Alumni Spotlight: Making Education Fun and Effective
Haleimah AlZeyoudi, a Masdar Institute Class of 2013 MSc in Computer and Information Science graduate, began her studies at MI with a hunger to use digital technologies to make UAE’s cities smarter, healthier and more prosperous. When she decided that such technologies could be easily adapted to transform another key sector targeted for innovation by the UAE – education– she launched her own initiative to make learning fun and easy through virtual, individualized learning tools.
“The ultimate aim of my work is to make it easy for the next generation to learn with love,” AlZeyoudi explained. Advancing education in this way can help the UAE more effectively achieve its prosperity and human capital development goals, she shared.
“Education is a powerful tool that greatly influences all of humankind. If you invest in educating people, you will be investing in the future leaders who will determine the direction the country takes. That is why I want to influence the future of education in UAE and contribute to it with ideas and new techniques,” she said.
AlZeyoudi has titled her initiative TechNEdu (which stands for “technology in education”), under which she has been working to develop advanced modes of teaching and learning to decrease the workload of teachers while simultaneously improving student achievement and understanding. In support of this since 2013 she has been working to develop custom-tailored websites, mobile applications, computer games, and Xbox games that are designed to meet the exact needs of a teacher and his/her students for a particular purpose.
One of the products AlZeyoudi developed is an Xbox game for kindergarten classes at a private school in Abu Dhabi. “The teacher asked us for a way to motivate kids to do physical exercises to prepare their hand muscles for writing. In response, we developed a game that has funny sketches of the body and instructions for performing the exercises,” AlZeyoudi shared.
Another application developed through the TechNEdu initiative was for a fine arts classroom in a primary school. The app involves teaching a group of students how to work together to draw a picture virtually. AlZeyoudi credits the programming training she received – which included developing programs for mobile apps and for a hands-free motion control gaming system called Xbox Kinect during her thesis research, which was focused on developing human mobility detection systems to improve a building’s energy performance – with inspiring many of the programs she has developed through TechNEdu.
As a young mother of three, AlZeyoudi did not have to look far to see the need for transformative tools that would make learning fun and meaningful for the child and instruction easy and effective for the teacher.
“In my family, seven members are teachers and every day I would hear their stories of boring teaching methods and the amount of effort required to teach students. I would also hear stories of students who weren’t satisfied with their teachers’ instructional techniques. When my oldest son joined kindergarten, I started to look for some teaching applications but I couldn’t find many options available. That is why I decided to create my own,” she explained.
Equipped with advanced computer science and programming skills and an entrepreneurial spirit, AlZeyoudi launched the TechNEdu initiative with an unshakable determination that has kept her motivated even in the most challenging of times. For the first three years of operation, she was the soul developer of many of the 42 learning and educational apps and programs developed. While financing and operating her initiative was daunting at times, the challenge inspired AlZeyoudi to push through the difficulties and work even harder to achieve her goals.
“Being the only engineer to develop apps and program games requires lots of time and effort. Sometimes that delayed estimated delivery times of the product. But these challenges kept me going and strengthened my determination to finish each project,” AlZeyoudi shared.
“Each product has meant something special for me. Each visit and meeting with teachers, which involved gathering ideas and brainstorming the final design, was an incredible experience and opportunity, from which I grew professionally and personally. Working during my free time and overnights definitely paid off when I saw kids smiling during the apps’ demonstrations,” she added.
AlZeyoudi is driven by a keen desire to give back to her country. TechNEdu, she reasoned, is an ideal platform that leverages her skills in computer science, programming and smart systems to advance the UAE’s prosperity and growth.
The tech-savvy and ambitious UAE national plans to expand her initiative to the global market by incorporating more instructional best-practices into TechNEdu’s portfolio of games and programs, with the hopes that eventually the digital learning tools may influence global education reform efforts.
AlZeyoudi’s continuous aspirations for self-improvement have also culminated in the publication of two Arabic novels (Sa’aeesh and Bentezar Weladah, which are roughly translated as “I Will Live” and “Waiting for Birth”), with a third book of poems currently in progress. She is also pursuing a doctorate degree in computer science from New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) so that she can continue pursuing her goal of unlocking the transformative potential of digital technologies to improve education, energy and other key economic sectors in the UAE.
AlZeyoudi’s dedication and highly driven personality demonstrates MI’s commitment to attracting and cultivating the very best and brightest innovators and instilling in them the passion, confidence and know-how to change the world.
News and Features Writer
04 June 2017