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Falaj project enables smooth and efficient education


staff reporter

muscat, sept 25

The pandemic pushed schools into crossing the digital barrier and educators to rethink how technology is used in teaching and used by learners.

Oman embraced digital innovation in line with the goals of 2040. In 2020, the Ministry of Education nationally adopted Google Workspace from Grade 5 onwards, giving many teachers access to a shared online space, collaboration tools and an ecosystem of innovative apps.

Teachers also have digital versions of Cambridge textbooks in PDF format. The World Bank praised the Ministry of Education for its efforts in edtech.

One example of this digital innovation is the Falaj Project, a collaboration between the Ministry of Education of Oman, Cambridge Partnership for Education, and Google for Education to respond to teaching challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Focused on hybrid and online learning best practices, the project is named after the traditional ‘falaj’ irrigation system. Just like the falaj enables smooth and efficient irrigation across the country, it is hoped that an effective digital teaching approach enables smooth and efficient education when Oman’s schools are closed.

The Falaj Project considers ways in which teachers can teach effectively in remote and hybrid contexts.

The insights gained from the 14-week project show how innovative combinations of digital tools such as Google Workspace and existing embedded resources used by millions of students, such as Cambridge textbooks, can help teachers manage their time more effectively and enhance the student-centred aspect of their teaching.

As part of The Falaj Project, a group of 10 teacher innovators was appointed by the ministry to take part in workshops, respond to surveys and to evaluate digital prototypes demonstrated by Cambridge and Google. This group reflected on one of the key challenges of successful technology adoption: designing digital solutions that will work for a diverse community of teachers. Oman’s teachers and supervisors have varying and diverse digital skills, approaches to using digital technologies and access to infrastructure.

Another challenge is keeping students engaged during remote learning. The group discussion suggested attention spans are shorter, with limited opportunities for student-teacher interaction — especially in inquiry-based activities like practical science experiments.

Currently available digital content has its own limitations. Textbooks continue to be used by teachers every day to understand curriculum objectives, success criteria and get ideas for activities and questions, but the way this content is currently formatted can limit teachers’ options for adaptation and interactivity. For instance, some subjects like Maths reported specific issues such as functionality for presenting graphs and equation symbols.

The way forward

A UK study has shown that access to high quality digital lesson content could help streamline some parts of the planning process. Digitising existing content in a more interactive format, such as in high-quality, textbook-aligned topic videos, could help teachers focus their time on activities that allow them to successfully manage digital education solutions and provide high quality lessons to their learners.

Lastly, digital tools can only be as effective as their implementation. Research, including in the Omani context, emphasises the importance of high-quality, continuous edtech training in schools while implementing new digital initiatives.

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