Open Access to Books for Arabic Science Education

Arabic Books

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced, as one of her last acts in office, a new project that may change the way Arabic speaking teachers and students access information.

The Open Book Project (OBP) was launched last month during a ceremony held at the State Department, where representatives of arabic countries, such as Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria, were present.

The project, which is a result of a joint effort between the US State Department and the Arab League Education, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO), aims “to expand access to free quality open education materials in Arabic with a focus on science and technology.” Several High Education American Institutions are working to translate american textbooks into arabic. Those will then be available through the OBP website, so that anyone can “read, download and print these materials for free or adapt a copy that meets the local needs of their classrooms or education systems.” The project is also intended to help Arab professors and intellectuals create their own open courses.

Through this project, Clinton hopes to “build friendships and partnerships, and deliver the benefits of open education to more people and more places,” and do away with “lower economic, geographical, and even gender based barriers to learning”.



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An Innovative Virtual Tribute to Laos’ Legacies of War

Hmong Village Girl

In this digital age, we no longer lack for information. Instead, we face an entirely new challenge: how do we organize and harness our information resources in the most meaningful and appropriate way?

One program is living up to that demand. Inspired by the National Legacies of War campaign, Legacies Multimedia Interactive Center (MIC), is a free touchscreen device that invites viewers to learn about the secret bombings that happened in Laos during the Vietnam War.

The program unfolds in a series of informational layers, combining the use of web-based maps, digital images, and high quality videos.  Here, visitors immerse themselves in a storyline filled with contextual details regarding the war-related operations that have since lead to thousands of Laotian deaths. Villagers give first-person accounts of the bombing events. Children describe the risks associated with playing around dormant explosives. Experts reveal their process for detecting and removing the dangerous devices.

Presenting Laos’ legacy in an engaging, non-linear fashion provides a more well-rounded perspective than that of the typical documentary or research paper. Not to mention, viewers can digest the information at their own pace.
Shy Boy, Laos

Legacies MIC was co-developed by California State University professor S. Steve Arounsack using a laptop and digital camera with video features. Arounsack steps away from traditional academic approaches, embracing a more authentic, exploratory learning experience through low-cost visual media.

“We try to use technology in an innovative way to understand students’ needs; many of them have limited resources,” states Arounsack. “It’s an evolving thought process but one that’s becoming more widely accepted.”

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Engage your Students with Science — Tip Two: Make Time for Science

Science Class

Making good science takes time and so does teaching good science. When learning science, students need time to analyze, apply, reconfigure, and reflect on their investigations, just like scientists do. For this reason, setting time for science inquiry is fundamental to a successful science education.

Science content is loosing protagonism in school’s curricula all over the world. The time dedicated to learning science is diminishing every year, and more often than not, teachers, pressed by time, focus on the scientific facts instead of the scientific process. Teaching big amounts of facts and addressing as many subjects as possible, rather them focusing in the inquire process, has become the rule in science classes.

A recent report from the US National Center on Time & Learning discusses the importance of increasing the number of hours per week dedicated to science investigations. According to this report, science has been edged out as a priority due to more focus on math and english (this study applies to the US, but the same trend is happening in other countries, namely in Europe), and that leads to a poor science education. “Students must learn not just scientific content but also about scientific process,” the authors of the study remind us. To achieve this, teachers need to expand students’ scientific knowledge and engagement over time as they examine objects, design and analyze investigations, collect data and discuss ideas.

So, when planning the weekly activities for your classes, set some time aside, at least twice a week, to conduct scientific investigations with your students. Take the time to walk them through the scientific process to show them how science works. If possible, develop ongoing activities over a few sessions; this is a good strategy to keep students attentive and engaged.

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