Saudi schools to undergo tech-based learning revolution, expert tells panel

Saudi schools to undergo tech-based learning revolution, expert tells panel
A panel of leading tech experts discussed the future of XR technology, which includes virtual reality, augmented reality and 360-degree video content. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 August 2022

Saudi schools to undergo tech-based learning revolution, expert tells panel

Saudi schools to undergo tech-based learning revolution, expert tells panel

RIYADH: Extended reality technologies will soon revolutionize the educational environment in Saudi Arabia, NEOM Academy Managing Director Dr. Ali Al-Shammari has told a panel of leading tech experts.

Al-Shammari joined the panel to discuss the future of XR technology, which includes virtual reality, augmented reality and 360-degree video content.

As VR headsets and software become more accessible than ever, fields including education are adopting the technology around the world to enhance knowledge-building, Al-Shammari said.

Speaking to Arab News, Al-Shammari, also dean of e-learning and distance education at the University of Tabuk, said: “Medical science is actually the biggest field that includes some VR immersive learning environment technologies, including natural sciences like physics, chemistry, biology and biochemistry — and it keeps growing.”

Previously, the teacher-centered education system emphasized learning from a sole source while discrediting alternatives, he added.

“Right now, we focus more on students themselves, and how to provide them with the tools and resources in order to develop their skills, knowledge and values,” Al-Shammari said.

As technology begins to play a larger role in all facets of human life, Al-Shammari believes that it is an educator’s job to guide students on finding the appropriate communication methods to learn.

“In the past we used to have a one-size-fits-all model, where we put students all together regardless of the individual differences between them, because we want to have workers.

“We want to have students who can perform a certain list of tasks in a specific job. These days, students can learn on their own; they can learn from different resources … I am not going to say that technology will replace teachers, but I am saying technology will replace teachers who don’t know how to use technology,” he added.

“With personalized learning models, we focus more on the individual differences between students. We try to give them freedom to decide what they want to learn, and how they want to learn it,” Al-Shammari said, comparing new educational trends to past models of strict rote learning.

The prevalent public education system in most countries around the world is “seat-time based,” Al-Shammari said, meaning that students have to be in a classroom for a certain number of hours to be eligible to move forward to the next grade.

But the new personalized learning model taking off in the Kingdom focuses more on individual learning differences, such as interests, abilities, styles and personal beliefs.

And with the growth of that movement comes the introduction of cutting-edge technology: Immersive learning environments are constructed using XR technologies to create simulations that students can use to apply their knowledge.

“In an immersive learning environment, you are the actor. You perform the actions with this — you see the consequences of your actions, you get the immediate feedback and you write the story,” Al-Shammari said.

However, many parents are concerned over the use of technology in the classroom, and often compare it to recreational gaming.

But Al-Shammari said: “Sometimes it’s difficult to bring the reality to your classrooms. Think of the costs or the safety … If I want to teach you about, for example, snakes or explosive weapons, or something dangerous, I cannot bring that to the classroom. But I can put you in a situation where you can see all the environments around you.”

That also applies to the moral education of students. Instead of instructing students to react to a certain situation, you can, figuratively, be in someone else’s shoes and experience it personally through the use of XR technology.

“When I put you in an immersive learning environment and that environment is about homeless people, you will experience what it looks like to be a homeless guy — you will hear what people say about you … your value system will change,” Al-Shammari said.

As the newer philosophy of constructivism begins to play a prominent role in changing educational systems around the world, future technologies like the metaverse also have a role to play, Al-Shammari said.

“In the metaverse, I can learn based on my own speed, my own pace, the way I want and using the technology or the platform I prefer. It’s not like you have to learn that concept through VR, whether you like it or not…. I would say the metaverse is the next big thing in education,” he added.

And the rollout of these technologies could happen sooner than expected in the Kingdom. “I imagine that we will see K-12 in the next few months. I don’t wanna say years, but as I said, it’s growing very fast,” Al-Shammari said.


Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage showcased at Terra Madre conference in Italy

Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage showcased at Terra Madre conference in Italy
Updated 27 September 2022

Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage showcased at Terra Madre conference in Italy

Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage showcased at Terra Madre conference in Italy
  • Culinary Arts Commission registers 13 famous Saudi foods on the Ark of Taste list of endangered foods

RIYADH: The Saudi Culinary Arts Commission is hosting a pavilion at the Terra Madre Network conference in Turin, Italy, to showcase some of the Kingdom’s unique dishes and indigenous foods.

