On digital learning and the Apple ecosystem: A chat with UKM's Helmi Norman

Helmi Norman says his interest in Apple's approach drove him to explore the integration of its technology in teaching and learning environments. — Picture courtesy of Helmi Norman
Helmi Norman says his interest in Apple's approach drove him to explore the integration of its technology in teaching and learning environments. — Picture courtesy of Helmi Norman

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — Digital learning is not a new endeavour in Malaysia but the Ministry of Education (MOE) recently announced a revamp of its Digital Educational Learning Initiative Malaysia (DELIMA) platform.

What was new this time is its collaboration with big names in Google, Microsoft and Apple. Both teachers and students will have access to the platform, which encompasses a range of services and applications.

The education sector is an enticing honeypot for tech companies. After all, what sector consistently attracts government funding and is unlikely to disappear so long as the need to educate and train survives?

DELIMA is particularly attractive with its reach — an average of, according to the MOE, 1.7 million monthly active users at present with 2.5 million students, 370,000 teachers and approximately 10,000 schools.

On being an Apple Distinguished Educator

I asked questions via email to Helmi Norman, deputy director of UKM's Centre for Teaching and Learning Technologies and who also happens to be an Apple Distinguished Educator.

Having a long-held passion in new and emerging technologies, Helmi said his interest in Apple's approach drove him to explore the integration of its technology in teaching and learning environments

“I envisioned teaching and learning to be different — challenging the norms of traditional learning.”

Helmi was drawn to the Apple Distinguished Educator program which provided the means for educators across the globe to exchange new ideas around teaching and learning, as well as new ways of using technology in learning environments.

“These stories were transformative, and further ignited my passion to become an Apple Distinguished Educator — which to me means one that drives innovation in teaching and learning by assuming the roles of author, advisor, ambassador, and advocate.”

On the perception of Apple being seen as more of a premium offering and its suitability in a learning environment, Helmi said that in his opinion the learning curve with competing technologies in the area were quite steep.

In contrast, Apple offered a seamlessness within its ecosystem especially with the iPad that allowed him to “focus on the important aspects of digital learning — the learning design and content development — rather than to worry about the technical aspects too much.”

Being able to keep content original and unique without needing to worry about copyright was a key consideration for Helmi's choice of Apple's platform. — Picture courtesy of Helmi Norman
Being able to keep content original and unique without needing to worry about copyright was a key consideration for Helmi's choice of Apple's platform. — Picture courtesy of Helmi Norman

Why Apple?

Ease of use as well as originality were the main drivers for Helmi's using Apple technology.

“With an iPad and Apple Pencil, I can create original lesson content easily. I can create drawings and animate them with Keynote, compose music with GarageBand, produce CGI-like green screen effects with iMovie and Clips, and publish interactive digital books using Pages. And all this content is original and unique, and keeps me far away from copyright issues.”

His choices aside, on how Apple fits into Malaysia's overall digital learning strategy, Helmi said as an educator, he saw the company's platform as a driver for innovations across all areas of education, ranging from learners to teachers, and from administrators to support staff.

While the use cases for teachers and students seemed evident, Helmi also noted that Apple School Manager allowed for support staff to more easily manage technology.

Outside of Apple, Helmi said the current state of digital learning looked promising.

“The government has built core foundations such as the DELIMA platform to accelerate digital learning in Malaysia with major educational players including Apple. Yet, challenges lie with the speed of technological integration in urban versus remote areas,” he said.

“I believe that the future of education is now, and bridging these education gaps will lead to great successes of tomorrow.”

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