Is technology in the classroom a waste of money? Just ask a Pamoja student…
In a recent debate at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, 18-year-old Pamoja student Munira spoke against a motion that claimed education technology in the classroom is a waste of time and money.
In an impressive speech that defended technology as “undoubtedly the future of the classroom”, Munira, who studies at GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis, said that “putting my final years of high school in the hands of technology was a big decision – a risky decision.” However, it’s a decision that’s paying off. Munira cited the results of a two-question survey she conducted in her school that asked students their predicted IB grade and how many hours per week they spend studying. 50 students are studying with Pamoja, and 120 are taking the exact same IB Diploma Programme but in a ‘traditional’ classroom setting. The 50 students studying with Pamoja are predicted on average three grade points higher than their peers. These students study for an average of 18 hours per week, which appears in stark contrast to the 55 average study hours of their ‘traditional’ counterparts.
Munira explained that this obvious success of technology in the classroom is not so much a result of the tech itself but the way it is being used to teach. The flexibility of studying online with Pamoja allows Munira and her classmates to focus their time intelligently on the aspects of the course that they need more support on. The teacher is there to facilitate their learning but ultimately the students are self-directed; much like they will be at university and beyond. As a result, a huge amount of time is saved for both teacher and student – time that can be invested where it is most needed to ensure learners come out of education with the life skills they need to succeed. For example, she told us that “although the 50 Pamoja students only make up around 30% of the whole cohort in our school, last year we represented two thirds of the school’s student council.” Our students develop the confidence to collaborate thoughtfully both inside and outside of their global classrooms.
Furthermore, Munira claimed “with the number of students going uneducated in the world, right now our priority is to educate as many people as possible. If we do not take technology into our classrooms, and make it relevant to our students, make it relevant to the youth, then we will never make progress. There is no use of innovation without putting it in the hands of the youth, without allowing the youth to utilise it to better their own future and the future of the world.” Technology, if used correctly, has the power to broaden access to education. We do not believe that it should replace teachers; on the contrary – the role of the teacher is more important than ever. The key to the future is to utilise tech to support teaching and learning for the benefit of the student, and of education in general. The benefits are truly global; “… the BBC estimates that two billion students in Syria since the beginning of the war have dropped out of school. These students are in refugee camps without access to teachers, without access to classrooms. For students like this – for them – technology does not only have potential in the classroom, but it has potential to be their classroom. Imagine one MacBook in a refugee camp, how many people that could educate in itself?”
Munira’s speech was a powerful testimonial to the benefits of education technology in the classroom. However, the importance of using it in the right way is paramount.