The commission said on Tuesday: “At the conference, 13 elements of Saudi cuisine were added to the Ark of Taste Archives, an international catalogue of endangered heritage foods managed by the Slow Food movement. 

“This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Culinary Arts Commission and Slow Food to support the Kingdom’s burgeoning culinary sector, including the involvement of Saudi farmers’ markets in the Global Slow Food Earth Market list, and the identification of further opportunities for cooperation.”

Mayada Badr

Slow Food is a global movement that operates in over 160 countries to preserve and increase awareness of endangered foods that are unique in taste and native to a certain region.

Some of the Saudi foods that were listed in the Ark of Taste include hassawi rice, native to Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and considered one of the most expensive types of rice, and samh seeds, native to Al-Jouf Province. 

The list also includes the distinct white desert truffles of the Northern Region called Al-Kamaa, khawlani coffee beans from Jazan Region — among the finest in the world — and Al-Maghmi dates, a traditional Saudi dish made with molasses and sesame seeds.

HIGHLIGHT

Some of the Saudi foods that were listed in the Ark of Taste include hassawi rice, native to Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and considered one of the most expensive types of rice, and samh seeds, native to Al-Jouf Province.

Registering these foods comes as part of the commission’s efforts to preserve the historical legacy of culinary arts in the Kingdom and encourage the public to protect them from extinction.

Commenting on the participation, Mayada Badr, CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission, said: “The commission’s attendance at this event is a culmination of the work by dedicated producers around the Kingdom to elevate our culinary sector. We are delighted to showcase the best of Saudi cuisine at Terra Madre, and we hope audiences will enjoy sampling some of our unique and delicious dishes.”

The conference also saw the Aseer region in Saudi Arabia formally awarded the title of World Region of Gastronomy 2024 by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts, and Tourism.

The international jury of IGCAT experts recognized the welcoming spirit of the Aseer community and their willingness to showcase and share their food and culture.

The jury commented: “The light of the Middle East shines from the region of Aseer. A lot of work has been done to empower the community and prepare them for welcoming future visitors to their unique culture. The culinary scene of Aseer is rooted in tradition and it has the potential to become a culinary destination and contribute to the creative economy.”

On the award for the Aseer region, Badr said: “Saudi Arabia has a diverse culture and a rich heritage, and we are proud that the Aseer region has been formally awarded World Region of Gastronomy 2024, in recognition of their efforts to preserve the region's diverse and distinctive food culture while protecting the environment and empowering younger generations.”

Saudi chef Hatoon Altoukhi, touted as one of the best authentic Italian food chefs on social media, told Arab News: “We have reached a great milestone towards our (Vision) 2030 goals. The Saudi region of Aseer is awarded World Region of Gastronomy in Italy, where the Italians respect and give much more attention to the food industry.

“Being a Saudi chef who specializes in Italian cuisine and (who) married into an Italian family, I immediately shared the news with our family in Italy and felt so much pride that we are now en route to greatness and international gastronomy recognition,” he said.

The Kingdom’s participation at Terra Madre is part of broader efforts to stimulate cultural exchange and dialogue with counterparts worldwide while introducing Saudi Arabia’s diverse culinary heritage and native agricultural crops to the world.

Terra Madre is a network of food communities that holds a major conference every two years in Turin to foster discussion and present innovative concepts on food, globalization, and economics.

The conference aims to connect producers from across the food supply chain to encourage collaboration and improve their skills for a more developed global food system.


Dutch Embassy in Riyadh hosts ceremony renewing cooperation of honorary consuls

Dutch Embassy in Riyadh hosts ceremony renewing cooperation of honorary consuls
Updated 27 September 2022

Dutch Embassy in Riyadh hosts ceremony renewing cooperation of honorary consuls

Dutch Embassy in Riyadh hosts ceremony renewing cooperation of honorary consuls
  • The ceremony is a renewal of the 2017 Honorary Consulate Agreement, which will renew the cooperation between the two countries until 2027

RIYADH: The Embassy of the Netherlands in Riyadh hosted a signing ceremony renewing the Honorary Consulate Agreement for five years signed by both honorary consuls on Tuesday.

“Today we are here for a signing ceremony with our two honorary consuls, one based in the Eastern Province and one in the Hijaz region, to re-arrange another five years of cooperation here,” Janet Alberda, Dutch ambassador to the Kingdom, told Arab News.

Through the agreement, the honorary consuls will continue to support the embassy’s mission in the Kingdom through sharing networks and supporting economic and governmental initiatives.

Nashwa Taher, honorary consul for Makkah and Jeddah region, and Sulaiman Al-Suhaimi, honorary consul for the Eastern Province, were present alongside the Dutch ambassador, and Hazim Alrasheed, general director of diplomatic representation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The honorary consuls play a pivotal role in the Netherlands’ international network. One of their primary missions is to support trade collaborations between the two countries and aid in facilitating opportunities to strengthen bilateral relations.

“This is a renewal made by our King Willem-Alexander, so this means that there is a lot of recognition and a lot of trust. This is a thank you — appreciation for the work that we do with these individuals,” the ambassador explained.

The ceremony began with a video speech from Guusje Korthals Altes, deputy director of the MENA department of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thanking the honorees for their work.

“This agreement signing means a lot — I am so proud that the Dutch government has the trust in me to continue and be a part of this kind of relegation between both countries,” Taher said.

The ceremony is a renewal of the 2017 Honorary Consulate Agreement, which will renew the cooperation between the two countries until 2027.

“I am so proud that the Saudi government has given me the go-ahead to be the first woman as the honorary consul, and this is an achievement for me that I will be proud of my whole life,” Taher added.

 


First Qur’anic verse beamed into Makkah sky with lasers

The first Qur’anic verse revealed to Prophet Muhammad was featured through laser light on Jabal Al-Noor in Makkah. (Supplied)
The first Qur’anic verse revealed to Prophet Muhammad was featured through laser light on Jabal Al-Noor in Makkah. (Supplied)
Updated 27 September 2022

First Qur’anic verse beamed into Makkah sky with lasers

The first Qur’anic verse revealed to Prophet Muhammad was featured through laser light on Jabal Al-Noor in Makkah. (Supplied)
  • “Throughout history, it was called Mount Hira, but it has been named Jabal Al-Noor in reference to the light that radiated throughout the earth after the first verse of the Holy Qur’an, ‘Read in the name of thy Lord who created,’ was revealed”

MAKKAH: Residents of Makkah have been treated to a laser light display that filled the sky with the first Qur’anic verse revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

The verse was beamed over the district of Jabal Al-Noor, 4 km northeast of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and home to the Cave of Hira, where the prophet received the first revelation by the Angel Gabriel.

Dr. Fawaz Al-Dahas, director of the Makkah History Center, said: “Jabal Al-Noor has a historical value for Muslims in general, and is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in Makkah.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to enrich the religious and cultural experience of visitors, especially at sites that hold historical importance for Muslims.

• The laser display was organized by Samaya Investment Co., which is also building two cultural projects in Makkah: A Museum of Revelation in Jabal Al-Noor and a Museum of Migration.

• Under the direct supervision of the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites and other agencies, work has also begun to establish the Hira Cultural District on an area of more than 67,000 sq. meters.

“Throughout history, it was called Mount Hira, but it has been named Jabal Al-Noor (Mount of Light) in reference to the light that radiated throughout the earth after the first verse of the Holy Qur’an, ‘Read in the name of thy Lord who created,’ was revealed.”

He added that the prophet remained secluded for days at Jabal Al-Noor, reflecting on God’s greatness and rejecting polytheism.

Al-Dahas said: “What distinguishes Makkah from the rest of the world’s cities is that it is an open museum. All its mountains, valleys, rocks and cemeteries represent a unique history, telling immortal stories of the prophet and his honorable companions.”

Abdullah Al-Azhari, a resident of Jabal Al-Noor, said: “The first revealed verse of the Holy Qur’an with laser lights on Jabal Al-Noor gave a spiritual dimension to the place, adding prestige and veneration.”

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to enrich the religious and cultural experience of visitors, especially at sites that hold historical importance for Muslims.

The laser display was organized by Samaya Investment Co., which is also building two cultural projects in Makkah: A Museum of Revelation in Jabal Al-Noor and a Museum of Migration.

The cultural centers aim to acquaint visitors with the history and legacy of the prophet’s mission, through presentations from the pre-Islamic era to the present.

Under the direct supervision of the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites and other agencies, work has also begun to establish the Hira Cultural District on an area of more than 67,000 sq. meters.

