How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Edtech Trends


“Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational"… a quote that quite supports the use of technology in education. Thus, there is no question as to whether technology belongs in education. The question is what and how!

Year on year, educational technology (edtech) crosses decades in the world of innovation, with more technologies springing that find their way into the classroom and driving some of the latest trends in edtech, such as:

  • Learning Management Systems which have become the embodiment of convenient learning and teaching.
  • High quality contents that are accessed with technical devices and should be intelligible enough to bring change in the world of education.
  • Immersive learning through various technologies such as virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality that can bring learning to life.
  • Online social networking and social media tools such as discussions, comments, communication and feedback that can foster group studying and bonding.

Even with their increasing popularity in education, such technologies still face several challenges such as:

  • A hesitation to change and adopt new tech, as it often requires a change in the teaching methods and standards.
  • A cost crunch as these new educational technologies often cost money that institutions don’t have adequate funds for.
  • Too many choices to handle with high competition driven by new startups and companies making it difficult to be noticeable.

These challenges, and many more, are addressed in the STIMEY project head on, to capitalize on edtech in STEM learning. Being developed based on a well-researched pedagogical framework geared towards STEM education, STIMEY ensures that the technologies adopted in its learning environment are designed for educational purposes and in support of teaching and learning, rather than merely being adapted in education for being trendy. Moreover, the learning environment is being built based on co-participatory design principles, with teachers, students, parents, organizations coming together with our experts and researchers, ensuring the best fit of technologies based on their needs, thus they’re less likely to resist the change.

The integration of several technologies such as robots, radio, and social media in a web-based learning platform with different capabilities also come at no cost to the users, giving institutions the ability to exploit their full potential. Additionally, the platform is open-access, giving institutions as well as individuals also the opportunity to add their own content, link their resources, and promote their edtech products and services in support of the users’ learning and teaching needs.

Thus, we’ve made it our mission in STIMEY to stay on top of trends while addressing their challenges, but we’d still like to hear from you in the comments of what other trends and challenges you think we should keep our eye on!

For collaborations and active participation in the project, reach out to us.


My 5 Favorite Nerdy Apps

Photo credit:  "Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon".

Photo credit: "Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon".

Do you spend a lot of time on your mobile using social networks or playing games? If you're like most people, you probably do... I am not saying I don't; I actually tracked how much time I usually spend on social networks and other distracting apps using RescueTime, one of the tools I recommend using for productivity management, and it's around 2 hours on average per day! Although you might be using each app for a few minutes every other hour, but these minutes pile up throughout the day, and you end up wasting hours with not much gain. I'm not advising you to quit social networking; as a social media consultant, it would be bad for my business if you do lol, but there are apps you can use to compensate for wasted time, and to enjoy as well as benefit from spending time on your mobile... Let's call them "nerdy" apps! So without further ado, here are the apps I recommend for some good mobile fun with great value:

Elevate - Your Personal Brain Trainer

I am IN LOVE with this app! Its aim is to "elevate" your skills in writing, speaking, reading and comprehension, listening and MATH (I know, I'm such a nerd lol). The free version of the app gives you access to a new set of challenges each day to build the skills you chose to elevate. Every challenge is a game designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience and cognitive learning and are based on extensive scientific research. So basically, you'll have fun playing games that make you smarter! 

You get to train 30+ critical skills that are designed to boost productivity, earning power, and self-confidence; measure your performance and track your activity progress over time. You get to play three games every day, and have the option to switch a recommendation if you don't feel like playing a particular game, and you can replay the same game for a few times to enhance your score and reach a higher level.

As you can see, I'm all about math lol although I was originally excited about Elevate for the chance to improve my listening skills; they've got some fun listening games, with especially a practical one for name recall that would be quite useful when meeting new people and remembering information about them.

The app is available on iOS and Android.


I'm not sure if there is anyone who hasn't heard of Duolingo yet; in case you haven't, it's a FREE language learning mobile app that gives you the ability to learn a great selection of languages in a fun gaming setting. Learning with Duolingo is fun and addictive as you earn points for correct answers, and level up when you complete a set of lessons.

