Sharjah teachers build syllabus in electronic sign language
Middle East, June 29 2016
SHARJAH: The students at Al Amal School for the Deaf have easy access to course material because teachers have created an electronic library of the curriculum in sign language.
The sign language content covers subjects including Arabic, physics, chemistry and some topics in geography and history for several grades from middle to high school. There are plans to share this bank with other deaf schools in the region.
“The students have become more confident, creative. They have started researching on their own and even give us information,” said maths teacher Hanaa Mohammed.
A maths question on measuring simple slopes was set aside by students who instead asked her if they could measure the slope of the Leaning Tower of Pisa after downloading diagrams and photos from the internet.
“Before, we were not always sure we were successful in teaching subjects like maths but technology helps deliver easy information.”
In one maths class, students signed answers as they learnt dimension with diagrams displayed on their tablets and the class smart board.
Some students walked up to the board to solve the problem and, once they tapped the correct answer, a green symbol flashed, accompanied by a loud beep.
Slides and PowerPoint presentations available to regular public schools can be retrieved by Al Amal students with sign language explanations from their teachers.
“The e-content of the (regular) syllabus was rich and very useful for all students, except these students needed someone to explain what was in it,” said Ahmed Ashour, regional education sector lead, Microsoft.
“Students can watch it not only in the classroom but revisit it. It can also be replayed so people with different learning levels can benefit.”
Technology has also motivated the staff to think creatively.
Lessons were conducted via Skype when a teacher fractured her leg due to an accident and could not attend school.
“The exams were close, we could not hire a new teacher with the skills to teach students with disabilities so we used technology to solve the problem,” said principal Afaf Al Haridi.
“We didn’t stop teaching but continued with classes. Technology helps children connect with teachers and content at any time, ask questions anytime and keep learning.”
The e-content library created may be shared with deaf schools in Kuwait and Cairo, with Microsoft planning to train volunteer teachers to replicate the experience of Sharjah’s Al Amal and empower more students.
“Al Amal school is looking to be the hub for other deaf schools. They have seen the impact and have the curriculum, so they are willing to share this e-content library with sign language translations with others,” said Radwa Salem, programme manager at Microsoft Gulf.
“Students are the easy part because they have curiosity, they want to discover learning, they are what we call digital natives. The challenge is teachers because we are the digital immigrants. For anything to work, the teacher has to be the leader in the class, the facilitator and designer of the learning.”