It will comprise many cultural and tourist spots such as the Revelation Gallery and the Holy Qur’an Museum.

The gallery, one of the main parts of the Hira Cultural District, will highlight the revelations to the prophet through an advanced technical presentation, and the museum will highlight the Holy Qur’an’s content through presentations.  

Mohammed Al-Hussaini, a local resident, said: “The great cultural projects would put an end to the randomness that we used to live in. The place will become more organized and have a civilized look.

“We are eagerly waiting for the completion of the entire project, which will reflect spiritually, socially and culturally on the place.”

 

 


It’s business time as Saudi entrepreneurs try to make it big

It’s business time as Saudi entrepreneurs try to make it big
Ibrahim Al-Rashid, CEO of the Social Development Bank, wears virtual reality glasses during the inauguration of the Souq Addar e
Updated 27 September 2022

It’s business time as Saudi entrepreneurs try to make it big

It’s business time as Saudi entrepreneurs try to make it big
  • The exhibitions allow entrepreneurs to display their handmade and unique goods until Oct. 7
  • The bank is hoping to enable businesses to grow big enough to take part in regional and international exhibitions

RIYADH: Artists and pottery makers are among a host of talented Saudis displaying their work at a Riyadh event to promote and support the Kingdom’s small-business entrepreneurs.
The Social Development Bank’s Souq Addar exhibition has opened as the centerpiece of a countrywide initiative to promote “microenterprises” in 36 cities.
The exhibitions allow entrepreneurs to display their handmade and unique goods until Oct. 7, while also helping the bank to promote the products locally and internationally.
Shereen Al-Abdulrahman, the SBD’s products and program development manager, told Arab News that the bank is hoping to enable businesses to grow big enough to take part in regional and international exhibitions.
Visitors to Souq Addar admired the work of Hadeel Al-Mazrou, who said her hobby of creating art out of nails and thread had developed over the last five years into a rewarding business. So far, she has created 500 unique pieces.
The artist said she is passionate about her business, and her husband is “proud of my work and even asked me to make a special artwork for him to put in his office.”
Dhai Al-Habib, who creates pottery inspired by the Kingdom’s heritage, said she had gone from a novice to a business owner in three years. “My father was the biggest supporter in every step of my project,” she added.
Her biggest order so far, for 125 pieces, was from a local coffee shop, she said, adding: “People like new things, especially if the products are handmade.”
Aside from providing an income, Al-Habib said she also finds her work therapeutic as “it’s a talent that removes all of life’s pressures.”
She told Arab News that people should never underestimate what they can do with their talents and hobbies, “because there’s nothing more beautiful than working in a field you love.”
Ibrahim Al-Rashid, CEO of the SDB, inaugurated the Souq Addar exhibition in the presence of officials, participants and guests.
The bank also announced that it will launch the first community kitchen in Saudi Arabia next month.
 


Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port wins top world award

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port in Rabigh. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port in Rabigh. (SPA)
Updated 27 September 2022

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port wins top world award

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port in Rabigh. (SPA)
  • Jay New, CEO of King Abdullah Port, commented: “We are delighted to accept this prestigious accolade in recognition of King Abdullah Port’s remarkable success and growing reputation as a leading global hub connecting continents

DUBAI: Further underlining its status as one of the world’s leading maritime logistics hubs, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port has been named “Sea Port of the Year” at the inaugural edition of the Landmarks in Logistics Awards.

The award was presented during a glittering ceremony in Dubai, which celebrated the achievements of key industry players whose products and services have had a transformative impact on the logistics sector.

Hosted by Logistics Gulf News, a fast-growing niche media portal, the awards highlight the accomplishments of leading organizations in the field.

Jay New, CEO of King Abdullah Port, commented: “We are delighted to accept this prestigious accolade in recognition of King Abdullah Port’s remarkable success and growing reputation as a leading global hub connecting continents.

“Our state-of-the-art facilities have been built to the highest international standards and are designed to support trade and economic growth in the Kingdom for decades to come. We look forward to many more milestones ahead as we continue our journey toward fulfilling the promise of Vision 2030, the wise leadership’s roadmap to enduring prosperity.”

The judging panel for the inaugural edition of the awards included experts of logistics, transport, and supply chain management, while the ceremony was attended by the region’s top industry players and other key stakeholders.