I am currently learning German, but previously I was practicing my Spanish, having learnt it on my own (prior to the existence of Duolingo). What I like about Duolingo is that it's fun, easy, practical and mobile... for anytime anywhere learning. The commenting feature on each sentence is also quite useful as native speakers and other learners often leave useful tips and links to supporting lessons that are helpful, and sometimes they just make really funny comments lol; giving you a feeling of learning in group or in class.


What I don't like about Duolingo, however, is that it tends to repeat a few simple sentences for many times in a lesson, instead of adding new terms or more contexts, and sometimes some sentences seem to not make any sense (Have you spotted that in the example above?! lol). In addition, there are no explanations or materials to study and learn prior to lessons, which can sometimes make it very confusing and unclear, and you end up just playing a guessing game or learning through repetition like a parrot rather than clear understanding. So my advice is to couple the Duolingo lessons with another form of serious learning; my favorite is the Michel Thomas Method audio lessons, having used it to learn Spanish and some Japanese (before realizing that audio alone isn't enough to learn a language that has a non-Roman alphabet as I would also have to learn to read and write on my own). 

This app is available on iOS, Android, and Windows.

Mind Games

This one is actually more of a game, I promise... though for brain training as well! Mind Games is a great collection of games based in part on principles of cognitive psychology to help you practice different mental skills.  The games, ranging from free to pro, are aimed at enhancing various mind skills such as visual skills, focus and speed, working memory, and attention among many others.

I don't use this app as much as the rest, but it's still quite fun for short intervals every once in a while, to keep the brain sharp. While the design may not be that great, and the ad popups can be annoying, the games are fun and addictive, and they're far from being easy. All games include your score history and graph of your progress. The main app shows a summary of your best games and the day's scores on all games. Using some principles of standardized testing, your scores are also converted to a standardized scale so that you can see where you need work and excel. What's good about it is that it doesn't just track and measure your progress against yourself, but it also compares your score to the "normal standards" according to your age and gender, telling you if you're as good, better or worse than others like you.

Mind Games is currently available on AndroidApple iOSWindows Phone 8, and Windows 8.1.


If you're into classic fun and competition, QuizUp is the right app for you! It is a free, award-winning multiplayer trivia game, where you can challenge friends and meet new people who share your interests. The topics range from entertainment trivia testing your knowledge of music, movies, and series to more serious knowledge trivia like arts, business, history, language, sciences, etc... And everything in between! 

The app quickly turned into more of a social network, where you can follow and be followed by people, follow and like topics and communities, and get users' updates on these topics on your homepage, which you can also like and comment on. You can customize your own profile, search for users based on their age, gender, location and interests, challenge them, track your progress against theirs, chat with them, check their profiles to see what they play and what they're good at, their trophies and titles in each game and rank in their country.

Follow me on quizup!

Follow me on quizup!

As you can see, I'm among the top 10 in How I Met Your Mother and and #1 in Family Guy in Saudi Arabia :P. So although I don't quite use QuizUp for really brainy topics, but I still consider it a good memory and speed training app. Even if you're not particularly knowledgeable at a topic, the more you play, the more you learn and the better you get... All while having fun!

QuizUp is available on desktop, AndroidiOS, and Windows Phone.


Although it isn't quite an educational gaming app, but it is definitely worth mentioning. EdX is a massive open online course provider and online learning platform, hosting online university-level courses in a wide range of disciplines to a worldwide audience, some at no charge. It offers online courses from some of the world's best universities, such as Harvard University, MIT, Berkeley University, etc.

You get to take as many courses as you like, with flexible learning as most offer an open study plan to learn at your own place, anywhere, anytime. With over 500 courses in subjects like humanities, math, computer science, psychology, etc. you're sure to find something of interest to you, or that can actually be useful in boosting your career level. You can choose to pay for some courses to get a certificate acknowledging your course completion or you choose to audit courses for free, with no need for certification. Part of each course, you will find the detailed courseware with videos and information and quizzes, reading material, a discussion where you'll find a community of your classmates, and you can track your progress in the course. 

