Magazine article Technology and Children

Science and Technology Inservice Teaching in a Dubai Elementary School

Magazine article Technology and Children

Science and Technology Inservice Teaching in a Dubai Elementary School

Article excerpt

It all began one day when a colleague asked me quite casually if I would like to do some inservice in Dubai. This was in July and by the middle of September we were on our way.

I knew very little about the country or the people or even about the school we were about to visit although I did know that my contract was for seven days including two days of preparation.

The school had asked that a "new methodology" be introduced to the teachers. The principal wanted the teachers to use problem-solving methodology and he wanted them to integrate language arts, mathematics, science and technology. To this end I had put a program together, which consisted of topics in science and technology including fabrics, electricity and houses and homes, which were to be hands-on, practically based workshops. Each of the topics were integrated appropriately so that subjects came naturally together without contriving to fit everything in. For example, the measurements and structures related to houses and homes were particularly suitable to integrating mathematics, science, and technology whereas electricity was more narrowly focused towards science and technology. In addition to the topic base, I had also planned for some sessions on introducing problem solving and organizing it in the classroom.

In preparation for the visit, resources that were going to be required were identified, packed, and sent on two weeks before we traveled. The trunk which left, contained everything that I would need for my workshops including tools, materials, glue, scissors and even paper and string. I was leaving nothing to chance. Had the customs authorities opened the trunk they would also have found empty egg boxes, pieces of fabric and bulbs, wires and batteries. In retrospect, I am not sure any of my materials would have been permitted or delivered. Since this was a completely new undertaking, I naively assumed all would go well.

I arrived at the school to find out that I had 22 teachers of grades K to 6 and some teachers of English from grades 9 to 12. None of the teachers had ever taught anything but their own subject with all but the kindergarten teachers changing rooms to teach classes ip mathematics, science or English every forty minutes. The classrooms were small with desks in rows for 25 single sex students and there was no storage space.

After meeting senior staff at he school, I was introduced to my group of teachers. They were from a variety of countries including Turkey, the U.S.,and Lebanon. None of them were natives of Dubai although some, who were refugees, had lived in the country for most of their lives. Most of the teachers had very little formal training in teaching education although many had degrees. However, they all spoke English since this was the language in which they taught; the only subjects taught in Arabic were religious education and the Arabic equivalent of language arts.

My main aim for the first morning was to find out what needs the teachers had in relation to this staff development week. As a believer in constructivism for all ages, I asked them to write down their expectations, questions and ideas so that I could begin from where they were. What follows are some of their requests: "I would like to know how to teach a subject in math which is what number comes next. e.g. 569705. How do we lessen their confusion?"

"Pronunciation practice, especially for English as a second M-language."

"New ways of getting the students involved in the classroomrather than just listening to the teacher (regarding teaching math)."

"1. Tips on classroom management. 2. How to deal with difficult children. 3. Activities to help children think for themselves. 4. Creative writing."

"Discussing the best methods for teaching children in an interesting manner so that they would not feel as if they were being taught new lessons. …

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