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.


Taif in driving seat to promote Saudi tourism: Development fund executive

Taif in driving seat to promote Saudi tourism: Development fund executive
Updated 17 sec ago

Taif in driving seat to promote Saudi tourism: Development fund executive

Taif in driving seat to promote Saudi tourism: Development fund executive
  • Taif is a popular summer destination for local and regional tourists drawn by its pleasant weather, hiking trails, picnic spots, and rich history.
  • The city is also known for agri-tourism, and its rose production has earned it the title City of Roses

JEDDAH: More than 200 business leaders on Monday attended a Saudi Tourism Development Fund event aimed at promoting investment opportunities.

The fund’s first roadshow, Discover Beyond Taif, was held at the city’s Iridium Hotel.

Located 1,879 meters above sea level in the Makkah region, Taif is a popular summer destination for local and regional tourists drawn by its pleasant weather, hiking trails, picnic spots, and rich history. The city is also known for agri-tourism, and its rose production has earned it the title City of Roses.

Khalid Al-Sharif, the fund’s associate director of coverage of large institutions, said: “The Tourism Development Fund was established in 2020, and since then the Kingdom has gone through a huge transformation in the tourism industry.”

He noted that Taif had been selected to stage the fund’s first roadshow because of its strategic location.

“It has been one of the hotspots of tourism in the Kingdom for a long time. We believe our presence here is very important to introduce our services and ourselves to the people in Taif, and the people interested in investing in Taif,” he added.

The fund provides guidance and financial support to those interested in investing in the city.

“We believe that both options are very important for investors so we can support them from the beginning. If you have just a small idea, we will help you develop this idea to see it into reality,” Al-Sharif said.

Financial backing can be provided through direct funding, guarantees, or direct equity.

The TDF works with partners including the Arab National Bank, and Riyad Bank, in addition to government bodies such as Kafalah and Monsha’at.

“We all have the one same objective that is to promote tourism in Saudi Arabia and invest in tourism in Saudi Arabia. And since we are in Taif, we need to invest in Taif and take advantage of the amazing weather, geography, great people, and the close distance to Makkah.

“Taif is one of the main destinations that will drive the tourism industry in the Kingdom. Mountain resorts can also be leveraged on due to the weather. We are also looking to have a wellness resort in the near future as well.

“The fund’s strategy is aligned with the Kingdom’s strategy, with Vision 2030. It is in alignment with the national tourism strategy, to increase the number of visitors up to 100 million by 2030, in addition to increasing the GDP (gross domestic product) contribution and the job creations that are derived from the tourism industry,” Al-Sharif added.


Saudi FM pays condolences to slain Abe Shinzo in meeting with Japan FM

Saudi FM pays condolences to slain Abe Shinzo in meeting with Japan FM
Updated 27 September 2022

Saudi FM pays condolences to slain Abe Shinzo in meeting with Japan FM

Saudi FM pays condolences to slain Abe Shinzo in meeting with Japan FM
  • Japanese FM Hayashi Yoshimasa expressed his appreciation for Saudi’s presence at the ceremony

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud paid his heartfelt condolences over the passing of former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo during his meeting with Japan Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa on Tuesday.

Prince Faisal is in Japan to attend Abe’s state funeral, which took place earlier this morning. During the two officials’ meeting, Yoshimasa expressed his appreciation for Saudi’s presence at the ceremony.

He also expressed his intention to “firmly develop the diplomatic legacy inherited from former Prime Minister Abe and strengthen the strategic partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia,” according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Kingdom’s FM reaffirmed his hopes for further strengthening the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

They also exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine and the international oil market. Yoshimasa thanked Prince Faisal for supply of oil from Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi FM said the Kingdom is committed to assuring a stable supply of oil to Japan.

The two ministers also agreed to further promote cooperation in moving towards the realization of carbon-neutrality through the utilization and promotion of clean energy.