No matter what your interests or career goals are, I'm pretty sure you'll find courses you'd love to enroll in. I'm currently enrolled in an MIT User Innovation course and an Introductory Psychology course; not that I check in daily, but I try to make some progress from time to time whenever I can.

EdX is available as a full version on desktop, with a mobile version for iOS, and Android, giving access only to courses that are mobile-enabled.

So these are my favorite nerdy apps at this time. Do you use any of them? Or do you have any other nerdy apps you'd recommend I add to my list/mobile? Comment below!

Arabnet 2012: The Afterthought

Do you follow me on Twitter? Then I must have spammed you a week ago for five days tweeting about the largest digital event in the region: Arabnet Digital Summit

I had the pleasure of attending Arabnet 2011, and a greater pleasure returning to Arabnet 2012 as an official blogger among some other great bloggers. This year’s event was bigger, with more workshops and talks, and more focus on details! Read on to know what you've missed ;)
Starting with the Developer Days on March 27 – 28, there has been a great focus on the mobile industry. It’s not a surprise since the world is going mobile, more precisely 80% of the world already owns a mobile phone and 84% of them use it for internet browsing and 59% of them use it for social networking. Other interesting statistics can be found in The Smartphone Usage Statistics 2012 [Infographic]! And according to Google’s 12 Mobile Prediction for 2012 at Arabnet, one million small businesses will go online with a mobile website, and Arabnet made sure it included enough talks and workshops to help pave the way for them. 
This year’s Developer Days were better planned with more room for more people and better networking, at the Metropolitan Palace. The most interesting workshop was The Facebook Developer Garage: Open Graph and Mobile Apps by Stephane Crozatier, Partner Engineer at Facebook who gave the developers some hands-on tips and answered the audiences’ question regarding the social networking giant. Stephane was clearly pushing for less fake accounts, but sadly, it doesn’t seem that Facebook has yet developed a strategy to combat that. Which leaves you wondering: Of the 800+ million accounts on Facebook, how many are the real users? Most of the friends you know have probably more than one account, not to count the dozens of brand accounts that agencies create, and the fake accounts that prize hunters create to vote themselves up in a Facebook competition. The first day ended with an Overnight Developer Competition that encouraged developers to compete over the course of 12 sleepless hours to build a web application or a mobile app.  
 What was different this year was the addition of Industry Day on March 28, which had workshops and talks covering 4 industries: Healthcare, Education, Travel, and Banking. Although I loved the micro-focus on each industry separately, but it made things confusing for me and other people I talked to at the event because it was difficult to choose which industry workshop to attend, given that we can’t be in more than one place at the same time. However, following the hashtag did make it easier to get bits and pieces from all workshops. I personally attended some Travel and Education workshops, the most interesting of which was Leila Khauli’s case study of The Use of Social Media in the Classroom. Check out the hashtags of her classrooms to see how she helps her marketing students apply their social media skills in their class: #mktg225 #mktg350b
The Forum Days on March 29 – 30 are usually the most important and most crowded, especially since it featured the Ideathon competition where multiple contestants presented their ideas to appeal for funding and of course the Arabnet prizes. Winning first place was Mahmoud AlDwairy with his Influsense idea which you should ask him about because it’s interesting :D It’s mostly like Klout but with a gamified competition where influencers need to perform certain tasks to get influence points in certain topics, making it easier for brands to target them as promoters. The Forum Days were filled with too much great content for me to restate here! But just to recap, some of the presentations that stood out were The Social Bakers’ Measuring Social Media with Jan Rezab and the Augmented Reality demo by Omar Tayeb Gilles Fayad. 
Overall, a prominent feature in this year’s Arabnet was Sociatag which allowed attendees to register their Facebook accounts on a Sociatag card that they could use in various checkpoints in the event to “check-in”, “like” a workshop, or take a photo and post it toArabnet’s Facebook Page album which is fun to browse even though the image quality is a disaster hehe
On a side note, Mike Butcher, a correspondent from TechCrunch and a feature speaker at Arabnet, co-hosted a meet-up (#TCBeirut) alongside Wamda and AltCity. I was looking forward to that event like many others. To my disappointment, the meet-up, which was supposed to be a gathering of intellectual minds discussing the future tech in the Middle East and the digital ecosystem in Lebanon, took place at a small pub in Hamra where drinks and loud music buried any potential for intelligent conversations. In my humble opinion, which I am sure is supported by the general global professional standards, a meeting with any valuable input should never be held at venues that do not facilitate networking and discussion, and certainly does not defer most of its conservative target audience. The meet-up should have taken place at a more appropriate bigger space where everyone could have enjoyed it and benefited from it, then, those who wanted to grab a drink could have gone altogether afterwards… Just my two cents! 

