10 Education Technology Resources for the Arab World

by Nafez Dakkak, November 5, 2012

In my previous article, I talked about the accumulating research on the importance on early childhood education, and the rising importance of “serial mastery.” In parallel, there has a boom in education technology that enables citizens and governments to better respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by early childhood education and serial mastery.

Investments in education-technology companies in the United States alone tripled in the last decade, rising from $146 million in 2002 to $429 million in 2011. There are now over 70,000 educational apps on iTunes alone, not to mention the hundreds of other resources available throughout the web.

Regionally, we don’t have collated data on the topic, but anecdotally (and very roughly), we can say that at least 2 out of every 10 tech companies that were started in the region over the past year have been education focused.

Below are 10 education technology applications and resources that I hope will enable readers to benefit from the resurgence in education technology.

1. Kindertown:

Available on the iPhone, iPad, or as a website, Kindertown is the Rotten Tomatoes of educational apps, aimed at children from infancy to 8 years of age. It provides parents and educators with a one-stop shop for reviews of educational apps by experts in the field. A noteworthy feature is the ability to search Kindertown according to your learning goals and objectives.

2. Math Mage:

As I mentioned previously there is a nascent but growing ed-tech scene in the Middle East. My favorite app to come out of the Middle East is from Jordan’s Rubicon Game Holdings: Math Mage (MM).  According to Kindertown, MM “is a math fluency game that plays like a video game. Monsters have been unleashed in your village. Your job is to vanquish them by choosing from given numbers to solve math equations. There is plenty of challenge with 4 difficulty levels and fast-paced game play. This is an app for kids who know addition well and are ready to build fluency.”

3. Reading Bear

With the co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, as its Editor-in-Chief, Reading Bear is the “first free program online to teach beginning readers vocabulary and concepts while systematically introducing all the main phonetic patterns of written English, all using innovative rich media.”

Here’s a glimpse of what the Sanger was able to achieve with his own child, using some of the material on Reading Bear: http://blog.larrysanger.org/2010/12/baby-reading/

One point Sanger likes to emphasize is that: “[a]ll of this was done in a completely pressure-free way; I taught him to say ‘that’s enough’ and immediately stopped when, if not before, he got tired of any activity.”

4. Storypanda Books:

Available as an iPad application, Storypanda Books, brings children and parents together around story sharing. In the words of the developers, it “lets children, read interactive stories, edit and remix those stories to create their own, then share them with friends” who have also bought the application. The emergence of tablets has completely changed the reading experience, and apps like this one make reading much more engaging at a young age. Notably, the ability to create and remix stories introduces children to the importance of not only consuming content but producing it, so it can be a great way to develop children’s creative talent early on.

5. Hackety Hack

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, was considered a “programming prodigy” well before he started college at Harvard in 2002. In fact, Zuckerberg learned to code in Middle School and took an advanced programming class at a neighboring college while still in high school. While Hacekty Hack won’t make your child a prodigy programmer- only practice will- it will teach her the absolute basics of programming from the ground up. Hackety Hack teaches the Ruby programming language, which is used for all kinds of programs.

6. Scratch

If you are interested in starting even earlier with your children, the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab has developed Scratch. Scratch is a “programming language learning environment enabling beginners to get results without having to learn syntactically correct writing first.”Simply, Scratch makes it easy for children to create their own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art – without learning a word code. Instead, children learn important “mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.”

7. Coursera & MOOCs:

MOOCs, stands for Massive Open Online Courses. To start backwards, a MOOC is essentially a course that is offered online for free to a massive number of people. Course material has of course been available online for quite sometime, but MOOCs provide a different participatory and networked experience. Unlike previous formats, MOOCs are live classes where students can interact with each other and their instructors. There are many platforms out there, but perhaps the one with the most variety today, offering 200 free courses from 33 Universities from around the world is Coursera.com.

8. Khan Academy:

Perhaps the poster child of education technology, no ed-tech list seems to be complete without Khan Academy. With a motto about offering “a free world-class education to anyone anywhere,” Khan Academy offers an extensive video library covering everything from basic algebra to differential equations. Over the past year, they’ve recruited a very impressive cadre of academics and experts to expand their offerings to the humanities and computer science. Like any tool or resource on the way to maturity, Khan Academy has gotten a fair amount of criticism recently on its pedagogical value among other things. It may not perfect but for most intents and purposes it still does an undeniably fantastic job.

9. Duolingo 

Duolingo is a free service that helps users learn languages (English, German, French and Spanish – for now) in a social environment while simultaneously contributing to the translation of real-world content from the web. It’s a very innovative concept, and if you are still trying to figure out how somebody that is still learning a language contribute to translation, you should check out the Duolingo website. Also, like most “ideas worth sharing”, there’s a TED Talk on the concept behind Duolingo. 

10. EdSurge

Finally, if you feel inspired at all by the potential of the sector, you can keep up with what’s going on yourself. EdSurge.com, got started as a newsletter filled with tips and insights about the emerging education technology industry, and now is one of the premier independent information resources and communities for everyone involved in education technology.  

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Nafez is a recent Yale Alum who majored in Economics and International Studies. Nafez wrote his thesis on Obstacles towards curriculum reform in Jordan and the UAE. He is currently a consultant for PricewaterhouseCooper's Education Team based in Dubai. He is interested in Education Reform, MENA politics, social entrepreneurship, and tech start-ups. His main passion is the intersection between technology and education entrepreneurship. You can reach him on twitter @ndakkak.

 
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