Originally published in Arab News Japan


KSRelief launches humanitarian campaigns in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan

KSRelief launches humanitarian campaigns in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan
Updated 27 September 2022

KSRelief launches humanitarian campaigns in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan

KSRelief launches humanitarian campaigns in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan
  • KSRelief’s Project Masam has so far dismantled 359,626 mines since its inception
  • KSRelief’s 8th and 9th aid planes arrived in Karachi

DUBAI: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) launched on Saturday a campaign to combat malaria in Yemen.
KSRelief’s aid efforts were carried out by its implementing partner, the World Health Organization, according to a report by state agency SPA.
The relief organization also dismantled 763 mines across Yemen in one week. These included 93 anti-personnel mines, 335 anti-tank mines, 333 unexploded ordnance and 2 explosive devices.
KSRelief’s Project Masam has so far dismantled 359,626 mines since its inception.
The humanitarian center also extended its relief efforts to Lebanon by distributing 300 food baskets to refugees and host communities in the country.
This came within KSRelief’s project to provide food security for Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the relief center’s teams have worked tirelessly to support people affected by the floods in Pakistan.

KSRelief has lately sent its 8th and 9th aid planes to Karachi, carrying 60 tons of shelter materials and food baskets for 8,424 beneficiaries.

The aid, which comes as part of the air bridge that the center has earlier established for flood-hit communities, will be distributed across Pakistan based on the need.

On Saturday, as many as 1,520 food baskets were distributed in the Sindh and Punjab provinces, benefiting 10,640 people, reported SPA.


Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’
Updated 27 September 2022

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’
  • Singer says Saudi Arabia becoming world’s most attractive destination

ALULA: In the historical epicenter for cross-cultural exchange, between the majestic mountains of AlUla, popstar Jason Derulo took the stage to deliver a performance unlike any other at the second edition of the Azimuth music festival on Saudi National Day last weekend.

The American artist entranced the crowd with some of his most recent hits, including “Swalla” and “Jelebi Baby,” as well as some of his older fan favorites such as “Solo” and “In My Head.”

The concert took place in the same valley that hosted the contemporary art exhibition Desert X earlier this year, ensuring a special music experience for nationals and visitors alike in celebration of the Kingdom’s 92nd National Day.

American Popstar Jason Derulo performing to a Saudi audience in celebration of the 92nd National Day at the Azimuth festival in AlUla, which took place from Sept. 22-24. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“Any time you can come to a place and have an experience … it makes the show so much better because it’s something that’s completely different that you can’t get anywhere else,” Derulo told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

Historically known as a strategic crossroads for trade and pilgrimage routes, the settlement conceals hidden gems such as the narrow valley oasis and the unique Elephant Rock. As part of the Madinah province, AlUla is a symbol of the cultural richness found throughout the eastern region of Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Any time that I can spread the word about how incredible this place is, I jump at the opportunity, and this is another one of those opportunities.

Jason Derulo

“Coming through the rock and all the sand, it’s almost like it’s a hideaway from everything, and to bring all of this luxury to the middle of the desert is unlike any other experience,” he said.

“Here you get to really see all the stars, you get to see all the rock, the mountains, you get a piece of that world. Then you bring the highest level of luxury to it and it’s just a blend of worlds that you can’t get anywhere else,” Derulo added.

American Popstar Jason Derulo performing to a Saudi audience in celebration of the 92nd National Day at the Azimuth festival in AlUla, which took place from Sept. 22-24. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Derulo has performed throughout the region, headlining in Saudi for the first time in 2018 at the Saudia Diriyah E-Prix alongside Enrique Iglesias, The Black Eyed Peas, and Egypt’s Amr Diab.

“I’ve been performing for a very long time and I can say that this experience was unique, unlike any experience I’ve ever had. I’ve performed all over the world and even coming here today, I pulled out my phone — I was like, ‘this is amazing,’” he said.

The three-day Azimuth festival is one of several initiatives, forming part of Vision 2030, to position the Kingdom as a tourism hub.

