Sahem Azzam, Vice President for the Middle East, Africa & Turkey, at Orange Business Services gives his Opinion in ITP on Striking the right balance with edtech. So here is:
Striking the right balance with edtech
While it’s true to say that video tools enabled remote learning and continuity of education during the recent crisis, it’s critical to get children back into classrooms and interacting with their peers and teachers
Thanks to the investment made in advanced ICT infrastructure in some parts of the region, technology has provided a lifeline to help keep students learning in the past two years, and this has brought many benefits. It also raises the question: How do you find the right balance of digital and in-classroom learning to ensure education is effective and sustainable moving forward?
This new shared experience of edtech (education technology) has generated some interesting feedback from the education community, and from parents who have undergone the shared challenges in terms of their children’s education. Parents typically believe that technology needs to be used to a certain extent in learning, but not too much – perhaps meaning not an over-reliance on technology.
Balance is something that has to be considered when discussing the evolution of e-learning, because (to use a technology industry expression) children are the end-users. So, while it’s true to say that video tools enabled remote learning and continuity of education during the recent crisis, it’s critical to get children back into classrooms and interacting with their peers and teachers.
According to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), nationwide lockdowns impacted the education of over 110 million young people in the Middle East & Africa region, by far the biggest disruption to the education system in recent history. Furthermore, parents and children in the region – particularly those living in rural areas – simply didn’t have access to the resources they needed for online learning.
According to Microsoft, one in five students in the Middle East & Africa region did not have access to the internet or a device to support them during lockdowns.
Pros and cons of remote learning
When online schooling became mandatory practice, education establishments and parents had no alternative but to adapt quickly and make the best of a difficult situation. Technology enabled online learning, much as it did for remote working. It’s something that simply wouldn’t have been possible even a few years ago, as the technologies and tools just did not exist then to make large-scale online learning a reality.
Besides safety, many parents cited comfort and convenience as benefits of online schooling, removing the stress of a commute and school run. Parents also reported enjoying more time with their children, for those working remotely at home. Online learning was reported to encourage greater self-discipline in children, with pupils learning personal time management and organisation earlier in life than they would normally. Some parents and teachers also reported children becoming more confident during online lessons, feeling more empowered to volunteer answers to questions over a shared video call than they might be in a classroom.
However, after several months of home-schooling and online learning, some parents began to find their patience tested, reporting that children were becoming more distant, with the lack of social interaction with friends and other students in class becoming a major issue.
Peer-to-peer interaction has positive effects and can help pupils be more stimulated and engaged in classes, and it can help them establish emotional bonds with teachers and other children. Without these interactions, some students began to feel isolated.
The long-term impacts of enforced online learning are difficult to forecast. Young children don’t always make the best survey respondents, and parents have naturally been eager to get their kids back to some formof normality. However, the World Economic Forum did release a report that talked about a potentially tangible aspect of continued school closures: students risk losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings (around 14 percent of today’s global GDP), because of Covid-19-related school closures and economic shocks.
Hybrid work, hybrid learning?
There are commonalities between remote working and remote learning, and the impacts of both practices on adults and children are similar. So perhaps one of the ways forward those enterprises have embraced could also apply to education, too: a hybrid model.
Recent times have seen many children engage in hybrid learning models without even knowing the term. Hybrid classes can be a mix of online exercises, pre-recorded videos, and other educational materials that support in-person classes.
When done with the right balance and tools, this approach offers the combination of the best aspects of in-person and online learning and gives students and parents the choice of what learning format suits them best at different times. Hybrid learning might fit very well but is indeed a challenge as it will not always be the perfect solution for some children.
Many of the same technologies apply in hybrid education as in hybrid working. Cloud-based infrastructure and use of managed mobile and video communication and collaboration systems can help education establishments keep students connected, engaged and participating.
According to Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education, “Hybrid learning is here to stay. The challenge will be the art of combining technology and the human factor to make hybrid learning a tool to expand access to quality education for all.”
Indeed, the hybrid model appears as a positive way forward, but education establishments will need the expertise and experience of technology providers to help guide them along that journey and to strike the right balance.
Sahem Azzam is Vice President for the Middle East, Africa & Turkey, at Orange Business Services.
