My Velvet Revolution

It seems to me that this will be probably something as memoirs of the unsuccessful Czech revolutionist, but I feel a strong temptation to publish it.

Several years before the regime change I was involved in the team of Reasearch Institute preparing Adaptive Intelligent Tutoring System for all departments of the Czech Technical University. That time in the second half of 80′s there was a big boom of such systems which aimed to fully control the learning process of students. I loved this work partly because I get an opportunity to learn a lot of new things. I started to read English sources, increased my ability in programming (Assembler, Pascal, Basic, Foxbase) and I had slowly found out that the direction of the development of our work to the students’ control isn’t the right one.

What I didn’t know those days was the fact that the secret police some way influence my life. The only formal sign was the rejection of my application for doctoral studies in1988. Fortunately the change evoked by Soviet leader Gorbachev lastly arrived in November 1989 and we started to think that everything would quickly change.

The years 1990-94 were probably the best in my life. We believed in democracy and better future. Thanks to our president Vaclav Havel we didn’t revenge the communists, so they were able to take advantage of the situation and made the immediate transition to the die-hard capitalists interested solely in money. As the significant example you can compare two of our world known presidents – Vaclav Havel and his follower using the same first name Vaclav Klaus. The intention of our first president Havel was always the true democracy including humanity, active citizenship, green policy, volunteerism, philanthropy etc. Unfortunately the space for such kind of dealing around us is still lesser and lesser. The greed policy represented by Mr. Klaus temporary wins not only here in Czechia but almost everywhere (even in communistic China). The fight between the openness and closeness in our country could be personalized by these two leaders.

It was 1994 and my job was to establish the InfoCentrum dedicated to the help for Czech teachers with the usage of technology. We formed the group of 4 enthusiastic people inside the Institute for Information in Education which was formal part of the Ministry. We were probably the first who came with the intention to bring the benefit of internet to primary and secondary schools. At that time I realized that my belief in better future is probably only a false hope. The government adopted the policy of so called “optimization”. They informed us that the service we do won’t be paid by Ministry of Education. They used the argument that teachers would pay it themselves if they would feel the need. Maybe such kind of policy would have a chance to ask for public support in elections, but there was something what completely changed my attitude to the political situation in our country. It was from the beginning evident that the optimization of state expenses is mainly done in form of transfer of the public money to the pockets of the corruptionists and cashboxes of the leading political parties.

I decided to continue and fulfill the plan which we started to realize in InfoCentrum – to bring the appropriate information about technology to Czech teachers. In 1995 I opened my first personal web BoBr’s Helper which some way continues in form of blog until today (http://spomocnik.rvp.cz/). I have to say that my strong intention to stay on position of openness caused that the only reward I get is unofficial from the reactions of readers. But I am satisfied.

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How I Became Educational Technologist

I have been involved in educational technology for almost 30 years. When I started there was a deep totality in my country (former Czechoslovakia). I was a technician obtaining the MSc. degree in field of sound engineering with the little experience on mainframe computers and programmable calculators. But that time in the beginning of the 80′s the first 8 bits computers came through iron curtain. Accidentally in the same time I looked for a new job and I was questioned by the director of the company (owned by state and guided by communistic party), which was responsible for all state controlled deliveries to Czech schools (textbooks, tools, aids, etc.). My intention was to be involved in the recording process of the programs distributed that time on sound cassettes – e.g. to support language education.

But in the same time (1984) this company finalized the development of the first national educational personal computer called IQ 151. The director didn’t allow any discussion and made me responsible for this process. This way he involved me in the educational technology development – and I stay here until today. I have to acknowledge that this was a big luck for me as I can say that I am almost the first person in this country who took care about the usage of computers in primary and secondary education (apart from higher education, of course).

You know, in some way the personal development has very similar traits regardless you are in totality or democracy. You have to make the right decision when you reach the situation you are asked to cover some mistakes of your boss or the company generally. Maybe I could behave differently when I found out that IQ 151 has some constructional drawbacks, which the top management wished to hush up. But I decided to repair the existing defects. Unfortunately the best solution was brought by the excellent professor of computer science at Charles University, but he was in political underground thanks to his religion. My intention to enforce his solution of our problems with IQ151 computer was not accepted by the management. As I knew that this decision would have a big future consequences for our teachers I decided to adopt the openness and not keep silence. So, I went on the way which is not very easy, but I don’t regret. I still stay on it.

You see, the main my problem to be actively connected to the world after more than 20 years of passive usage of English is still the language.