Keep on the look out for the coverage from the other official bloggers on Arabnet’s Facebook Page and Twitter account, and leave your questions and comments to me below :D

A Synopsis: Webit Congress 2012

In October 10 and 11, apart from the amazing time I spent in Istanbul, I had the pleasure of attending Webit Congress. Seeing many professionals from across Europe & the Middle East gathered in one place for the purpose of sharing and exchanging knowledge of the digital world was quite refreshing.

Here are some statistics about the 2012 Congress, as stated by Webit Expo:

  • Visiting countries: 72
  • Number of speakers: 187 (see all of them here)
  • International and local exhibitors: 50 (see list)
  • Worldwide supporting media and partners: 130
  • With the strategic support of: IAB Europe, EACA, EGTA, OPA, Arab ICT Organization, European Commission.

HE Minister Binali Yildirim (Minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications of the Republic of Turkey) opened the Congress on 10 October together with Plamen Russev (Chairman of eAcademy/founder of Webit), Alain Heureux (President and CEO IAB Europe), Dominic Lyle (Director General EACA), Dr. Tayfun Acarer (BTK Chairman) and other officials.

The major conferences within the Congress were:- Marketing and Innovation Conference- Entrepreneurship Conference- Telco Conference - e-Commerce Conference and e-Commerce SEO Master Class- Apps Development Workshops- Free Seminars on Digital & TechnologyThe only global Webit Awards Ceremony for digital marketing effectiveness and technology excellence for the Word's New Digital Markets also took place on 10 October.  

I was of course mostly interested in the Marketing and Innovation Conference, particularly the social media stream which came first. I got in half way through, Facebook's Regional Directory, Diego Oliva's presentation on the future of Social Media where he spoke of the importance of Facebook Fans and their friends to brand pages, calling them "real fans" given the value they present to businesses in terms of sales. The image below showcases some of the percentages of sales from Facebook fans and their friends for big brands on Facebook pages.

 It was Guillaume du Gardier, Head of Digital Media at Ferrero, whom I really liked. He firstly disagreed with Diego on the statement that Facebook fans are real fans, considering the number of inactive, fake and duplicate accounts. He urged for a feature that allows brand pages to discover fans who haven't been connected with a brand in the last 3 months by hiding the updates from their ticker/feed, not visiting the page anymore, and never interact with it, and allow them to automatically take these fans off the page as they failed to provide them with an attractive brand experience. He urges brands to care about active fans, not about "accounts". He explains that having thousands of fans is not as important as having a "scaled" number of fans. Scale is the percentage of fans from the number of consumers reached through sales. So, for example, having hundreds of thousands of fans on your Facebook page is not that impressive if your weekly sales are per millions. He also suggested that Facebook introduces a way that allows brands to connect with fan-made pages in a way that is mutually beneficial for both of them.

Among other interesting seminars at the conference, I quite liked the concept of Wakoopa as presented by its CEO Piet Hein Van Dam, compromising of allowing it to track our own digital footprint (websites we visit, apps we use, ads we interact with, etc.) in return for rewards. Many websites already track our digital footprint and sell it for huge profits and we got nothing out of it. Through Wakoopa, we control what it tracks and when, and we benefit from it.

One presentation I very much enjoyed was by the energetic and lively Rina Onur, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Peak Games, who spoke about the importance of gaming in our life and how it's getting more and more integrated in other sectors like business and education and will continue to grow into more sectors in the future.

