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International and Jordanian scholars called for moving mountains

Jun 12,2021 - Last updated at Jun 12,2021

By Jabbar Al Obaidi and Laura McAlinden

It wasn’t a surprise nor a typical cliché to hear over and over again this compliment: “Jordan is nice, and Jordanians are hospitable even in the cyberspace.” The praise came naturally from international participants at “the 12th International Conference on Education and Educational Technology”.  Under the banner “Technology for Quality Education”, the conference was hosted by the College of Educational Sciences at Tafila Technical University (TTU) from June 8-9, 2021. It was an international academic and educational virtual conference jointly organised by TTU, Bridgewater State University (BSU), US, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fez, Morocco, and Arid (Arab Research Id). The conference was also supported by the US Department of Education through an Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Grant.

Representing 19 countries, including Jordan and most of the Arab countries, Ireland, India, Japan, South Korea and US, 142 international scholars, experts, researchers, and university faculty were able to attend and shared 73 scholarly presentations at the conference over two days. One of the early significant observations indicates that participation of women at the conference reached 55 per cent. The conference addressed ten critical thematic sections including technology and student learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), brain-based learning, distance learning in science, arts and social science, educational research and undergraduate projects and research, new trends in special education, educational management and quality teaching, curriculum and teaching, online learning, and sustainable education. It is noted that the themes of the conference represented a return to the main ideas proposed by the 2016 UNESCO international conference about the use of information and communication technology in education, and innovation for quality, openness and inclusion.

President of TTU, Professor Mohamed Khair Al Hourani, praised the international conference and described it as a conscious and deliberate academic effort to overcome all obstacles imposed by COVID-19. President Hourani added that despite the curveball of the pandemic, TTU and its faculty, staff and students exerted extraordinary effort to maintain high standards. This message of determination and resilience was a recurrent theme echoed by many of the speakers in the opening ceremony. In his video recoded message, Dr Karim Ismaili, vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost of Bridgewater State University, said: “This is a period in recent history like no other. Like you, I am being deeply distressed by the tragic losses we are all experiencing around the world. Paradoxically, I am also being heartened by the many ways human beings adopted and developed community under the most challenging of circumstances. There is a little doubt that technology has been essential to that adaptation.” Provost Ismaili went on to add “This conference is a manifestation and a celebration of genuinity and tenacity. It demonstrates once again our collective commitment to pushing the boundaries of knowledge and being innovative in various educational and intellectual circumstances is what connects and unites all the faculty, staff and students of our perspective institutions.”

The conference featured 73 presentations addressing a variety of important issues related to the ten conference themes. This conference focuses on educational technology because it has become an essential part of our teaching and learning environment, not just in a college classroom setting but in any level of schooling in our country, explained Dr Ahmed Althawabieh, the president of the Conference Scientific Committee. Dr Khaled Attia Al Saudi, dean of the College of Educational Sciences of TTU, and the president of the conference, pointed out in his comments that studying and analysing the implications of educational technology on teaching and learning during the pandemic will enable Tafila Technical University and all the institutions of higher education in Jordan to be more prepared and to work on improving the technical skills for faculty, students, and staff.

It has been announced that the 13th International Conference will be held in Morocco, Fez, in 2022. In a text message shared with the attendees, President Radouane Mrabet of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fez, Morocco. President Mrabet wrote: “I am delighted to host the next edition of the conference in Fez, Morocco, at the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University.” President Mrabet added “I hope that we can all be present physically in our campus.”

Many questions were raised concerning the future of educational technology in Jordan and the Arab world post COVID-19, the financial resources to keep up with ever-changing instructional technology, and whether offering courses or even online degrees would be recognised by the ministries of higher education in the MENA region. There is no question that educational technology is here to stay. It has become a strategic ally for education at all levels and is a growing industry. Investments in the industry reached $18.66 billion in 2019 and is projected to hit $350 billion in 2025.

Distinguishably, students were at the centre of most of the presentations, as expected and appropriate, as well as the call to enhance the educational outcomes of learning and skill-building and critical thinking. Virtual exchanges and Collaborative Online International Learning are emerging academic and educational practices that can potentially offer students and faculty opportunities to enhance their academic instruction, cultural competencies, knowledge, and understanding of international affairs. Dr Michael Zimmerman from BSU, in his presentation titled “Moving Mountains” from BSU highlighted how instructors in a variety of fields have encountered difficulties, as “we could no longer take our students into the environments necessary for practical instruction. However, through Virtual and Augmented Reality Environments, we as instructors have the opportunity to bring those places to them”. President Hourani emphasized the need to do more work like this, and to engage BSU and TTU in adding such technologies to academic programs such as special education in the near future.

Indeed, participants were right. The idea that “Jordan is nice, and Jordanians are hospitable even in the cyberspace” was reflected in the proven success of this international conference due to the distinguished hospitality of Tafila Technical University and in the excellence of its organisation and attention to every detail.

 

Dr Jabbar Al Obaidi, professor  and academic director of Global Programmes, Bridgewater State University and Dr Laura McAlinden, professor and chair, Department of Philosophy, Bridgewater State University, contributed this article to The Jordan Times. 

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