KDSL Global is a partner with EDvolve Global.
KDSL Global is a partner with EDvolve Global.
The Mawada Project is an organization aimed at creating service learning opportunities and experiences for youth in the United Arab Emirates. I had the chance to interview the founder Noha Mahdi. She holds a Master’s of Education degree in Educational Neuroscience from Harvard University, a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biochemistry from McGill University, and a Graduate Diploma in Clinical Research from McGill University.
What made you choose this path? Why did you want to be involved in this line of work?
My interest in education started when I was very young, I just didn’t realize it at the time. Ever since high school, I would play an active role in my school’s teaching and tutoring programs, often making suggestions and giving advice to senior administrators on how to improve the learning experience for myself and my peers. Fast forward 10 years and I finally realized that I had a passion for all things related to education and learning. I believe that educating the heart and mind holds the key to so many of our needs and challenges around the world today, and I wanted to use that key to make a difference in the Middle East.
I worked in education consulting for several years in the UAE before deciding to launch my start-up, The Mawada Project (themawadaproject.org). It started when I realized the limitations of experiential learning opportunities in the UAE, as well as the lack of service-learning opportunities, soft skills learning and character development for our young population. Students spend most of their time between the walls of their schools, and have very little opportunity to engage with the real world or have meaningful interactions with people from different backgrounds and demographics and give back to their communities. They also often graduate from high school with a lack of the kind of soft skills that will help them throughout their lives. I decided that community service was the best way to tackle these challenges, combining a number of different skills training into one experience.
And that’s what we do today. We find and create ways for children to do good and to serve those who are in need in the community whilst teaching them useful skills that they can use for themselves and that will help them in all aspects of their lives.
To what extent do you believe that this program shapes who a young person is going to be?
We know that the experience of serving others and meeting the needs of those less privileged or less fortunate in one’s community has a tremendous impact on shaping character. By engaging in our programs and in the type of service opportunities we create, we deeply believe that a young person not only gains social, emotional, communication and leadership skills, but also confidence, compassion, kindness and a sense of purpose. And the science shows that these skills and characteristics are crucial for future job success.
Those who engage in these kinds of activities gain social awareness and a deeper sense of social responsibility and global citizenship, all while learning more about different career paths and industries. It’s hard to quantify or capture the impact of such experiences, but we know it when we see it, and those who participate in our programs feel it too.
What is your favourite event or project your organization has held and why?
We’ve worked on a number of projects so far, but we’re most proud of two in particular. One was a summer program, in collaboration with the Sharjah Science Museum, where we had our teenage participants learn how to be mentors and teachers to younger children who needed educational support. We watched them transform and take responsibility for their teaching which was great to see!
The second is our program called “The Gift”. We’ve worked with a number of student groups, schools and organizations, including the Sharjah Girl Guides and the American School of Dubai, to teach children how to make hand-made dolls, write letters and design gift boxes that are then sent to refugee children in countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Greece. This was done in collaboration with The Big Heart Foundation of Sharjah. We’re proud of the shift we see in participants when we have the conversation with them about the lives of refugee children, the challenges they must be facing and our responsibility to do what we can, even if only in a small way, to help make their lives easier and better.
KDSL Global Intern
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Makers Builders is a program that trains young people in the field of technology. I had the chance to interview Amir Yazdanpanah, founder and CEO, and asked him some questions about his company’s focus and direction.
How important do you believe these technology skills are to the growth of the next generation?
Technology and science continue to play a rapidly growing role when it comes to everything that consumers purchase and corporates create. Therefore future jobs will require a skilled workforce that is not only able to use technology but also knows how to create and innovate with it.
Are there any advancements or new technologies you wish to incorporate into your program such as VR?
The phenomenally fast-paced advancements in 3D printing, coding, robotics, VR/AR, smart devices, machine learning and so on is putting stress on traditional education and teaching methods as well as curriculum content. This new generation needs to be learning a lot of new skills in order to be ready for the next generation of jobs in 5 to 10 years. We strive to develop engaging “digital making” programs and courses that can capture the interest of children at an early age and encourage them to pursue learning paths in STEM.
What is the most important aspect to you about your programs: the fun, the education or being family oriented?
We try to make our program seem like “Edutainment” – we want it to be fun and engaging while educational at the same time. For example, coding is learned by doing. Students get to learn coding by building programs that change games they already play and are very attached to. We want to make them aware of and excited about the possibilities at their fingertips so that they be easily empowered to create. Learning about fundamentals, concepts and architecture comes with age-appropriate programs.
For more on Makers Builders visit:
KDSL Global Intern
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When I started teaching, some twenty-five years ago, the IT department of a school was most likely staffed by teachers who took some kind of interest in computers. Consequently, they would end up being the most qualified on staff to lead that department and teach the technology curriculum. We have come a long way in the last two decades. Now, rather than needing to be staffed by default, school IT departments have become an integral part of every aspect of our educational institutions. In fact, much of the current soul-searching we are experiencing in education is driven by our need to integrate technology further.
