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Keynote Speakers

 Part 1: Hearables - the New Wearable Technology for Blended Learning

Dr. Agnieszka (Aga) Palalas, IABL President, is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Distance Education (CDE) at Athabasca University, Canada. She is also Past President of the International Association of Mobile Learning (IAmLearn). She is an internationally recognized expert with more than 25 years of experience in adult learning, e-learning, instructional design, software development, and innovative technologies. Over the last two decades, she has taught at and collaborated with a variety of educational institutions from K-12 to postgraduate levels and in corporate training environments (face-to-face, online, and blended). She has worked in Canada, USA, Ghana, India, Colombia, and Poland – teaching, researching, and designing instruction in the field of adult education and educational technologies, e-learning, as well as blended and mobile learning solutions. Dr. Palalas has conducted and led numerous multidisciplinary educational technology research studies for 20 years. Dr. Palalas has been sharing her knowledge through regular local and international conference presentations and keynotes (over 30 just in the last five years), workshops and webinars, and scholarly publications, including two books,  The International Handbook of Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (2016; co-edited) and Blended Language Learning: International Perspectives on Innovative Practices (2019), (translated into Chinese). A popular keynote speaker, Dr. Palalas principally discusses issues pertaining to m-learning design and research, blended learning, technology-assisted learning, mobile-assisted language learning, and recently, mindfulness in education.

Hearables - the New Wearable Technology for Blended Learning

Emerging digital learning approaches include the usage of wearables which allow us to experience “embodied” learning by connecting to information using our hands, minds, and bodies. With wearables, spanning wristwear, headwear, eyewear, footwear, and more, we can access a growing range of data and resources to improve how we understand, design, and support learning. Wearable technologies change how people connect, communicate, and cognize their own behaviours. Hearables, wireless micro-computers that fit in the ear, have been recently recognized as a powerful technology that can further augment learning. These smart wearable devices are equipped with speakers and microphones, can connect to the Internet, offer artificial intelligence capabilities and other advanced functions enabled by smart technologies. This presentation will give an overview of wearables, in particular hearables, for learning and how they can fit into the blended learning equation.


Part 2: Blended Learning in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Ally: Dr. Ally is Professor and Program Director of the Doctoral Program and Researcher in the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute (TEKRI) at Athabasca University in Canada. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Canada. His current areas of research include mobile learning, e-learning, distance education and use of emerging learning technologies in education and training. Dr. Ally is Past-President of the International Federation of Training and Development Organizations (IFTDO) and is one of the Founding Directors of the International Association of Mobile Learning (IamLearn) and the International Association of Blended Learning (IABL). He recently edited 15 books on the use of emerging technologies in education. His book “Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training” won the Charles A. Wedemeyer Award for significant contribution to distance education. Four of his books were translated to Chinese and one to Arabic. Dr. Ally has presented keynote speeches, papers, and workshops in many countries.


Blended Learning in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

As the world and education move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, blended learning must be transformed to make education smarter and more accessible for learners regardless of location and status. This transformation will help to achieve the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. This part of the presentation will cover how blended learning can be transformed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution using technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, internet of things, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

Part 3: The Educator in the Era of Blended Learning

Prof. Christina Gitsaki: Dr. Gitsaki is the Research Coordinator at the Center for Educational Innovation, Zayed University, UAE. During her 25-year career in higher education she has contributed to the field in a number of different capacities such as English language teacher, applied linguistics lecturer, pre-service teacher educator, in-service teacher trainer, textbook author, project manager, curriculum leader, editor, and researcher. In the past, she served as the UNESCO Chair in Applied Research in Education in the UAE and later as the Associate Dean of the Foundations program at the Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE. Before coming to the UAE, she worked at The University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia, where she educated pre-service ESL teachers and supervised Masters and Ph.D. students in education research. She has worked with Education Queensland and The Learning Federation of the Curriculum Corporation, Australia on state and federal education projects such as the creation of digital Learning Objects for K-12 students. Dr. Gitsaki has presented her research at over 140 International Conferences, has been an invited speaker at over 60 professional events and she has published 75 papers in refereed journals and book chapters on language acquisition and pedagogy. She is the author, editor and co-editor of 12 books on education research. At the CEI she oversees the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Course, the development of resources for research and she provides advice and mentorship to faculty who are interested in engaging in research on teaching and learning.

The Educator in the Era of Blended Learning

With technology evolving at a faster pace than pedagogy and curricula, the challenges faced by educators and trainers are immense. While Blended Learning is becoming a reality for the majority of educational and training institutions, teachers and teacher training programs are lagging behind in their ability to realize all that blended learning requires. Developing online resources and replacing face-to-face sessions with virtual online ones require a set of skills and technical expertise that are in short supply among educators. Furthermore, our capacity building for the future is compromised by pre-service teacher training programs that fall short in equipping the teachers of tomorrow with the necessary skills to function effectively in a blended teaching and learning environment. This part of the session will outline the challenges faced by educators when asked to function in a technology-rich virtual environment and recommendations will be made to address these challenges.

Prof. Mohammad bin Ibrahim Al-Zakari earned his Ph.D. in Computer: Electronic Design and Electronic Education in the USA where he also graduated atraining course in Active Electronic Education at the University of Harvard. His major roles include:

  • President of the Arab Open University (2018)-Present
  •  Rector of the Arab Open University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2016-2018)
  • Professor of UNESCO Chair of Quality Assurance in Higher Education (2012-2018)
  • General Supervisor of the Information Technology Deanship at Al-Imam University, KSA
  • Director of Performance Monitoring Unit of the Arab Open University (a Unit which reports directly to the Chairman of the AOU Board of Trustees, His Royal Highness Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz)

Prof. Mohammad Al-Zakari is also a member of many Councils and Committees, including:

  • AOU Board of Trustees
  • Technical Committee of the AOU Board of Trustees
  • Technical Committee for the Establishment of Al-Qassim University
  • Faculty Council of the Deanship of Assessment, Quality Assurance, Development and Accreditation at Al-Imam University
  • Editorial Board of the Journal of Risalat Al Tarbiya Wa’ilm al Nafs (Journal of Education and Psychology Message)
  • Academic Board of a number of international educational conferences
  • Chairman of the Curricula and Teaching Methods, Department of the Faculty of Social Sciences in Al-Imam University

The following are the highlight of his academic achievements:

  •  Over 15 years’ experience in quality assurance work at higher education establishments
  • Revising descriptions of academic programmes and courses to ascertain that they reflect with accreditation and validation values
  • Establishing the Performance Monitoring Unit of the Arab Open University, and preparing standards and indicators of academic performance
  • Teaching and supervising postgraduate students (Master’s and PhD) in electronic teaching
  • Participating in over (50) training courses and (10) trainer training courses in areas linked to academic validation, academic leadership and strategic planning in higher education
  • Trainer in electronic education, strategic planning, quality assurance, academic leadership and in the description of academic programmes and courses in higher education

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