“My experience at UNESCO gave me a unique opportunity to see how governments worldwide work, how consensus is reached on the best ways to address the needs of developing countries and how laws are approved and enacted.” -Dr. Tarek Shawki, Egypt
When I visited the BETT show 2014 in London a few weeks ago, I was very encouraged to see the purposeful use of technology being showcased. It’s clear that schools, teachers and students alike are thinking about how to make technology impactful, meaningful and relevant. Even more important, schools are recognizing that they must consider the ultimate objective: preparing students to be contributors and leaders in the 21st century workplace. With thousands of school decision makers in attendance at the BETT show, there were many discussions about how to maximize limited budgets and learning impacts, plan for the long term, and do the right thing for administrators, teachers, students and their communities.
While I was in London, I was fortunate to speak with one of the pioneers in creating meaningful and effective uses of technology in education, science and culture: my friend and a great leader in education today, Dr. Tarek Shawki. Dr. Shawki, currently the Dean of the School of Sciences and Engineering at the American University in Cairo, is well known in academic circles for his work in the area of theoretical and applied mechanics. But he has long been recognized globally as a leading advocate of ICT in education.
A distinguished academic, consultant and international education executive, Shawki received his PhD in engineering from Brown University, and served for 13 years as professor of theoretical and applied mechanics at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He then spent more than a decade between Cairo and Paris working at UNESCO, where he was a key player in the development of several innovative programs related to education and technology. These included establishing a set of universal benchmarks for teacher competencies in the use of informational communications technologies, as well as developing a global, multi-lingual and digital library of high-quality e-courseware content available free of charge to students and teachers around the world.
“My experience at UNESCO gave me a unique opportunity to see how governments worldwide work, how consensus is reached on the best ways to address the needs of developing countries and how laws are approved and enacted,” he said. “It was through that job [at UNESCO] that I was able to do a lot of projects around the world. From putting together a total IT infrastructure in Syria and a virtual university, to building the library of Alexandria, to putting (together) standards for teacher training, which was our biggest project.”
Today, I am honored to share my video discussion with Dr. Shawki, in which we discuss the history of his work and technology in education, how global universal teacher certification and assessment may progress over the next years, and what he is most excited about as he looks to the next phase of his journey. “There are great examples of accomplishments in countries that we don’t anticipate,” he adds, “like in the developing world, the interest in technology is higher than in some of the western countries. We have to capitalize on this passion.”