Al Amal School for Deaf Students
By Microsoft Customer Stories on February 10, 2017
Filed under CityNext
School for the deaf builds dynamic lessons, improves learning with cloud-based services
Al Amal School for Deaf Students in the United Arab Emirates educates children in kindergarten through grade 12. To help teachers build engaging lessons, the school worked with Microsoft to deploy a new solution based on Microsoft Office 365 that aids faculty in creating sign-language videos, improving teacher-student communication, facilitating independent learning, and encouraging parent involvement.
Meeting the educational needs of deaf children
Al Amal School for Deaf Students, based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), provides academic skills, social services, and emotional support to children with hearing loss in kindergarten through grade 12. The school was founded in 1979 and currently has 27 faculty members who work to empower their students by teaching them sign language, improving the integration of deaf students into higher education and professional life, and increasing community awareness about the challenges deaf or hard-of-hearing children may face.
Al Amal teachers work with a curriculum developed by the UAE Ministry of Education, and the school tries to take advantage of technology to enhance classroom education. “As computers and mobile devices become more and more integrated into children’s everyday lives, it has made it much easier for deaf students to communicate with others,” says Afaf Haridi, Principal at Al Amal School for Deaf Students Students. “We want to bring that same technological advancement into the classroom so students can achieve their goals and excel in their careers.”
Although the school had some laptops and tablets, it was often difficult and time-consuming for teachers to create effective sign language–based classroom presentations.
And the time they spent on those lessons meant less bandwidth for providing detailed feedback to students. Students also lacked independent access to course materials, and it was hard to share information about students’ progress with their parents. So Al Amal began looking for new technologies that could promote learning and improve communication.
New tools and new ways of teaching
At the beginning of the 2014–2015 academic year, Al Amal joined the Mohamed Bin Rashid Smart Learning Program, which helps schools integrate technology into the classroom. As part of the program, Al Amal has worked with a wide range of Microsoft products to implement new education solutions for the school.
“After assessing our teachers’ and students’ needs, we developed an initiative called The Voice,” says Haridi. “Each teacher and student now has a Microsoft Office 365 account for cloud-based access to email and Office applications. We’ve also added enhanced functionality with Microsoft PowerPoint Office Mix and Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook, so teachers can create dynamic classroom content, develop new assessment methods, and communicate better with students and parents.”
Office Mix is a free PowerPoint add-in that turns presentations into interactive lessons. Al Amal teachers use it to include translated sign-language videos in classroom lessons and to provide step-by-step demonstrations with the tool’s screen-recording capability. Through Office Mix, faculty can also access apps for creating tests, quizzes, and classroom content. After a lesson has been taught, it is uploaded to Office Mix and students can access it online later to reinforce their learning.
Al Amal staff are particularly excited about the possibilities offered by the OneNote Class Notebook app for SharePoint Online. “We’re using OneNote to overcome some of our biggest classroom challenges,” says Haridi. “Each student now has a digital notebook to organize all their materials. Teachers can enhance their communication with students by leaving video feedback on homework, classwork, or exams, and students can add video feedback for teachers. In conjunction with OneDrive, teachers can also use OneNote to create a new communication channel with parents.”
Benefits for teachers, students, and parents
With its new technology initiative, Al Amal has changed the way learning happens in the school and strengthened how teachers, students, and parents communicate. Before the program started, teachers sometimes struggled to develop interactive lessons, but they now have resources that help them excel in the classroom.
“When the program began, the school’s teachers felt like they had much to learn—but they spent a lot of time and effort in intensive workshops, and now they are much more confident in their abilities,” says Haridi. “They have even enlisted the help of some of our older students to create sign-language videos for younger students.”
Digital notebooks and feedback videos give teachers new and effective ways to interact with students. They can also involve parents more in their children’s education. “Students can access lessons online from home, giving parents the opportunity to participate directly in the learning process,” explains Haridi. “And teachers can use the new tools to provide better feedback about students’ progress.”
For students, the transition to the new learning system has been smooth. “They have embraced the technologies much faster than the adults,” notes Haridi. “They are used to having tools like these in their daily lives, so it only makes sense to use them in school as well.” She can already see the impact that Al Amal’s new program is having on these tech-savvy children. “They are becoming more independent learners and gaining skills that they can use in the professional world. All in all, the initiative we rolled out with the help of Microsoft hasn’t just improved classroom learning—it has also created an amazing bond between the school and our students, and we are so proud of them.”
Product and Services
Small (1 – 49 employees)
United Arab Emirates