FEATURE STORY

Putting More Technology in Schools to Cultivate Contemporary Skills for Lebanon’s Workforce

May 29, 2015


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Jamil Rawas Public Secondary School for Boys students listen to the LEGO Education explain how to program a spinning top.

Mu'taz Salloum

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New program aims to introduce children to tech tools that encourage creativity from an early age.
  • More creative and problem-solving skills are needed in today’s workplace.
  • Such skills may equip young people to propel a future Lebanese economy.

“Tech For Kids” was a series of events held in Beirut to expose children, teachers, and members of the Lebanese government to the use of innovative ICT tools in problem solving and collaboration in the classroom, as well as to new ways of fostering creativity—an issue critical to the future economy of a country where high literacy rates and high enrollment in tertiary education produce a pool of well-educated youth, about one third of whom (34%) are unable to find employment at home.

Launched by the World Bank in late April, the principal belief of Tech For Kids is that using technology in the classroom can improve children’s core education or STEAM—science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics—by equipping students with the tools they need to pursue careers in jobs that need them to be more innovative. Understanding technology, and applying some of the methodologies related to it, is a key skillset in today’s labor force. Even more valuable, though, are the skills children gain in the process. Faced with high unemployment rates and complex economic barriers, gaining better skills in critical thinking from an early age, promises to help equip future generations in Lebanon with a more competitive and entrepreneurial labor force.

How does Tech For Kids equip children with 21st century skills?

The Tech for Kids program began with holding a small fair for middle school children (age roughly 11–14), as well as for their parents and teachers. This was followed by a workshop at Beirut Digital District, where teachers and students from several schools—public and private— worked with local and international education experts on exploring new technology. The technology included LEGO EducationlittleBits, Scratch, 3D printing, Raspberry Pi and a new, Lebanese-manufactured building tool, QalamSila.

The sessions were led by Stuart Swann, a LEGO certified trainer from the UK; Sabine El Kahi, the founder of Kids Genius; Eliane Metni, Director of International Education Association; and Jose Antonio Galaso, an education specialist from Barcelona who previously worked at CitiLab, which pioneered the integration of these tools, as well as other educational approaches. Through hands-on exercises in building and deconstructing structures, facilitators familiarized participants with creativity, teamwork, and “learning by doing”.


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Students learn about 3D printing from Karim Attoui,  COO at /ɪzəm/ in Beirut.

Mu'taz Salloum

After capturing the interest of students and educators, the next day was focused on training teachers in concrete ways to apply these technologies in the classroom. Fourteen teachers from seven schools spent time with local and international education experts to gain exposure to best practices for integrating new concepts into classwork, and creating curricula to promote creative thinking.

To complement the hands-on training sessions, the World Bank team brought government, education, and innovation stakeholders together to talk about 21st Century Skill Development in Lebanon. This highlighted homegrown and international examples of using technology to improve learning, providing an opportunity to develop collaboration between all the different stakeholders in Lebanon.

The final part of the Tech for Kids program brought the students and their teachers back together for a session in which teachers completed exercises with their students, working to complete more advanced exercises with a program called Scratch. Children also took part in Lego, littleBits, and Qalamsila workshops.

Tech For Kids—and the great work already being done by other organizations in Beirut—is only the first step on a long road toward meaningfully and comprehensively integrating technology into schoolwork. Facilitators and participants brainstormed the next step, which includes the possibility of an education lab for more experimentation and innovation in using technologies, as well as training kids in summer camps. Key takeaways from the workshop included the importance of understanding the local context, of teacher-student relationships, and of allowing time to work with teachers and students separately, as well as together. Sessions that focused on one specific technology at a time were also important.

Tech for Kids was financed by the Korean Partnership Facility and is linked to the Mobile Internet Ecosystem Project, a collaborative effort between the World Bank and the Ministry of Telecommunications of Lebanon that is aimed at encouraging innovation and supporting the ecosystem of start-ups in Lebanon. The project currently awaits the backing of, and formal ratification from, the Lebanese parliament.

Participants included representatives from the Government of Lebanon, including the Ministry of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Economy and Trade; tech companies, including Intel, Microsoft, and CISCO; international organizations and donors, including the British Council, UNDP, UNICEF Innovation, and the US Embassy; the innovation community, including  AltCity, ArabNet, Berytech, Public Interest Design; and local schools and local makers of programs for kids. The discussion included presentations by Dr Charbel Fares from Ministry of Telecommunications of Lebanon; José Antonio Galaso, the education specialist from Barcelona; Sara Sibai, a teacher at Wellspring Learning Community and a co-founder of Lebanese Initiative for Teachers; Maher Hassanieah, Program Manager at International Education Association; James Cranwell-Ward, Innovation Specialist at UNICEF Innovation; Sabine El-Kahi, founder of Kids Genius; Victor Mulas, ICT Innovation Specialist at the World Bank; and Rana El Chemaitelly, founder of The Little Engineer




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