Open Thinkering



What I learned about education whilst in the UAE

Photos from my trip to the UAE

I’ve reflected before on my difficulty in answering the question, “So… what do you do?”. From that post, however, the answer I’m increasingly keen on giving is:

  • I tell stories about how learning can be.

Invariably, given my predilections, this involves the use of technology. No matter where I go in Europe, in Turkey or the Middle East, there are three barriers that educators see as almost insurmountable:

  1. I don’t have the time – I’m working flat-out as it is!
  2. The curriculum doesn’t allow it.
  3. We haven’t got the hardware/software/internet connection speed.

My responses to these?

  1. Whilst there may a learning curve involved, you will invariably save time by making learning more available to students.
  2. I ask them what the curriculum prescribes. More often than not it’s based on a false assumption – or, more dangerously, a textbook.
  3. There has to be a reason for the school/local authority to upgrade the hardware/software/internet connection speed. Are you providing them with that reason?

And this is where the storytelling comes in. Because I’m not actually that interested in the technology itself. I’m interested in students reaching their potential, social justice and transforming education so it has some semblance of relevance by the time my son ends up in secondary school (2018 if you’re wondering).

So I came across the same issues when I visited the two schools my Dad works in near Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. But what I came across there was the willingness of teachers to learn. They really wanted to improve and get better – so much so that they availed themselves of every opportunity to ask me questions, quiz me about practicalities, and pick my brains.

I didn’t present anything groundbreaking or revolutionary whilst I was in the UAE. In fact, it was pretty tame stuff. What I did do, however, was tell a story. And that’s a whole lot more powerful than pointing educators toward a rag-tag bunch of loosely-related technologies we refer to as ‘Web 2.0’… :-p

Slides and presentation video available here. 🙂