ITEACHING FOR TEACHER-TRAINING IN THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Research has continuously indicated that technology is a tool, which supports teaching and learning, with the main ingredient for successful technology integration being pedagogy. Furthermore, higher emphasis is given to technology use as cognitive tools and enablers of more active involvement of students in knowledge construction. The iPad is the most recent item on a long list of technological products that have been hailed worldwide. It is thought to be the tool that will change learning environments into more active and student-centered ones. The current paper reports preliminary results assessing the success of project-based inter-disciplinary collaborative activities that were implemented with 41 undergraduate education students at Zayed University. In designing the project, the researchers relied on various theoretical frameworks including constructivist learning theories, student-centered principles, motivational theories, project based learning, and cooperative and collaborative learning theories. The project was implemented in two courses, namely Early Childhood Mathematics and Science and Literature for Children and Adolescents.
In addition to course specific assignments, students had to complete the following two group-based assignments across both courses:
• Arabic Scientist/Mathematician Biography: students had to make use of the basic principals of writing biographies to design and develop a media product to teach young children about an Arab scientist/mathematician. For this assignment, the students were given full freedom to decide on what form of media product they want to present their biography with.
• E-book fairy/folk tale: students had to create e-book for a fairy/folk tale for young children that teaches or addresses mathematical concepts such as numeracy, shapes, patterns, and measurement.
After the completion of the courses, interviews were conducted with students to probe their perceptions about the projects, lessons learned, successes, challenges, and suggestions for future iterations of the courses. Analyses of the interviews revealed general positive attitudes towards the iPads and their use, with an interesting feeling of pride in the designed and developed products. The most prominent input given by the students related to the eye opening experience that iPads are helpful beyond gaming and emailing. Major skills gained included technological skills, design expertise, critical thinking and problem solving skills, in addition to group negotiation, leadership, and team-building skills. Challenges included saving and sharing files in addition to technical compatibility of various applications with each other. Finally, it was very interesting that the majority of the students valued the importance of the design of the assignment in parallel to the use of the iPad in the success of the project. Suggestions for the future included offering more time for each assignment, allowing for higher sharing of expertise among students, and increasing technical support. More detailed information regarding the process, applications used, and developed products will be offered in the full paper and presentation. In addition, specific findings and results will be shared with implications for instructors and course designers.