We are familiar with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our everyday life: smart cars, video games, movie recommendation services and many others (more examples are here). But some countries, like UAE, go even further. It is the first country to introduce the position of the Minister of Artificial Intelligence. Moreover, Emirates introduce AI technologies into the classrooms with the use of advanced software and robots. The speed of technology development and implementation in education is impressive but can teachers keep pace with it?
On one of the recent conferences, Andrew Nolan from GEMS Education surprised the public with the variety of software and hardware used for schooling in Dubai: Microsoft Imagine Academy, Microsoft Azure cognitive services, IBM Watson, Singularity University, Kinteract; Learnometer that optimizes the classroom environment for better learning; even the robot which in near future will take most of the administrative work and give teachers more time to work with children. This variety of resources allows the development of competencies needed for the 21 century and really shows how valuable technology is going to be in the modern world.
(Screenshot from a movie “I, Robot” by Alex Proyas)
Although it all sounds fun I was feeling lost in such a variety of technologies. It is like I am in the rally and everybody uses GPS navigator to keep moving and I am looking for breadcrumbs on the ground (credits to Brothers Grimm). So I was wondering if I am so lost in the technology development how are teachers capable of advancing their computer literacy so fast in UAE? I mean, in-service teachers. Are they get trained every half a year? Do they have IT support teams or assistants at schools? Trying to answer all these questions I found the results of the survey of 100 UAE educators which was conducted in April 2017 and revealed that:
“38 per cent of educators do not have the training to integrate technology into the way they teach, while 48 per cent of educators blamed a lack of access to available technology as the reasons for not using ICTs in classrooms. A further 42 per cent of educators said they lack the time to learn how to integrate technology into teaching”
This data demonstrates that even though it is claimed that advanced technology is widely used in the classroom, not all the teachers have enough skills to realize its full potential. Also, they do not have enough time to explore programs features or even lack the software itself. The sampling is quite small and may not be representative of all the teachers in the country but still provides us with some context of UAE teachers.
Based on the results of the survey, not only Artificial Intelligence implementation is important but also Natural Intelligence appropriate training. Teachers need support and time to learn new things just as their students. And all brand new shiny machines do not make any difference if teachers do not know what to do with them.
P.S. Additional interesting fact about UAE Ministries is that they have 3 Ministers in the field of education: Minister of Education, Minister of State for Public Education, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills. In Kazakhstan, there is only one: the Minister of Education and Science. Whether such division of responsibilities is beneficial to the quality of education or not is a good area for research.