reality, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, a top technology expert said on Monday.

Students therefore need to be prepared to thrive in such a vastly different professional setting, and it is teachers who must facilitate the learning they need, said Anthony Salcito, vice-president for worldwide education at tech giant, Microsoft.

To that end, the company is training 1,200 teachers from public and private schools this week on how to use data, and on employing tech tools to enhance collaboration in the classroom. At the same time, more than 100 school leaders are also receiving instruction on how to enhance the use of technology within the education sector.

“We train about 45,000 teachers in the UAE every year. While many of them are already using the tools available to impart knowledge about subjects like clean energy and sanitation, the challenge arises because some educators are still fearful about technology,” Salcito told Gulf News.

“To dispel this fear, we need educators to understand that technology is not killing the need for teachers. Instead, technology can help them personalise learning, increase classroom collaboration and make many concepts clearer,” he added.

Salcito was speaking on the sidelines of the information technology trade show, BETT Middle East, which began on Monday. It is organised by British event organiser, Ascential, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Department for Knowledge and Education. The two-day event is expected to see more than 2, 500 attendees from the education sector, with many of them participating in a variety of technology training sessions.

At the opening of the show’s leadership summit, Hussain Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, urged teachers to welcome the fourth industrial revolution, in which a blend of technologies is blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres.

“The revolution is here and we must embrace technology in a way that allows us to use it as an aid in education. In light of this, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Smart Learning Programme (MBRSLP), which was initially introduced to 125 schools, will soon extend to 700 schools across the country,” he said. The MBRSLP replaced physical books and stationery in public school classrooms with computerised tools to create a smart learning environment.

“The UAE wants to be a leader with regard to ushering in these shifts, and this is why we have a specialised council to hone the details of how the fourth industrial revolution will impact the economy,” Al Hammadi said, referring to the body led by Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Al Olama.

Alluding to the benefits of tech-based educational tools, Salcito said the use of virtual reality devices allows for 93 per cent of the information presented to be immediately retained, compared to just 73 per cent retention using traditional aids.

“There are numerous other benefits. For example, simultaneous translation tools can allow teachers to better engage hearing-impaired students or second-language learners. [Open-ended video games like] Minecraft can help teachers connect children with the world of coding,” he said.

Salcito therefore called upon parents to familiarise themselves with the technologies children use.

“Like teachers, they must embrace the shift and understand the landscape so that they can keep children safe and informed,” he advised.

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