Marrying Contemporary Pedagogy with Technology for Smart Learning Initiatives

E-LEARNING word cloud, education business conceptLearning is at a critical stage of history. With the diffusion of ubiquitous and wireless technologies making the world a smaller place, words like e-learning, mobile learning, ubiquitous learning, cloud learning, and big-data-based learning are entering our vocabulary from the technological end. These trends are linked to the way we work and communicate, and each development needs smart-learning-based pedagogies to be applied in day-to-day life.

While moving away from the traditional distance-learning concept, the idea that people could communicate via the web, dissolving distance yet preserving the mentality of learning, made e-learning happen. These ideas came from the way we work and live. Business and industry adopted web communication as a norm and have championed its cause. The education domain kept pace, but, what really made e-learning happen was the pedagogical models, innovations, and a willingness to explore the exciting and engaging opportunities.

The penetration of mobile and wireless devices spurred mobile learning, and the concept of mobile gaming systems in everyone’s hand stimulated thinking as to why learning could not be disseminated. The initial challenge was chunking of the content, which now seems so trivial. With the growth of technology in recent times, the challenge is again the smartness of thinking. “What can we do?” was replaced by “What can’t we do?”, and then by ”What can be done that stimulates, engages, and energizes learners.

The pervasiveness of mobile, wireless, and device-based communication opened up the next challenge. Can our interconnected, ubiquitous devices help us in our learning, acting on our behalf even without us realizing it? This called for systems that act on our actions as we go about our daily lives without any explicit action on our behalf. Our learning follows us, and the system learns what we want to learn and provides it. So, how can we make the user learn? Well, we can create an environment that creates a need for the users to learn. We can provoke their curiosity. We can tickle their thoughts. How? The research is again keeping pace with the technology and the business community that demands answers.

As these devices and technologies work, they constantly keep disseminating the data. Where will the data be stored? The answer is in the clouds. Cloud-based learning not only enables the movement of people while the data is secure and accessible, but frees up the user from the appendage of the local software installs, marrying the web, pervasive computing, and data technologies into an infused, powerful tool. How can the cloud be harnessed further into productive learning? The answer lies in reexamining our notion of what media is all about and then imbibing our creative juices in it.

The data is tough to imagine and organize – and it’s Big. Can learning benefit from big data? Steps are underway with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) starting to flood available learning traditions. Again, how does learning happen in a massive classroom of huge size? Again creativity and innovation show the way. Can we also draw some conclusions from the decades of learning experience and innovations we have practiced in our classrooms that exist in the documented literature? We are on the cusp of this innovation.

In all the above challenges, what is the common thread? Technology? Pedagogy? Innovation? To me the answer is smart learning.

Smart Learning is highly connected to the notion of e-Learning and technological innovations, and these include the inculcation of the following skills into the teaching and learning process: critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, collaboration and cooperation, and media and information literacy.

The implications for the OIC region are profound. There has a spur of initiatives and trends such as

• Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Learning Initiative worth one billion dirhams in 2012
• the E-education plan in Kuwait, aimed at making all schools e-learning enabled
• Turkey’s US$1.4 billion initiative to equip over 15 million students across 40,000 schools with

While statistics such as those from Docebo entitled “e-learning Market Trends & Forecast 2014 – 2016 Report” indicate a conservative growth rate of 8.2 % with a revenue stream of $560.7 million by 2016, there is another ignored reality at work. The business acumen in the region, with its strong track record of innovation, the high smartphone penetration rate, and a high proportion of private schools competing with each other to showcase their technological resources (and thus attract students), means that there is an untapped market is waiting to be unleashed.

To ensure that organizations and learners are on track with smart learning ideas, it is useful to understand what some of the new partnerships and business models are that learning organizations can adopt to scale up learning in this fast-changing environment. And this is exactly what the highlight of the IA8 panel discussion in the e-learning track – featuring a group of highly acclaimed educators and researchers – will be.

This topic will be discussed at Innovation Arabia 8, 16-18 February 2015 at The Address Hotel – Dubai Mall, Dubai, UAE

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