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How teachers in the UAE prepared to teach digitally. Picture for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Stock photo

As schools across the UAE closed early for spring break this week, as a precautionary measure to avoid the spread of the Covid-19, teachers were faced with a new challenge. For the very first time, it was decided that pupils from schools across the UAE will be studying from home. So, in a short duration, teachers needed to understand how to teach online. We spoke to a Dubai-based teacher to find out, how they prepared for the change.

Warda Fatima who teaches Grade4 at the North American International School told Gulf News: “We left for spring break with mixed feelings. Feeling sad as we saw the numbers and incidents going up for the infected cases of coronavirus worldwide, but, at ease that we were fortunate enough to ensure that our students were safe.”

Fatima added: “Our students are not at any loss of learning and we are ensuring that we will provide children with all tools necessary, to the best of our capacity.”

The English and Social Studies teacher explained the process: “We have enrolled all our students into an e-learning program. Our principal chose Schoology.com for the school. On Tuesdays, we stayed back in school after classes, to receive in-depth training by the school’s vice principal of teaching and learning. She also sent us videos which she prepared to coach and guide us. Two days all of us were glued to our laptops learning more about the way everything works and troubleshooting queries that are bound to arise from students and parents. We prepared the best we could in the short time frame allotted to us. We were excited to learn the latest, it felt like we were gaining some sort of super powers.

Two days all of us [teachers] were glued to our laptops learning more about the way everything works and troubleshooting queries that are bound to arise from students and parents.

- Warda Fatima

“As we shifted our classes to the school’s computer labs, also called the Information and communications technology (ICT) room. In February, the staff most in demand were our ICT teachers and Information Technology technicians. We worked through repeated troubleshooting and finally our logins were complete for all the subject courses. Students added the access codes to all the subjects into their log in accounts and were ready to receive assignments.

“The next step for us was to communicate with parents. Notices, circulars, SMSes, and emails were translated into Arabic and English and sent to parents by the school. Teachers communicated the same through parent-teacher communication apps. Parent access codes were printed as well as uploaded onto the school portal.

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Image Credit: Stock image

“The teachers then started to prepare mock assignments to train the children. In the assignments, we tried out various learning methods - quizzes, videos, discussions, objective and subjective questions. We added some reading passages and follow up activities. It could be instantly graded and students were also awarded badges online, for submissions. We displayed the results and their work on the projector and a cheer went up in the classrooms. It was greatly satisfying! The kids were super and couldn’t wait to start their assignments and homework.

“We have been asked to start the online program from March 22. So, the children will have to wait as assignments and tasks, which I have uploaded, will be published only on 22. Students also have a deadline to keep up with.

“This is 21st century learning. A classroom in your room at home. Students are excited to watch my videos and submit the best at the earliest to gain extra points. It’s a good reward system. It motivates them to work independently.

“For now we rest with our family, before we return to teach digitally. Meanwhile, we are preparing the rest of our tests and assignments that will be released gradually after two weeks."

The 40-year-old Indian expat believes this is the next step in school education in the UAE. She added: “I strongly believe if channeled rightly this would lead our future generations to another level of self-education.”