Although we often think of educational institutions as places where students learn innovation and creativity, where they acquire knowledge and skills, and where they prepare for life in the ‘real’ world, it would be fair to say that education is one of the areas that have been most unwilling to change and adapt over time. The exponential growth of technology is forcing it to change – its centuries old structure is no longer fitting with our current reality.
Sir Ken Robinson is one of the most recognized figures in the current reevaluation of education. His work relates to three main themes1: we are living in times of revolution, we need to think differently about ourselves, and we need to think differently about our organizations. These themes are affecting everyone – educators, students, parents, governments, industry leaders, etc. How are you, as an educator, adapting to current times of change? What will be your role in newly defined ways of educating students? Are you focused forward or resisting change?
The challenges brought by technology, if considered from a different perspective, are actually gifts that have the potential to actualize human potential like never before. The ability to derive meta-data can help to personalize instruction in ways that can create engagement and relevance for every student. Gamification is most likely to address issues of motivation in young learners. More and more individuals demand personalized forms of consumption and this will soon spread into education. Big corporations are addressing this through personalized marketing and this practice is becoming the norm.
New methods of delivery allow for learning to take place anywhere on the planet. EdX, Khan Academy, and Udemy are examples of platforms that are showing that it is possible to effectively accommodate virtual learning. Most tertiary institutions have invested in creating platforms that allow for distance learning – a new form of consuming educational product and services that is proving to be very lucrative for them. It would be foolish to think that the outdated structure of education will survive the ongoing soul-searching. Some are finding it difficult to imagine anything different. Keep in mind that things can change fast!
A friend of mine was a graphic designer who was trained decades ago. Before the accessibility of computers and software as we know it today, pictures were taken, developed, modified, fonts needed to be figured out, layout of text was a challenge, and so on. A project that took weeks to complete back then can now be completed by a grade 6 student in an hour or two. My friend spent the last decade of his career bitter that his skills and knowledge had been made redundant by a few software packages. Of course his experience counted for much but people were no longer willing to pay top money when they felt they could produce results themselves on their own computers. His unwillingness to change made him redundant!
The future is most likely to see personalized content and delivery become the norm. We already have the technology to accommodate this type of learning. Denial is not an option. Rather than fear these empowering changes, use them to motivate yourself in continuing to be a life-long learner.
There are many ways that you can be at the forefront of changes in education. There are an unprecedented number of teachers who are choosing to become entrepreneurs. In its redefinition of what and how we teach, education is rife with opportunities to the would be ‘teacherpreneur’. Expanding your teaching into one of the major online platforms is one way of reaching tens of thousands of students, and this comes with the ability to monetize your efforts. Consultancy is another area that becomes more accessible as the Internet allows you to market yourself in ways that were not possible only a couple of decades ago. There are many companies already offering support to teachers who choose the entrepreneurial path – a quick Google search will keep you busy figuring out which one is best to accompany you on your journey of expansion.
Change is always a difficult process for many and a golden opportunity for a few. Be one of the few and expand your skills, knowledge and opportunities by embracing some of the changes currently happening in education. Remember one of the many graduation speeches you have heard during your career – you know, the ones that encourage students to take wings and fly into exciting future possibilities. Be one of those people who do just that. Make a difference in education by daring to challenge yourself into helping define the new educational paradigm currently emerging in the world!
Michel Leroux is an international teacher who has taught mathematics in nine different countries. He is the co-founder of Educators Home Share (www.educatorshomeshare.com), a home sharing platform that caters to educators worldwide. He currently lives in Indonesia with his wife Christine, who is also a teacher.
Note 1: http://sirkenrobinson.com/work/
In celebration of ten years serving the global education community we are highlighting ten to know in education in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) in 2017. The UAE was selected since the founder has been based here the majority of the last ten years. Each person will be shared throughout this year. Our tenth person to know is Jeffrey Smith.
Jeffrey Smith is a Dubai-based business consultant specializing in K-12 education resources. He has over 15 years of experience forging partnerships with schools and organizations throughout the United States and across multiple countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Jeffrey is currently CEO of Copperstone Education. Copperstone represents the world-renowned and fully accredited Calvert Distance Learning curriculum for homeschool families and blended learning options in partnership with schools throughout the MENA region. Copperstone also offers Walkabouts by ActivEd and the Envision IELTS for Teachers program, which is thought to be the first IELTS preparation course developed specifically for teachers.
Prior to his current role, Jeffrey was Founding Director of Sylvan Learning in the UAE and Chief Operations Officer for Sylvan throughout the MENA Region. He is recognized for his extraordinary ability to develop “win-win” collaborations where the needs of all stakeholders are considered when developing solutions.
Jeffrey’s record of success also includes developing a partnership with the US Department of Defense to provide college preparation courses for military families at the Fort George Meade Army Base in the state of Maryland and his creation of several free community outreach projects here in the UAE, including Read Across the Gulf and the Community Service Initiative. Jeffrey has served on the Governing Board at North American International School for the past 5 years. He is also known for his volunteer work in the education community such as the Real Men Read campaign in the UAE.
Follow Copperstone Education here: