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Smart cities can lead to smart education

The recent announcement by the Muscat Municipality to develop a large area on the Seeb waterfront as a multi-purpose park, as well as the ‘Maidan Muttrah’, a proposed bridge with a bird’s eye view of the iconic landmarks around the Muttrah Corniche, both point to the development of smart cities which is the future of the urban landscape.

While attracting tourists and allowing for a variety of entertainment activities, such projects, in the long-term, add to the creative, sustainable, ‘smart’ education of younger citizens.

Smart education can be defined as the integration of traditional learning with contemporary skills like e-learning, entrepreneurship and effective skills like flexibility and innovation. It mainly focuses on seamless learning, inside and outside the classroom.

Smart education is popular across the world, including in Singapore, South Korea and Japan. Australia designed a smart, multi-disciplinary student-centric education system, in collaboration with IBM.

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is at the forefront of smart education. It implies that technologies are used as tools for accessing content, enhancing communication, offer collaboration platforms and help evaluate projects. It also entails that people from around the world could work on a common project in real time.

Smart learning is active, student centric and engaging. It prioritises the learning atmosphere as it underlines the impact of collaboration and sustainability. It is, thus, more than learning from a device. In fact, it is the skill of using a device for larger, more permanent and innovative purposes.

Smart learning has been defined as being 'self-directed, motivated, adaptive, resource-enriched and technology-embedded'. It goes beyond passive memorising to being hands on, with critical and creative thinking and digital literacy going hand in hand.

This kind of seamless learning is primarily based on mobile technologies, cloud computing and wearable technology. Hence smart cities focus predominantly on infrastructure – physical, social and digital. It imagines a connectivity between essential services like transport and electricity, to support systems like leisure and social life.

In effect, smart cities enhance the quality of life, safety and awareness of the world around us. With its emphasis on easy access to data, ‘intelligent’ public services and edutainment options, it focuses on a holistic way of life that is in tandem with 21st century lifestyle.

Smart cities tie seamlessly with smart education, as it entails that teachers can revise content and teaching methods based on student performance and feedback, connect globally with emerging pedagogies and methodologies, and become proficient in intercultural awareness.

Creating spaces for project based learning (PBL) is an integral part of the aim of smart cities. Being part of the immediate spatial and digital community will provide for learning opportunities outside the traditional textbooks.

Engaging with the community will enrich students’ experiences in sustainable living and caring for the environment, among other concerns.

Such interactive learning will allow students to engage with new information and prepare them to face new challenges.

Smart cities are already here and increasingly the norm. Understanding their potential for learning will make them more attractive, and indeed indispensable to our world.

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