About 25,000 pupils will have tablet computers this academic year as the Ministry of Education expands its programme to bring smart learning to classrooms.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Smart Learning Programme, launched last year for pupils in Grade 7 and some in Grade 8, will be expanded to Grades 1 and 5 in chosen schools.
It will also be introduced to other pupils in Grade 7, 8 and 9, at a total cost of Dh120 million.
Most of the pupils will receive tablets and their classrooms will be equipped with smart boards.
They will be connected online to teachers and parents through a customised social network.
Mohammed Gheyath, director of the Ministry of Education's pilot programme, said surveys of teachers and pupils had shown the initiative had been well received.
"Some of the interviews we had with the pupils, they said that they understand better now because it's more interactive, it's more entertaining, there is more engagement,” said Mr Gheyath.
"More engagement means more understanding for them.”
The rollout for Grades 1 and 5 is expected to benefit about 14 schools.
Apart from those, the number of schools in the Smart Learning Programme this autumn will increase to 147 from 123.
In Grade 9, the pupils will not be given tablet computers but their classrooms will have smart boards and a wireless network.
"Because now, pupils of Grade 7 who move to Grade 8 will be experts on using the system,” said Khalid Al Hammadi, the programme's research and development adviser.
"As you can see, we're moving with the first batch as they grow.”
The ministry intends to roll out the programme to all of the schools in its jurisdiction by 2017.
The initiative will be slightly modified when installed in Cycle 1 classes, said Mr Al Hammadi.
"It will be a little bit different,” he said. "For example, now I'm using smart board screens that are 75 inches or 85 inches, but for the lower grades maybe I need to use smaller screen because the smaller kids will not be able to reach the top of that screen to touch it.
"Another issue is they will not be able to handle a heavy device or high-performance device, so we need to look at that.”
Mr Al Hammadi said that while the launch was about a month away, details were still being worked out.
"We just need to decide, to finalise,” he said. "We do something different for Grade 1 and something different for Grade 5.
"We still have not finalised the technology. We are preparing some initial training.”
Studies suggesting that pupils in lower grades perform better in groups of two to share a device will be considered when the pilot scheme is implemented, he said.
"Then, there is another approach, where you have a table as a tablet, where six pupils can interact at the same time to build a village or to gain information, or to interact with the class,” said Mr Al Hammadi. "So there is a different approach that we need to study.”
The first batch involved 11,402 pupils from 442 classrooms across all emirates except Abu Dhabi, whose schools are regulated by the Abu Dhabi Education Council.
The programme is funded by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Fund.
Dr Fiona Baker, head of educational psychology at the Emirates College for Advanced Education, said modern technologies were a powerful tool for educating young children, "because they rely on the brain's preference for visually presented information. This attracts and maintains the attention of young children.
"Technology can be useful if used appropriately, actively and interactively, and in the right balance.
"The value of this project will depend on the level of child interaction, amount of screen time, appropriateness of use and balance, but it sounds every promising.”
Source: The National