Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) is helping Qatar take a quantum leap in education development by hosting the first International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) Conference and Youth Summit in the Middle East.
A total of 700 teachers, students and specialists in information and communications technology (ICT) from 50 countries gathered to share knowledge and learn how technology is being deployed in the classroom at the iEARN Conference and Youth Summit – an event organized by Reach Out To Asia (ROTA). The conference program encompassed eight plenary sessions, two panel discussions and more than 90 workshops and presentations. The Supreme Education Council (SEC) was ROTA’s official partner for the event.
The high-profile event took place at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha from 1 to 6 July.
“This year’s forum proved that the iEARN agenda has never been more relevant. We are working together with all the educators to achieve progress and to realize our aspirations of a world where everyone is connected, and where everyone can benefit from and participate in the digital world,” says Essa Al Mannai, Executive Director of ROTA.
“ROTA and iEARN share a vision and aspiration to use ICT in education. Our partnership with iEARN is no mere accident. Qatar has visionary leadership in education, the economy and healthcare, where the community plays a key role. This is a time when Qatar has witnessed a historic shift in power, cementing our belief in our youth and involving them. Our youth have proved they have potential and determination,” adds Al Mannai.
He says it is a changing world dominated by new communications platforms such as Twitter. “Qatar is a responsible country, capable and aware of its role in the world. It is important to place the interests of Qatar at the top of the agenda.” Al Mannai says the iEARN Conference and Youth Summit was effectively “a gathering of humanity reflecting its vision and belief in Qatar”.
He adds that this is in line with the mission of Qatar Foundation, which “believes in unleashing human potential and harnessing human capacity. Unleashing such powers is only the beginning. It is then down to the determination and sincerity of our teachers. Qatar has proved itself in community leadership. Qatar is the home of all; this was a conference to unleash human potential”.
iEARN is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, with ROTA being its official Qatar representative since 2008. Since then, 411 teachers from 99 schools have attended ROTA’s iEARN Qatar workshops, and participated in a range of projects.
The role of ROTA in securing this major event for Qatar and the region, as well as Qatar’s pioneering development of its education sector, were acknowledged at a glittering inauguration on 1 July.
“We received an offer we could not refuse, from a country very committed to progress in education, and hence we came to Qatar,” says Tony Casires, iEARN Executive Board Member. He praised ROTA for its initiative in bringing iEARN to the region, and for championing Doha as the 2013 host city.
By hosting such prestigious events as the iEARN Conference and Youth Summit, Qatar revealed its commitment to accomplishing a quantum leap in education. This was based on adopting “the latest technologies in the curriculum in order to be in line with our present needs, and the needs of a rapidly growing Qatar”, says His Excellency Mohammed Abdul Wahed Ali Al Hammadi, Minister of Education and Higher Education.
The SEC was championing its Education and Training Strategy within the framework of Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016. “We endeavor to build an education system that will compete with the best systems in the world,” asserts His Excellency.
“The training and teaching strategy that the SEC adopts is in accordance with that stated in Qatar National Vision 2030, in terms of building an education system on par with international standards,” he adds. In this context, iEARN “has acted as a nucleus for educational and community institutions to provide the best solutions for the challenges we face”.
His Excellency comments that iEARN has proved itself internationally as a major educational resource. “We are pleased to partner with ROTA to accomplish the goals of providing the people with the right to education, and to adopt modern new systems and technology for education.”
Julie Lindsay, from Melbourne in Australia, whose past experience includes a stint as Head of IT and E-Learning at Qatar University, told The Foundation it is an ideal moment in the development of Qatar’s education sector for it to host such a prestigious event.
She says one of the key messages to emerge is the need for closer collaboration between teachers and students.
“Qatar has a developing education sector, and is ready to embrace new ideas and technology,” says Lindsay. She adds that this is why the iEARN Conference and Youth Summit is such an important event in terms of disseminating the latest technologies and strategies for the education sector in Qatar.
iEARN is a non-profit organization comprising 30,000 schools and youth organizations across more than 130 countries. It works to connect classroom learning with real world issues, and to find solutions to these issues on a collaborative platform. It also aims to enable young people to undertake projects designed to make a meaningful contribution to the health and welfare of the planet and its people.
The conference empowers teachers and young people to work together online using the Internet and other new communications technologies. More than two million students have been engaged in collaborative project work worldwide. iEARN projects are designed and facilitated by educators and students worldwide.
Twice a year, iEARN Qatar provides workshops and online professional development for teachers who are interested in integrating internet technologies and project-based learning into their curriculum. Educators also have an opportunity to join the ROTA Knowledge Network for professional development to enable them to integrate internet technologies and project-based learning into their curriculum. ROTA also organizes an open house every June to give students and teachers the chance to display their work and achievements and showcase their iEARN projects for the school year.
Primary school teacher Bronwyn Joyce says the 2013 iEARN Conference and Youth Summit has proved to be an emotional event for students and teachers, as well as emphasizing the importance of collaboration. Federico Pistono, author and scientific educator, agrees that technology is critical in such collaboration, with the event being an ideal platform for this, as mediated by ROTA.
Charlie Reaume, from Qatar Foundation International in the United States, says the event had proved a resounding success in bringing people from 50 countries together in the interests of furthering the education sector on a global basis. It is not only the professionals and educators who derive benefit from the event. Ala’A Khaled says: “This was one of the greatest events in my life. I hope to be a part of it next time, not as a volunteer, but as a participant.”