Published by University World News and written by Nic Mitchell, we are informed how international organisations are gearing themselves to confront this literally ongoing climate deregulation through higher education. It’s about how a New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action for future leaders is aimed through this ultimate degree.
New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action
Plans are advancing at speed to create a new postgraduate degree specialising on the Paris Agreement on climate change in a bid to develop future leaders able to tackle the challenges of sustainability and advance transformative climate action, the UNESCO World Higher Education Conference (WHEC2022) in Barcelona, Spain, heard.
World Higher Education Conference 2022.
This conference is convened by UNESCO and University World News is the exclusive media partner.
Professor Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi, director of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) in Tokyo, Japan, outlined the aims when opening the session at WHEC2022 on how higher education can accelerate climate action under the Paris Agreement.
She described the UNU-IAS, which she assumed leadership of in 2019, as a bridge between UN agencies and higher education, and told delegates to the Barcelona conference that work was progressing well on launching a new postgraduate degree on the Paris Agreement and climate sustainability, which was first mooted at COP26 (the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow.
First of its kind
“The degree will be the first of its kind in the world and the goal is to provide the skills needed across the world to teach action… to implement the Paris Agreement through higher education.”
Professor Yamaguchi said: “Our UNU institute in Tokyo is dedicated to realising a sustainable future for the people and our planet through policy-orientated research, education and capacity development focusing on sustainability, including looking at climate change and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”
The new postgraduate degree specialisation on the Paris Agreement on climate change is being developed in close collaboration with governments, leading universities and development partners and builds on an existing MSc in Sustainability and a PhD in Sustainability Science offered by UNU-IAS.
Together these two programmes currently have 38 students from 20 developing countries, with scholarships provided to over half of the students.
Develop future climate action leaders
“We are aiming to develop future leaders who will be at the forefront of the climate and sustainable development agenda,” said Yamaguchi, who announced that applications for the new Paris Agreement postgraduate degree will be invited at the end of 2022 and the programme will start in September 2023.
COP26 in Glasgow called on the world to keep the global increase in temperatures to 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial level, but to implement the measures requires a huge amount of knowledge and government cannot do everything, she said.
“You need large stakeholder coalitions to tackle issues such as phasing out coal and all parties acknowledge the importance of education about environment,” said Yamaguchi.
Transparency a key issue
Transparency, monitoring and accountability are going to be key issues for governments and businesses in meeting the Paris Agreement goals and higher education will play a key role, so people understand climate science.
“We need to develop dynamic training for experts, and coordination across sectors and institutions to collect and share data… and lack of coordination is a problem in many countries,” Yamaguchi told the conference.
Dr Won Jung Byun, programme specialist at UNESCO’s Section of Education for Sustainable Development, welcomed the new qualification from the United Nations University and told the conference that only half of national curricula worldwide mention climate change and fewer than 20% of teachers are able to explain action needed to tackle climate change.
Education systems around the world need to do much more to provide learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to overcome the climate crisis and sustainability challenges, she said.
Can’t just be left to higher education
But it can’t just be left to higher education, speakers at the session at the UNESCO conference stressed.
Laurent Cortese, deputy head of the Education-Vocational Training-Employment and Higher Education Division of the French Agency for Development, which mainly works in education and development in countries in Africa, said: “If we leave it to higher education, it is too late. We need a holistic approach and to work on environmental and climate issues with the rest of the education system.”
Teacher training is part of higher education in many countries, he pointed out, adding: “We need to ensure coordination between those in charge of higher education and education as a whole and show the importance of issues like climate change and biodiversity.”
Akio Takemoto, programme head at UNU-IAS in Tokyo, agreed it was important to start explaining the impact of climate change at the primary and school level and there was a need for innovative ways to provide a continuous and high-capacity educational system.
Need to look at all levels
“While there was a lot of talk about Masters degrees and PhDs, we also need highly skilled technical people and it is important we train engineers to work with these technicians. We have to look at all levels of higher education.”
Dr Kanako Morita, senior researcher at the Center for Biodiversity and Climate Change with the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Tsukuba, Japan, told the session: “Youth education is important, but so are other actors, including the companies and financial institutions and local government, who are keen to learn more about climate change. We need to consider education at all levels and social scientists have a big role to play.”
Produce ‘maestros’ to get message across
Cortese said the education system needed to produce “maestros” able to get the message across and with the capacity to handle the difficult questions on a scientific basis.
“We can help identify students who can participate in such programmes in the countries where we intervene. Too often, we all work among ourselves with people who we agree with, but that’s not always the most productive.
“We need to set up partnerships with people who don’t necessarily think the same way we do, [and] that would force students to examine their arguments and to review them.
“It is important to develop soft skills and to meet the needs of different people and not just work with university partnerships with the same outlook.
“We need to establish partnerships with companies, so people go outside their comfort zone and are prepared when they meet people who might not think as they do and who are able to see things in a different way.”
Nic Mitchell is a UK-based freelance journalist and PR consultant specialising in European and international higher education. He blogs at www.delacourcommunications.com.
Deserts may seem lifeless and inert, but they are very much alive. Sand dunes, in particular, grow and move – and according to a decades-long research project, they also breathe humid air.
The findings show for the first time how water vapor penetrates powders and grains, and could have wide-ranging applications far beyond the desert – in pharmaceutical research, agriculture and food processing, as well as planetary exploration.
The project, led by lead author Michel Louge, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering, has spanned not only a great deal of time but also a variety of terrain. It began nearly 40 years ago when Louge was studying the behavior of fluids, gasses and solid particles.
Wanting to measure matter with greater sensitivity, he and his students developed a new form of instrumentation called capacitance probes, which use multiple sensors to record everything from solid concentration to velocity to water content, all with unprecedented spatial resolution.
When a colleague at the University of Utah suggested the technology might be helpful in imaging the layers of mountain snowpacks and assessing the likelihood of avalanches, Louge went to his garage, grabbed some probes and tested them out in a snowstorm. Soon he struck up a partnership with a company, Capacitec Inc, to combine their respective skills in geometry and electronics. The resulting probes also proved useful in hydrology research.
In the early 2000s, Louge began collaborating with Ahmed Ould el-Moctar from University of Nantes, France, to use the probes to study the moisture content in sand dunes to better understand the process by which agricultural lands turn to desert – an interest that has only become more urgent with the rise of global climate change.
“The future of the Earth, if we continue this way, is a desert,” Louge said.
Whereas other probes can measure large volumes of matter, Louge’s probes go deep and small, collecting data on a millimetric scale to pinpoint the exact amount of moisture in – and the density of – sand. To function in a new environment, though, the probes needed to be modified. And so began a decadelong process of trial and error, as Louge made periodic trips to deserts in Qatar and Mauritania experimenting with different versions of the probe.
The probe eventually revealed just how porous sand is, with a tiny amount of air seeping through it. Previous research had hinted this type of seepage existed in sand dunes, but no one had been able to prove it until now.
“The wind flows over the dune and as a result creates imbalances in the local pressure, which literally forces air to go into the sand and out of the sand. So the sand is breathing, like an organism breathes,” Louge said.
That “breathing” is what allows microbes to persist deep inside hyper-arid sand dunes, despite the high temperature. For much of the last decade, Louge has been collaborating with Anthony Hay, associate professor of microbiology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to study how microbes can help stabilize the dunes and prevent them from encroaching into roads and infrastructure.
Louge and his team also determined that desert surfaces exchange less moisture with the atmosphere than expected, and that water evaporation from individual sand grains behaves like a slow chemical reaction.
The bulk of their data was gathered in 2011, but it still took Louge and his collaborators another decade to make sense of some of the findings, such as identifying disturbances at the surface level that force evanescent, or nonlinear, waves of humidity to propagate downward through the dunes very quickly.
“We could have published the data 10 years ago to report the accuracy of our approach,” Louge said. “But it wasn’t satisfying until we understood what was going on. Nobody really had done anything like this before. This is the first time that such low levels of humidity could be measured.”
The researchers anticipate their probe will have a number of applications – from studying the way soils imbibe or drain water in agriculture, to calibrating satellite observations over deserts, to exploring extraterrestrial environments that may hold trace amounts of water. That wouldn’t be the first time Louge’s research made its way into space.
But perhaps the most immediate application is the detection of moisture contamination in pharmaceuticals. Since 2018, Louge has been collaborating with Merck to use the probes in continuous manufacturing, which is viewed as a faster, more efficient and less expensive system than batch manufacturing.