FASTFACTS

• The American artist entranced the crowd with some of his most recent hits, including ‘Swalla’ and ‘Jelebi Baby,’ as well as some of his older fan favorites such as ‘Solo’ and ‘In My Head.’

• The concert took place in the same valley that hosted the contemporary art exhibition Desert X earlier this year, ensuring a special music experience for nationals and visitors alike in celebration of the Kingdom’s 92nd National Day.

• Jason Derulo commended the efforts made to globalize local talent and create new avenues for entertainment, recalling his performance during the professional LIV Golf tour, financed by the Public Investment Fund.

“I was actually one of the first performers, if not the first performer, that performed with an integrated crowd between men and women here, and I feel honored and blessed to be a small piece of history.”

“Any time that I can spread the word about how incredible this place is, I jump at the opportunity, and this is another one of those opportunities,” Derulo said.

“I love that people from across the world have come here and made this home because it really is a special place. They have a sense of pride, a small piece of ownership even, you would think that they were from here and they know so much about the history,” he added.

The artist believes that Saudi Arabia is on the verge of becoming one of the “biggest” attractions in the world.

“This is something that’s just starting, though people are just now starting to see it, I’m sure this has been in the works for such a long time. There’s still so much room for growth, but it’s already incredible,” he said.

Bringing in a diverse lineup of both local and international artists was a key goal for the event, collaborated by entertainment festival MDLBEAST and the Royal Commission for AlUla.

Ahmed Alammary, the Saudi DJ and chief creative at MDLBEAST, told Arab News that this celebration was a chance to create cultural exchange opportunities with international artists while also catering to a local audience.

Derulo commended the efforts made to globalize local talent and create new avenues for entertainment, recalling his performance during the professional LIV Golf tour, financed by the Public Investment Fund.

“This is becoming a melting pot, and it’s beautiful to see … I think Saudi is really pushing the envelope in terms of tourism and technology. When you think of arts when you think of entertainment, Saudi has become really high up on the list because they really took a stand and really took a giant leap in that world,” Derulo said.

 


Who’s Who: Mishaal Ashemimry, vice president of the International Astronautical Federation

Mishaal Ashemimry
Mishaal Ashemimry
Updated 26 September 2022

Who’s Who: Mishaal Ashemimry, vice president of the International Astronautical Federation

Mishaal Ashemimry

Saudi engineer Mishaal Ashemimry is the newly elected vice president of the International Astronautical Federation, becoming the first Saudi woman to hold the position after receiving 14 majority votes from international representatives.

Her role as one of the federation’s 12 vice presidents enables her to further the development of the space sector globally and consolidate the direction of the IAF.

As a Saudi woman and the first aerospace engineer in the Gulf Cooperation Council, her position strategically places the Kingdom at the forefront of the industry and highlights the country as a global leader in the field.

Since September 2021, Ashemimry has served as special advisor to the CEO of the Saudi Space Commission Mohammed Al-Tamimi, a position in which she consults on developing a national space strategy, creates and leads space programs, and advises leadership on direction and execution.

Ashemimry was previously a space nuclear technology consultant at the aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman. She also conducted research funded by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center during her time as a research assistant at the Florida Institute of Technology

At 26 years old, the engineer was also president and CEO of her own aerospace company, MISHAAL Aerospace, established in 2010. The company developed space rockets, designed and launched its own line of cost-effective rockets titled the “M-rocket” series, completed static tests for hybrid rocket propulsion systems and provided global consultation.

In 2015, Ashemimry won the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award at the Arab Women Awards and in 2018 was awarded for her scientific achievements by King Salman.

She received her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and aerospace engineering in 2006 and her master’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2007, both from the Florida Institute of technology.

She is a certified Nitrox, rescue and open water diver, a commercial pilot and is trained in real space flight conditions of zero-gravity.

Ashemimry is an expert in aerodynamics, missile and rocket stage separation analysis, vehicle design, wind tunnel testing, simulations and analysis, and computational tool development.