All in all, it was a great event with many valuable seminars, some of which were running at the same time so it was hard to follow up with all of them. It was only brought down by the terrible internet connection which made it difficult for bloggers like me to enjoy the event by live-tweeting and connecting to others during it. It's certainly an experience worth attending though.

Follow Webit Expo on Facebook or Twitter to stay updated with when they make the presentations available for download. However, I think they would only be available for those who have already been registered, in which case I'll be able to get them for you. You just have to remind me and ask me for them! 

What Startups Need: An ArabNet Community.

Photo credit:  imthiaz blog

Photo credit: imthiaz blog

When you work in the social media field like I do, it becomes inevitable to run into startups that are eager to launch the newest idea, the most tech-advanced service or the best-specialized network. As a startup, it is perhaps important to believe that the product you’re developing will be a success, will bring you fame, and help you cash in, hopefully sooner than later.

I do not claim to be an expert on entrepreneurship and startups, but if there is one thing that I can deduce by common sense, it’s that every successful business needs a COMMUNITY!nAn interesting definition of a community is by Michael Wu, the Principal Scientist of Analytics at Lithium Technologies Inc.:

A community (both online and offline) consist of people from all walks of life that seem to have no relationship at all but is a very robust social structure. What holds a community together is common interest. It maybe a hobby, something the community members are passionate about, a common goal, a common project, or merely the preference for a similar lifestyle, geographical location, or profession. People join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community (source).

Building a community may or may not be a long daunting task depending on what your product is, but it is a known fact that it is never as easy as “Build it and they shall come”. Growing Facebook from a small college community to the largest global community did not happen in a day. It wasn’t that the idea of Facebook was so revolutionary, in the simplest terms, it succeeded in capturing a fraction of a community with common interests (college students who wanted a social way to get to know each other), then gave way to that community to create other sub-communities with other common interests that others joined in, until everyone else felt they MUST be part of that community. According to Matthew Shampine, a serial entrepreneur, as a startup founder, you should not “be too focused on your product, because if you’re not building a community for it, it may never get off the ground.” He gives 2 successful case studies on how building a community the right way can help your idea or product (Source).

As a startup in the MENA region, your best chance is to find opportunities where early adopters, fellow entrepreneurs and potential investors... For you, that means the digital MENA event of the year, ArabNet Digital Summit. It’s the biggest event for web and mobile in the region! Last year’s summit brought over 1000 attendees, 100 speakers, featured 18 panels and 17 talks, in addition to 20 entrepreneurs pitching their ideas and startups. And this year’s summit is less than 2 months away so you better start working on your pitches and hone your skills in building your community! This year’s event is going to be even bigger. Cutting-edge panel discussions, specialized workshops, exciting competitions, focused networking sessions, social activities and more, spread over 5 action packed days including:

  • Two Developer Days with technical discussions and workshops for programmers. Even though I am not a developer, but I did enjoy this day as you can read in my post from ArabNet Digital Summit 2011.
  • An Industry Day about how web and mobile are transforming traditional industries like healthcare, travel, education and banking.
  • Two Forum Days, the largest gathering of digital business leaders in the region featuring over 100 globally renowned speakers covering the latest trends and technologies in web and mobile.
  • A Community Day raising public awareness about the the power of digital.

The Digital Summit will also include ArabNet’s annual competitions: the Ideathon and Startup Demo. The Ideathon aims at turning bright ideas into functional products will introduce the top 20 entrepreneurs and startups in the region, exposing the latest in digital entrepreneurship and giving entrants the chance to win big cash prizes and the attention of investors, incubators, and developers, not to mention the media! You’ll for sure have a better chance at exposure if you actually participate in the Ideathon. So you put your entrepreneurial hat on and get ready to network!

As one of the official bloggers of ArabNet Digital Summit 2012, I'll be bringing you more news about the conference and will be live covering it from March 27 till March 31. So don't forget to subscribe to my RSS, and follow me on Twitter if you aren't already ;)