Microsoft training teachers to sharpen job skills of students
May 11, 2019 | 7:24 PM
by Times News Service
Some schools in Oman – designated as showcase schools–already have access to technology meant to make education better.

Abu Dhabi: Schools and educators in Oman are being given training at ground level by Microsoft to help them teach students the skills they will require for jobs in the future.

Speaking at the 2019 BETT MEA education summit, Layali Eid, Gulf teacher engagement manager at Microsoft, said plans are in agreement with the education ministries in Oman to make technology a bigger part of the way subjects are taught in schools, so that students would be able to relate and develop an interest in the lessons they learn, given the increasingly technological world we now live in.

She also said that while some schools in Oman – which had been designated as showcase schools –already have access to technology meant to make education better, she hoped to expand that to more institutions in the future.

“We definitely have plans in Oman,” she said. “We have expert educators from Oman, we have showcase schools, and showcase schools are a big commitment from both sides, because while we do enable these teachers to realise their full potential with technology, the school itself accepts the responsibility to be visited by other countries to see what it is to teach with technology and the impact it has on students.

She added: “Digital transformation is a journey. We cannot do anything in the span of a year. Are the partnerships there? Definitely. We have MoUs signed with ministries, with the private sector, we have a lot of agreements in place to allow us to partner step by step with commitments from authorities to reach the ultimate digital transformation. The answer was always positive, always welcome.”

Eid revealed that one of the major concerns Microsoft is looking to address after interactions with government leaders is to find solutions to provide technology to help students learn better.

She said: “It always revolves around technology when we talk to government leaders. We are trying to provide the tools to enable teachers to conduct personalised learning. While I may be very good at maths, for example, another student might be good with visual objects. His learning ability is completely different to mine. It does not mean that he is better than me or she is better than me. It is just that the way I accept information is different.

“We need tools that enable the student to get the right information in the right way and enable the students to build the skills that are required for the future: critical thinking, presentation skills, soft skills, speaking, expressing yourself, these are becoming as important as having technical skills,” she added. “Computers are there, but sometimes, people don’t have the basic skillsets to use them.”

In addition, Yves Khalil, senior teacher engagement manager at Microsoft, moved quickly to address concerns about technology being too expensive for educators to afford on a wide-scale. He said that while Microsoft could not provide all the technological upgrades school would need, many of the tools being made available to schools were free of cost.

“At least 80 per cent of what we cover, or what system leaders and education leaders come at no cost,” he told Times of Oman. “All the productivity tools – let us take for example Office 365 – there is an online version where you don’t have to pay anything. At the same time, we need to have good connectivity, but we cannot provide that. We do have some programmes that allow for what we call wide space connectivity, where you leverage the TV-wide coverage to get connectivity.

Khalil added: “It is the ministries of ICT (information communication technology) that has to be involved in the country to make this connectivity available. But apart from this, you need to train the teachers as well, so we do that. We have multiple programmes for our educator communities, where you get the opportunity to be trained in person or online. You get to participate in global and local competitions, and you get certificates once you finish the course, and normally, we provide all of this free of charge. We also give access to students and source that material at very low cost.”

Khalil also said that they made curriculum available to schools that wanted to provide better ways of teaching skills to students.

“Today, any Ministry of Education, and department in any school, is looking to reshape its curriculum so that it is industry relevant,” he said. “I am putting in the hands of my students the skills they will need to get jobs. Normally, what any ministry will do is build the curriculum from scratch, going and getting experts to develop the content and so on.

“What we have done is provide them access to all curriculum resources that provide them the tools for students who want to go into computer science, IT infrastructure, productivity, data science and many others,” added Khalil “It is available in multiple languages, and all that is needed to do is pay a yearly membership fee per school, not per student, to get access to the full curriculum. They are saving on updating, and we are doing all of that. All the emerging markets get the same benefit.”

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