“If you want to do continuous manufacturing, you have to have probes that will allow you, as a function of time, and everywhere that’s important, to check that you have the right behavior of your process,” Louge said.
Co-authors include Ould el-Moctar; Jin Xu, Ph.D. ’14; and Alexandre Valance and Patrick Chasle with the University of Rennes, France.
The research was supported by the Qatar Foundation.
Most curriculum designers work to a brief that is focused on knowledge transfer within the confines of a particular subject and emphasises subject-specific learning outcomes and assessment criteria.
Although curricula often include sustainability issues as discussion points, rarely does this contribute to achieving specified learning outcomes and fulfilment of assessment criteria. This dilutes the importance and effectiveness of education for sustainable development – SDG 4.7 – within a given curriculum.
Few demands are made of learners to contextualise sustainability issues in terms of the subject(s) being studied. Understandably, in a time delimited and possibly crowded curriculum focused on attaining qualifications, students and mentors will prioritise successful achievement of learning outcomes to the detriment of non-assessed education for sustainable development.
The strategies outlined here show how to embed learning outcomes linked to education for sustainable development alongside subject-knowledge learning outcomes. This achieves the twin goals of advancing SDG 4.7 while enhancing the depth of subject knowledge.
Guiding principles for embedding SDG 4.7 into curricula
Key topics such as “peace and conflict” or “global environmental change“, “social justice” and “gender equality” cannot be addressed from the perspective of a single subject. This means there is no single recipe for embedding education for sustainable development into curricula. Nevertheless, there are principles that may serve as a guiding framework.
Ensure sustainability issues are defined and discussed in local contexts, taking into account learners’ experiences and cultural identities while remaining connected with global impacts
Promote critical evaluation of sustainability issues from multiple viewpoints
Expand global and societal awareness by promoting whole-systems thinking
Encourage learner-centred research using growing subject-specific knowledge
Emphasise the interconnectedness and multivariate nature of SDG issues
Connect “issue-centric” education for sustainable development within course content and assessment frameworks.
Strategies and tools
Education for sustainable development aims to enable learners to engage with sustainability issues using the benefits of knowledge gained from all their learning experiences. The need for fully integrated curricula accommodating sustainability issues is clearly overdue. This requires a refocusing of priorities to achieve a truly multidisciplinary cross-curricular approach, in two steps:
1. Identify curriculum opportunities for embedding education for sustainable development.
2. Align education for sustainable development with core subject learning outcomes in curriculum.
Step 1: Mapping out opportunities for embedding education for sustainable development
Sustainability issues are identified as relevant themes, and the interconnectedness of their causes and impacts are aligned with relevant subject knowledge. This extends the acquisition of subject-specific knowledge into associated sustainability issues and allows for connection with relevant SDGs and enables cross-curricular multidisciplinary evaluation of the issues.
Figure 1 shows how curriculum design may take a thematic or issue-centric approach to a prescribed topic, for example genetic modification in a biology programme, to map out possibilities for matched learning outcomes to include and expand the scope of education for sustainable development within curriculum specifications.
Figure 2 provides a similar approach to pre-planning and guiding curriculum-led integration of education for sustainable development and subject knowledge. The centre column shows links between prescribed curriculum topics and education for sustainable development issues in the context of “plastics in the environment, their manufacture and disposal”. The left-hand column identifies the negative aspects of plastics manufacture and use, whereas the right-hand column takes a positive approach in terms of actions that might be taken.
Step 2: Align education for sustainable development and core subject learning outcomes in curriculum design
Learning outcomes are closely associated with assessment, and assessment is closely associated with the value placed on key aspects of the subject by educators and learners. For effective curriculum-led education for sustainable development, it is important this is closely aligned with subject-specific learning outcomes.
Different subjects make different demands of curricula and provide different opportunities. The examples here are drawn from science programmes. However, these four overarching principles underpin good practice regardless of subject matter:
• Use “issue-centric” and thematic strategies to embed education for sustainable development and general curriculum linked learning outcomes and assessment strategies
• Create opportunities within the curriculum subject material for aligning subject-specific learning outcomes with education for sustainable development learnings outcome
• Include interdisciplinary links and share learning outcomes with other subjects (curricula) in a move towards a wider integrated curriculum that assesses sustainability issues concurrently with subject knowledge
• Create opportunities within the curriculum for student-led research linking subject knowledge with education for sustainable development issues associated with matched learning outcomes.
