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ADEC highlights technology in education

Abu Dhabi Education Council using GIS for strategic decision making

ADEC highlights technology in education
Technology solutions are empowering ADEC stakeholders, says Aly.

Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), the organization tasked with raising standards of education in the Emirate, has highlighted how it is adopting technology to provide better services, and better decision making for the 150,000 students and 15,000 teachers in the schools that it is responsible for.

During Gitex, ADEC showed a number of its existing solutions, and also announced a deal with Cisco to connect almost 270 schools with a Cisco Borderless Network solution.

Speaking to ITP.net, Dr Alaaeldin Aly, knowledge management director, Office of Planning and Strategic Affairs, ADEC, said that technology is now a major component in education, and in ADEC's mission to raise the standard of education that is available to pupils in Abu Dhabi.

"ADEC has invested a lot in technology, to strengthen its infrastructure and empower its staff," Aly said. "Abu Dhabi has a reform strategy, started about two years ago, to bring students up to the level where they enter university without any bridging programmes, that is the main task. To do that, it is not just about the students and curricula, it is teachers, faculty staff, administration, planners, how to empower all of those to make the education system work properly."

One main focus for ADEC has been the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to provide information to a varied set of users, including teachers, administration and pupils and parents. ADEC already has an ERP system governing some processes, and an Electronic Student Information System (eSIS), but it has invested heavily in developing GIS applications for a range of functions.

While ADEC is looking to introduce GIS in specific classroom and teaching functions, the applications it has developed play a more strategic role, said Aly. ADEC has developed a Master Plan application, to provide information around the ten year plan to redevelop Abu Dhabi's school infrastructure. The application, which is under ongoing development, provided information to parents and students on which schools were being shut down in the emirate, where new ones were opening, and how pupils would be allocated to new schools, as well as providing a planning function in plotting demand for new schools based on residential districts.

ADEC also developed School Finder application, to help parents identify schools, and a School Transportation application, which is used to manage the fleet of 1,600 buses that serve schools in Abu Dhabi, and ensure that routes are efficient.

ADEC is able to access a wide range of data for its GIS applications, thanks to the Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Centre (ADSIC), which brings together all of the Abu Dhabi ministries' databases into one centralized data centre, creating a single information resource. This enables the GIS applications to pull in a wide range of data, that can then be utilized for decision making across different areas such as seeing pupil's academic performance by geographic district, or locating healthcare resources near schools. Aly says that the GIS solutions allow for modeling of complex data in a visual format, helping its users to quickly understand the data, and to make better decisions.

"GIS is educating kids in the schools how to use GIS maps, but that is different to the way we use it right now, to empower teachers, administrators, leaders, planners to take decisions on time, and be able to plan for the future, adjust their directions immediately, by visualizing all the information," he said.

ADEC has made some of its GIS applications available on the iPad, and is looking to raise awareness among its departments on the power of the solutions. Alongside the Cisco networking deal, which will provide a ‘future proof' network to connect schools in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Al Gharbia, and provide better management of the infrastructure, ADEC is also working on a business intelligence project. The project will pull together data from several different ADEC data centres to compile statistical data into dashboards, to make data more easily accessible to planners.

"The revolution we have inside ADEC for GIS, is to empower staff, administrators, faculty, to take decisions - we believe if that happens, it will directly impact the students, it will impact on the strategic directive of ADEC of getting a better quality [education] for the students," Aly said

ADEC is also conducting a pilot project in six public schools, under its ‘iClass' initiative. The project will connect class rooms for grade 3 and 4 students, with a range of connected solutions, such as iPads, Microsoft Surface, video conferencing and interactive whiteboards, to explore how they can be used for collaboration and co-operation in learning.

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