Shady Elkassas, Director of Innovation, Al Ittihad National Private School-Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

Shady Elkassas is a multiple award-winning and passionate Egyptian educator working in the United Arab Emirates. Since his childhood, he looked forward to a career in teaching, and become a committed educator providing high standards and practices in the education of young people. Shady is a popular STEM advocate and speaker in the Middle East region. He has taken initiatives to adopt project-based learning (PBL) and inquiry-based learning (IBL) methodologies to create a new foundation of STEM learning in school.

 

In 2020, the whole world faced a resilient microscopic enemy that reshaped all the human activities on Earth. Covid-19 had a devastating impact and a negative influence on many aspects of our lives. One of those was the economic sector which caused a major crisis in many countries. The health sector was obliged to fight against the lack of resources and the incredible number of patients. However, we cannot ignore that this circumstance has created many other opportunities. Covid-19 has sharpened our saw, expanded our perception, and strengthened our abilities in adapting to this global challenge. As educators, we shifted to distance/ hybrid learning models. These models were new frontiers that allowed our teachers, students, parents, policymakers, and curricular designers to explore. 

There was no roadmap to guide us throughout this pandemic, but efforts and passion created the compass. 

Technology had to help us adapt to all these sudden changes quickly. Some of the things technology affected were quality of instruction and classroom collaboration. Covid-19 led to the closure of schools and other education facilities, which led to a paradigm shift in education delivery. This shift led educators to quickly adapt to an education system that they were not familiar with or prepared to use. Furthermore, E-learning tools like MS Teams had to play a crucial role in this pandemic to ease the switch to online learning. Such a switch and heavy reliance on online learning might also have a positive impact. An excellent example of this advantage is the decreased difficulty for physically challenged people because they require less mobility. The quality of online education depends heavily on the experience of information and communications technology (ICT) by both educators and learners. 

Some ICTs are inclusive and have options that allow teachers to create courses and different skill enhancement programs. Such options may be beneficial because they give students and educators more tools to help them develop the vision they aim to have for their classroom. These tools might also enhance Project-based learning by providing students with a more rounded experience that includes chats, video calls, and more accessible file storage. It also helps students better follow a rubric-based system created by their educator to understand better and execute their submitted projects. However, all these options lead to a rise in unique challenges. One of these challenges is caused by the accessibility, inclusivity, and affordability of online learning. Innately motivated learners feel like such a switch does not affect them because they need minimum supervision and guidance to perform at high standards. 

However, the group consisting of students who are weak in learning will face more difficulties with the lack of one-on-one advice. This weakness might cause a drop in the overall academic performances of different institutions. That drop in performance for these academic institutions may also be caused by the fact that schools are no longer able to provide the vital resources needed leaving vulnerable members of the population trailing behind. This will lead to several weaknesses in the coming years where educators will have to educate their students whilst keeping in mind that some students may not be at the level intended for them due to the challenges created by Covid-19.

Another thing to address is the effect of technology on project-based learning. Project-based learning is popular amongst educators for it encourages student engagement with the curriculum. It also shifts the classroom dynamic, giving students increased flexibility, reliability, and experience with real-world applications. Education technology greatly benefits PBL in numerous ways. It creates an interest in innovation and new ventures by enabling them to have complete control of their projects through new technology hence motivating and engaging students. It also empowers students by giving them more freedom instilling a sense of independence in them. Covid-19 might have led to many challenges to the education sector, putting educators and students on a road that they haven’t trodden before. Education technology acted as a compass that led us back on track. It empowered and prepared us for the new frontier of education; a new chapter of innovation.

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