They’ve been dubbed a generation of ‘digital natives’, but how should we educate our tech-savvy children, when the current school system is based on a traditional teacher-centric classroom setting that has not really changed since formal education began?
The answer, says Irum Irum Farhat Farooq, MD of Metamindz, a new learning and enrichment centre in JLT, lies in what’s known as ‘blended learning’. ‘We can’t teach our children the way we were taught. The way children learn has to be brought into the 21st century,’ she explains.
Currently offering programmes in English and maths from age five, all the way up to adult learners, the centre uses the latest computer technology to create an individualized learning environment for each student. Teachers take on the role of a facilitator and guide, with up to 80 per cent of learning being undertaken by the student themselves, going (most importantly) at their own pace.
However, this is not the same e-learning, stresses Irum. While kids work in front of computers in the main ‘classroom’, the teacher is able to offer one-on-one attention when needed. The educational programmes that are used by MetaMindz give continuous, real-time feedback on a child’s progress as they learn. Monitored by the teacher throughout each session, this not only allows for detailed diagnosis of an individual’s strengths, weaknesses and growth areas, but ensures that the teacher can immediately respond if a child is having issues with a certain aspect of their learning, a tricky equation for example. In this case, the teacher will intervene, removing the child from the computer lab and offering one-on-one tuition and attention to help them figure it out. Depending on each child, between 50 and 80 per cent of their learning will be self-driven in front of the computer, with the remainder being under the one-to-one instruction of the tutors.
The system that Metamindz is based on has been rigorously tried and tested across schools in the United States, and has been endorsed by the National Council on Teacher Quality, The National Education Association and the Bill Gates Foundation, to name but a few. The theory behind the programme takes its inspiration from the leaders of the scientific and education field, such as Disrupting Class, a book by Harvard Business School professor and respected author Clayton Christensen, which advocates the use of blended technology in the classroom, ensuring that every student is able to get the most out of their education, no matter what their level or ability.
But if on paper that sounds a little dry, in practice it’s clearly a lot more fun. ‘It has to be exciting, it has to be engaging, and it has to be personalized,’ says Irum. For the younger kids in particular, the programmes used are based on gaming technology, using bright colours, fun characters and sounds. On our visit, three children are typing and clicking away in front of the PCs, closely monitored by the tutors, with one little boy clapping his hands in glee as he gets the answer correct for a maths problem he’d been trying to solve. ‘It’s amazing how motivated the children are,’ says Irum, pointing to a race-car chart on the wall that maps each child’s progress. ‘They have so much fun while they are learning, and they are really excited to be here. It can sometimes be difficult to draw each session to a close as they don’t want to stop.’
Unlike other educational centres in the UAE, MetaMindz isn’t particularly about tutoring. ‘We don’t help kids with their homework, and we don’t help them cram by rote ahead of exams,’ Irum says. ‘It’s whatever gaps that they have in their learning at school that we are looking to fill.’ Even so the company has recently developed a new programme that’s specifically aimed at supporting (not cramming) older kids who’ll be sitting their SAT exams.
The MetaMindz system is designed to support a child’s current education (no matter what curriculum), and because of its continuous diagnosis of a child’s learning, can pinpoint the areas that need attention and support much more effectively than a single teacher that’s teaching a class of 25 is able to. ‘It is proven that it’s not humanly possible to give individual attention to all the children in a class of that size,’ explains Irum. And because the teacher takes on a different, more facilitating role, it also means that the MetaMindz programmes are a lot more affordable than traditional tutoring methods, meaning that making the most of a child’s academic potential is now in reach of a lot more families than ever before.
MetaMindz is based in Reef Tower, Jumeirah Lakes Towers. To find out more about their programmes, go to www.metamindz.com, or call 04 368 5604.