Table 1 demonstrates how this can be done in practice.
As students become more proficient in subject knowledge, they can apply this knowledge to research the issues in the context of their subject. Ideally, fully integrated curricula with matched learning outcomes allow for a multidisciplinary understanding of sustainability problems and foster the student’s ability to research potential solutions to these without detracting from acquiring essential subject knowledge.
Ron Johnston is an independent academic and research fellow focused on education for sustainable development, who co-authored the Unesco publication “Textbooks for sustainable development – a guide to embedding”. He is a former senior lecturer at the University of South Wales and retains close links with the University of Wales.
Qatar Foundation is a non-profit organization made up of more than 50 entities working in education, research, and community development. It is a state-led organization in Qatar, founded in 1995 by then emirHamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his second wife Moza bint Nasser. Qatar Foundation (QF), chaired by Moza bint Nasser, has spearheaded Qatar’s endeavours to establish itself as a leader in education, science, and cultural development on both a regional and global scale. It is within these prerogatives that Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce sign strategic partnership.
Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation will enter into a long-term partnership to create a global centre for climate technology innovation.
As partners, Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation will develop two world-class campuses dedicated to launching, investing in and growing businesses that can accelerate the global energy transition.
The centre will help entrepreneurs create and grow new climate technology businesses, aided by academic leadership, funds for R&D and early-stage venture capital investment. Businesses will be able to use infrastructure on the campuses to test, prove and scale their technologies, enabling them to have a rapid impact. This integrated approach is a global first in climate technology.
Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce are ambitious in their vision for the centre and for the scale of investment and technological change it will create. To address the challenge of climate change, the world needs tangible, technology-driven businesses at a scale that matters. This centre is intended to create and scale-up businesses worth multi-billions of pounds.
Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation will work in partnership to build the campuses, generating up to 1,000 jobs in the centres, and at least 10,000 within the related start-up companies and broader ecosystem by 2040. A substantial investment pool will be created for venture funding at the scale needed to create global climate tech businesses with real impact and in anticipation that third-party investors will co-invest, with a target to grow up to 5 unicorns by 2030, and up to 20 by 2040, driving significant economic value for investment partners. (A “unicorn” is a privately held start-up company valued at over $1 billion).
This partnership will position Qatar among the top 5 countries globally investing in clean energy RD&D (in terms of spend per GDP) and as a pioneer within Small Advanced Economies. It is also in line with Qatar’s vision to further promote the state’s economic diversification, including legislative and commercial incentives to develop projects that preserve the environment and counter climate change.
Qatar Foundation will serve as the operating partner for Qatar, working with Rolls-Royce to establish and operate the innovation campuses by drawing on its expertise and experience in large-scale research and education collaborations. The project is forecast to generate as many as 1,300 new high-value jobs in Qatar by 2040, as well as new investment opportunities for Qatari businesses and investors via dedicated funding vehicles.
This global centre will ensure innovation has a clear and practical route to market, whilst bringing together the key stakeholders and capabilities to create a fundamentally innovative way of developing climate tech businesses. The network will launch virtually in 2022, with campuses launching as early as 2023.
Warren East, Chief Executive, Rolls-Royce, said: “Rolls-Royce has pioneered power since its inception and we are already playing a key role in accelerating the energy transition in some of the hardest sectors to decarbonise. For us, the transition to net zero is both a societal imperative and an excellent commercial opportunity. This partnership with Qatar Foundation will enable us to accelerate progress in clean energy, including by allowing us to fully take advantage of nascent technologies that could have a significant impact on tackling climate change.”
Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, vice chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, said: “Today’s most pressing problems: climate change, soil restoration, water resources, animal welfare and human health are all inextricably linked. We stand ready to work together with our partners Rolls-Royce in developing innovative solutions and clean energy technologies. The expansion of Education City’s research ecosystem will inevitably further Qatar Foundation’s mission to pave the way to a better future.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This partnership fuses the outstanding British engineering of Rolls-Royce with the vision of the Qatar Foundation, confirming the UK’s position as a science superpower and hub for investment. This will not only strengthen ties between our two countries but will help facilitate the climate-tech innovations we need to tackle climate change headfirst, delivering green jobs and green growth.”
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