E-learning in Palestine
Palestinian primary and secondary schools move towards student-centred learning with the use of ICT tools in education.
The aim of the e-learning project was to introduce the use of ICT in 288 pilot schools in the West Bank in order to enhance student-centred learning and to allow Palestinian students to acquire 21st century skills. In 2011, when the e-learning project just started, Palestinian schools almost did not use ICT at all. This Belgian e-learning project was a pioneer project for Palestine and has proven to be very successful overall. It helped shift the focus away from mere technological solutions towards the use of ICT as an enabler for student-centred learning.
If education is a chemical reaction, ICT@E is the catalyst
E-learning and ICT were not a goal in itself, but a means to enhance student-centred learning and to allow students to acquire 21st century skills (such as critical thinking, learning to learn, problem solving, global citizenship, digital literacy…). The e-learning project helped to support a new way of teaching by allowing the teachers to introduce more innovative methods in their daily teaching practices, and by increasing the active role of students at school. Furthermore, ICT is also used as a means to train the teachers and strengthen their own knowledge of active learning and 21st century skills. It therefore contributes to the quality of teaching in Palestine.
Moreover, e-learning and the use of ICT in education is also a tool for more inclusive education, as e-learning through a student-centred approach opens the way for distance learning and other forms of education that are more suited to people with special needs, including students affected by the conflict.
1) Bottom-up approach through school-led initiatives
Through a competitive fund, teachers were motivated to develop learning objects using ICT. 288 pilot schools participated and were rewarded with ICT material based on their own ICT-needs analysis. By the end of the project, a total of 1,600 learning objects were developed by teachers in a successful bottom-up approach, and uploaded to the teacher web portal developed by the Ministry of Education.
2) Teacher training
Over 1,200 teachers were trained on student-centred learning through the use of ICT. A training manual was developed on how teachers can apply and integrate ICT in the classroom. The focus is not on the technology as such, but rather on the role of the teacher as facilitator. Developed together with the teachers, this training manual has become the national reference in Palestine; the training efforts are now being scaled up to 14,000 teachers.
3) Digital teacher platform
The project developed a digital teacher portal, where teachers can share their learning objects with each other (www.elearn.edu.ps). By the end of the project, the teacher portal had 6,500 active users and more than 2 million hits, for downloading and uploading e-lessons. As a result of a successful promotional campaign by the Ministry in 2016 these numbers increased to: 31,200 active users, 5,400 Learning Objects and more than 3,5 million hits. The teacher portal is driven by the teachers, letting them decide on which ‘widget’ or ICT tool to share amongst themselves. This peer-to-peer approach has proven an excellent way to motivate, encourage and mobilize the educational community for ICT in education.
4) Policy advice
The project provided upstream policy-advice based on a large action research to learn from the activities and pilots supported by the project. This resulted in six policy papers that were published in December 2015 and have been disseminated to a wide group of stakeholders to fuel the Palestinian policy on digitization in education. These policy papers provide policy recommendations on the most effective use of ICT in student-centred learning in the education system in Palestine. Even though the input of the policy papers was gathered in Palestine, the outcomes and findings of the papers are also relevant for other countries.
5) Keeping up with technology
Technology is evolving continuously and opportunities for ICT@E arise faster than project planners can predict. The Palestinian Ministry of Education and BTC seized the opportunity to add more innovations to the project:
Mobile learning & apps
In 53 schools training sessions were organized to show how to use mobile devices (tablets) as a tool for new active teaching & learning methods. Moreover, 500 students developed mobile applications under guidance of 25 trained ministry experts. In 2014 and 2015, the mobile apps were exhibited during a mobile app fair under UNESCO’s ‘Youth Mobile’ flag where prizes were awarded to the best application.
The project also provided training and equipment to pilot the use of LEGO robotics for STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The use of LEGO robotics not only allowed for genuine student centered learning in STEM, but it also boosted the motivation of the students and teachers that were using the robots. Furthermore, LEGO robotics encouraged the teachers to work more closely together, which resulted in more coordination and less overlap between the different STEM subjects and teaching units.
The project at a glance
From 2011 until 2015, the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) and the Belgian Development Agency (BTC) have jointly implemented the e-learning project to introduce the use of ICT in education to enhance student centred learning. The 4 million euro project was funded by Belgium and Palestine. After the official end of the project, the efforts are being continued and scaled up by the Ministry of Education.
The project won the 2016 “Digital for Development” Prize (D4D), an initiative of the Belgian development cooperation and the Royal Museum of Central Africa.
More on the e-learning project: