Millennial Czech EU integration

eu_logo_s_mapouIn 1995 Czech Republic signed the European Union Association Agreement. This decision caused our associated status in the EU Socrates programme, in which beginning 1998 we were allowed to participate even before the official entry (2004). Socrates was a wide project dealing in area of education funded by huge money. There were several sections inside; one of them called Comenius is working until today. It is organizing the international school cooperation.

Thanks to my already established connections to European teachers represented by the European Schools Project Association I get the opportunity to be involved in several funded projects inside the Comenius branch from the beginning. In this period when almost nobody knew how to write successful proposal there were only a little amount of Socrates participants. By my opinion mostly the enthusiasts were involved, who interested mainly in the activity itself and saw the money only as a necessary vehicle for the work.

Our projects were concentrated to the support of teachers opening the space for international cooperation using the internet. We developed the methodology of activities with the high educational effect (e.g. The Image of the Other), published the proposals for cooperation made by interested teachers and designed several courses teaching teachers the best practice of cooperation. You can still see most of them including all the open educational resources on the web – TRANSPRO, PROMISE, ECOLE. In 2003 I helped with the designing of the first official Czech web of the European Schoolnet organization opened inside the Centre for International Services (subsidiary company of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports).

As an experienced participant I was involved in the role of evaluator into the work of newly established National Socrates agency subordinated and controlled by the Ministry. I slowly started to think that the situation thanks to our association with EU countries goes better. The change came stealthily with our official admission to EU in 2004. We get much bigger opportunity to use the resources not only from the The Lifelong Learning Programme (the new title of the former Socrates), but also from much bigger Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds. What happened later was some way very similar to the way adopted by Greece with the only difference that we didn’t have enough time to reach the bankruptcy.

The interest of people proposing the projects funded by the EU changed solely to money. You can (at least in field of Education) hardly detect any project today, which has the really useful outcome and don’t finish its activity immediately after the end of funding. Very often we find out that there could be even worst intention by the beneficiary than only inefficient spending of money. I speak about the corruption and thievery.

In connection with the intention to control the flow of all funds there were established a specialized department at the Centre for International Services called The National Agency for European Educational Programmes, which takes care about all the projects in field of education. Two years ago I disrupted my more than 10 years long involvement in the process of setting the rules and indicators for projects assessment (especially for eTwinning in last years) and doing the evaluation work when I was asked to change one of my reports in the way much more acceptable for the ministry.

So, I don’t do any project and don’t apply for them any more.

Czech educational technology in the 90′s

internetIt is not long ago when we celebrated 20th anniversary of internet in our country. I have to say that we must be very grateful to fortune that we get the opportunity to use this connective open space almost from the beginning of its existence. When Stephen Downes a year ago mentioned 15 years of the services functioning like the blog (15 years of Scripting News), I realized that thanks to the internet we really had the same starting position as the well developed countries. Here is my evaluation report mentioning the 15th anniversary of our information service Teachers’ Helper providing edtech news for teachers in form of the blog- 15 years old helper (automatic translation by Google).

Off course, not all conditions were the same. For example the shortage of our budget was much more significant. But what stepped us down probably even more it was the post- totalitarian mentality everywhere around. In the middle of 90′s the interest of our teachers was mainly oriented in free stuff. There were already a huge quantity of public domain or shareware software in the online repositories accessible by ftp, which we downloaded, tested, described and offered for free initially on diskettes and later also for online download. But that time only the higher education institutions were connected and only a few teachers (of informatics) were interested.

The web Teachers’ Helper started in 1995 simultaneously with my teaching on Charles University Prague, Faculty of Education. It immediately began to overhand not only software but also interesting news. I wrote the textbook using the hypertext structure for my students (Learning with computer) and successfully established the connection to the colleagues abroad. That time there was only one working organization connecting mostly (but not only) European teachers interested in cooperation on the educational activities with the children supported by technology. Its name was European School Project and I became the Czech national coordinator. In March 2011 I described the first stages of our connection to the world in the contribution for the 25th ESP anniversary conference in Denmark – The Role of ESP in the introduction of educational technology to Czech schools.

Until the end of 90′s our online service Teachers’ Helper has built up the prime position in the area of professional support of educational technology in our country. It was integrated to the activities of the Department of Information Technology on the Faculty of Education. We have offered free software, evaluated proprietary educational programs, regularly published proposals for international cooperation and informed about interesting news in technology development and relevant research.

I am very happy I can say that we have overcome all serious obstacles and we continuously do such kind of services even in different conditions to date.