HOW long can a student actually concentrate in class if the method of teaching is one-way — with teachers imparting the content of the lesson verbally while students listen.
The answer, said Professor Dr Ahmad Kamal Ariffin Mohd Ihsan, is only seven minutes — regardless of whether it is a kindergarten student, primary or secondary school student, or a someone studying at university.
After that seven minutes, they will become restless — especially when the teachers or lecturers feel that the information is important but do not deliver it to students in an interesting manner.
“I have been teaching for 20 years so imagine if I stick to that method of teaching all that time. I am now 53 but when I use technology, I feel as if I am 35 years old with regards to teaching and learning. For me, the 20 years shouldn’t indicate a decrease in momentum and enthusiasm but rather an increase. The use of technology has rejuvenated my methods,” he said.
Ahmad Kamal Ariffin teaches Mechanics of Materials, Computational Methods in Engineering and Finite Element Methods at the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
He is a Fellow of the Institute of Materials Malaysia, founder of Malaysian Association of Computational Mechanics and also a member of International Association of Computational Mechanics (IACM).
Most recently he has been named a recipient of the Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) award at a ceremony which was held in Melbourne, Australia last month.
The Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) programme, which was created by technology company Apple, was set up in 2014 to recognise K-12 and higher-education pioneers who are using Apple technology to transform teaching and learning. These, according to Apple, are the educators who are looking to change the world. They are active leaders from around the world helping other educators rethink what’s possible with iPad and Mac to make learning deeply personal for every student.
“I have dabbled with using technology — especially mobile devices — since 2011. But it was only 2014 that I have incorporated technology fully in my daily activities as a lecturer, academic and professional engineer,” said Ahmad Kamal Arifin.
And with the dawning of the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the role of technology is becoming more critical in education.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is very much related to Education 4.0. There are three components of Education 4.0. There must be content — for example, for the disciplines of engineering, chemistry, etc. Content is blended with pedagogy through which people will understand the content. And the third component is technology — the tools of learning, sharing and knowledge seeking,” he explained. Stiff learning which is confined to the four walls of a classroom or lecture hall is no longer acceptable, said Ahmad Kamal Ariffin.
“Effective learning happens when it is problem-based, research-based, collaborative and student-centred. I focus on the results of the learning process. The criteria is based on the programme outcomes and performance indicators of each course.
“The outcomes could be the ability to create, select and apply techniques, resources, modern engineering approaches and the latest IT tools, including predictions and modeling, to complex engineering activities. While performance indicators are the ability of students to create, produce and publish using techniques, resources, software and IT tools to solve the problem,” he said, adding that this is gauged through projects, assignments, folios, exams and surveys.
For lectures, Ahmad Kamal Ariffin gets students to look through online notes that he has prepared before class. Classes are devoted to doing exercises, discussion or doing projects.
“With wireless technology and blended learning, students are active - especially when asked to resolve real-life problems. When they need information, they go online to find out. With wireless, teaching and learning could happen anywhere,” said Ahmad Kamal Ariffin.
He also finds the use of wireless technology indispensable when examining PhD theses.
“I have to go through 12 theses annually —right now I have four at one go. Each thesis is at least 170 pages long. Every time I assess and give feedback, candidates will do the correction and submit a new edition. Carrying physical copies is not feasible especially when I have a hectic schedule with extensive travelling. Through my tablet, I can comment, highlight, bookmark and search. So, the process is faster when I have a digital copy of the latest theses,” he said.
Ahmad Kamal Arifin said the ecosystem of new technology advances teaching and learning into a modern environment which is appropriate for today’s students.
“I am committed to continuing this method of harnessing the benefits of technology into teaching and learning to ensure that students will be equipped with skills that will help them become successful graduates and professionals in their working life,” he said.
Ahmad Kamal Ariffin has developed MOOCs for platforms like iTunes U as well as Openlearning.
He is an advocate of tech-assisted learning for education in Malaysia.