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RIYADH: Extended reality technologies will soon revolutionize the educational environment in Saudi Arabia, NEOM Academy Director General Dr. Ali Al-Shammari told a panel of leading technology 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 virtual reality headsets and software become more accessible than ever, fields such as education are adopting the technology worldwide to improve knowledge development, Al-Shammari said.

Speaking to Arab News, Al-Shammari, also Dean of e-Learning and Distance Education at Tabuk University, said, “Medical science is actually the biggest field which includes some immersive VR learning environment technologies, including natural sciences like physics, chemistry, biology and biochemistry – and it’s growing.

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

“At the moment, we are focusing more on the students themselves and how to provide them with the tools and resources to develop their skills, knowledge and values,” Al-Shammari said.

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

“In the past, we had a single model, where we brought together all the students regardless of 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. Today, students can learn for themselves; they can learn from different resources… I’m not going to say technology will replace teachers, but I’m 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 the freedom to decide what they want to learn and how they want to learn it,” Al-Shammari said, comparing new educational trends to old models of strict rote learning.

The prevailing public education system in most countries around the world is “seat hour-based”, Al-Shammari said, which means students must be in a classroom for a certain number of hours. hours to be able to move on to the next class.

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

And with the growth of this movement comes the introduction of advanced technologies: immersive learning environments are being built 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 it – you see the consequences of your actions, you get immediate feedback and you write history,” Al-Shammari said.

However, many parents worry about the use of technology in the classroom and often compare it to recreational games.

But Al-Shammari said: “Sometimes it is difficult to bring reality into your classrooms. Think about cost or safety… If I want to teach you, say, snakes or explosive weapons, or something dangerous, I can’t bring that to class. But I can put you in a situation where you can see all the environments around you.

This also applies to the moral education of students. Instead of asking students to react to a certain situation, you can figuratively step into 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 homelessness, you’ll experience what it’s like to be homeless – you’ll hear what people are saying about you…your system of values ​​will change,” Al-Shammari said.

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

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

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

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