Future classrooms are here

A pupil of Alder Academies learns through the video game, Minecraft. [Courtesy]
Students aged below ten are huddled around a table, each on a laptop, deeply engrossed in a world of their own creation.

To a casual observer, it would seem like they are just playing video games, but it is a classroom set-up, where they are actually learning through the video game, Minecraft, putting what they learned in theory into practice.

Later on, I get to experience the world one of the pupils created in Minecraft, through virtual reality. I am given a virtual reality headset, which I mount on my head. As soon as the tour of the virtual world began, I realised why it is called ‘reality’.

It feels real, such that when I’m asked to look at my feet, I saw a pool of water and my body reacted as I was actually jumping into the pool.

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Welcome to the future classroom. The students we interacted with were from the Alder Academies in Abu Dhabi. Their style of learning is considered the future for most schools in Kenya.

Andrew Turner, head of education and innovation at the institution says children typically take to any technology you introduce like fish to water, but it is not quite the same for the older generation.

“I’ll give you an example with Minecraft. All the students were into it straight away, but parents thought it was just a video game, telling them they were not doing homework, but playing. So we get them into our school and show them what we are doing. We show them the benefits and how we link it to all subjects. It’s about ongoing communication,” he says.

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Mr Turner, explains that for teachers, Continuous Professional Development is crucial for them to keep abreast with technology.

In an interview with Sunday Standard at the Bett Middle East and Africa 2019 summit, Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, says that Kenya is doing relatively well in adopting a forward-thinking, longterm approach to technology and its importance in education.

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“Kenya is probably the best example in Africa that has done it well in terms of getting connection to the university systems, building help desks for teachers, putting training in place and having thoughtfulness around device acquisition. There is a lot to improve in Kenya, but there is a much better foundation there than in other places,” he says.    

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