“I teach because I want to make a difference. I teach because what I do every day matters for at least one person. That’s what success is all about.” – Dalia Younis, Kuwait
English Language class and Environmental Studies: Two very different classes, with two very different learning outcomes, correct? Not if you’re Microsoft Expert Educator Dalia Younis. To Younis, these two dissimilar subjects are actually the perfect way to create engaged and active learners.
Younis uses project-based learning to “recreate new types of learners who are ready to learn, observe, search and apply themselves.” And while Younis may teach English, her class is much more than sentence structure and verb tense. “I use various tools and methods which depend on technology inside and outside the classroom. This is achieved by using project based assignments for groups, employing technology effectively before and after the lessons, teaching my students the necessary skills to find results and to use technology in searching for information and coming up with conclusions.”
Younis’ project, “Let’s Make a Difference” gives her students the opportunity “to act as individuals in their local community by stimulating their environmental awareness to become potential agents of change towards their city’s most critical concerns,” she says. “It also aims to train fresh learners on how to effectively use 21st century ICT tools and to obtain 21st century skills in exploring facts and coming out with results. I consider connecting my students to the outside real world the most innovative practice,” she says.
And, as is common with our Expert Educators around the globe, Younis is dedicated to sharing what she has learned through teacher training. “I have introduced more than 400 teachers to Microsoft innovative technology over the past three years,” she says. Whether through workshops, one-on-one training or through preparing and participating in the e-learning exhibitions held at her school, Younis is truly making a difference in her school and her community. Today, she shares her insights on which technologies have been the most useful in her classroom, as well as her biggest challenge working with her “digital native” students each day. Enjoy!
What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
I started first as a co-teacher for a remedial English course in the University of Jordan and noticed that first year students did not make use of all the traditional techniques applied at schools. This is what encouraged me to help create change. I teach because I want to make a difference. I teach because what I do every day matters for at least one person. That’s what success is all about.
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
My favorite teacher — inside and outside the classroom — is Dr. Ahmad Majdouba at the University of Jordan. Dr. Majdouba taught Criticism and The American History of Literature in a very challenging way that affected my way of teaching. When I consider authentic research and the proper use of language and information, Dr. Mohammad Akrm Sa’ad Eldein was very inspirational to me.
Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?
My work has resulted in increased support from my school’s vice principal, Mrs. Muneera Bu Hamrah, and my head of division, Mrs. Manal Al Blueshi. I think the school has become “technologymaniac”: teachers and students love learning the latest educational technology to use inside and outside the school.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
First I encouraged my students to use technology by using it myself. Basically, I use projectors and portable smart board device with several apps that enable live interaction with the real world. Of course, using Skydrive has become a basic channel for file sharing and e-survey purposes. Mouse Mischief is another marvelous app from Microsoft that both teachers and students were crazy about the minute I trained them.
In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cell phones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work?
No one can deny the effect of in-hand devices on taking education to another level. It has made everybody a learner. It is challenging to teach an audience that sometimes knows more than the teacher! So I keep searching for what is new in theory or method. That of course has a positive impact on my classes. Communicating with my students outside the classroom, using apps like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber, has made it easier and costs less for them to present, discuss and consult anywhere, anytime. So it is “on the go” education now.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
I think upgrading the teaching methods and training teachers on the latest technology inside the classroom is the best innovation today. Also transforming lessons into project-based learning is making a big difference. The great effort again by www.pil-network.com in guiding teachers and learners through this transformational process has been very influential.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
I think collaboration is the one. It is impossible to make each lesson completely about problem solving, but if I ensure the lesson includes collaboration with substantive decision-making responsibility, every other skill will be reached more smoothly.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A Surface RT/Pro. From my own experience, Windows is the best platform for education. If I can use it with a touch, multi task tool like the surface RT/Pro this is enough for me. It offers no restrictions of any kind or limits for creativity.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
Kuwait is trying to use the best technology in education for the early stages. Also, it is emphasizing training teachers on how to use these technologies efficiently.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
I think first, the number of students per class should be reduced. Second, teachers should be allowed to choose the best technology to use according to their field. Also, teachers need more training on 21st century skills.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Not having the freedom to divide the curriculum according to the class’ needs. Also, at times I have had to personally provide my classes with technology as much as possible, and the number of students in each class is huge (30 – 39 /class).
How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Having great results with my classes inspired other teachers to ask for professional development, moving their students to e-learning. Now, their classes enjoy learning with technology.
How have you incorporated mobile devices/apps into your classroom and have you seen any improvements?
I have been using mobile apps for file sharing, texting and exchanging results outside the classroom. Controlling the laptop interface – making it “hands free” inside the classroom has allowed me to work more “amongst” the students. Apps like Skydrive, Teacher’sKit, Keynote, Team Viewer, and others have been very useful.
About Dalia Younis
English Language Teacher and Microsoft Expert Educator
- Birthplace: Kuwait
- Current residence: Kuwait
- Education: B.A. / English Language and Literature
- Website I check every day: http://www.pil-network.com/
- Favorite childhood memory: Playing with the old Texas games — Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. I really loved the math games and grammar. It was my first edutainment experience.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Spain – Barcelona for the Microsoft in Education global Forum March 2014.
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? Reading this question really made me laugh!! Because it brought to my mind all the recent happy and crazy moments.
- Favorite book: The Holy Qura’an
- Favorite music: The Sound of Music
- What is the best advice you have ever received? The future is always bright, if you see it to be so!
- Your favorite quote or motto: ImPossible means “I’m Possible.”
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