My professional experience

I guess you have had enough of the complaints about conditions in which I work. Maybe you would prefer to know a little more about my attitude to the discipline in which I am employed for almost all of my professional life.

I already mentioned that I started my career of educational technologist as a person responsible for technical quality of the first 8-bit computer developed especially for our schools in 1984. Later I was a member of the team developing the adaptive learning management system for higher education environment. We called it Intelligent Tutoring System at that time. The reality was very different. It was a good experience for me as I found out where not to go.

That time in 80’s the battle between the traditional educational concept and the innovative one already started. The first kind of thinking was represented by the supporters of usage of computers as teaching and testing machine, rote exercising, programming in Basic, etc. On the opposite side there were proponents of Logo (we firstly adopted program Karel), Pascal and constructive methods of involving students into their own learning. The principle of openness belonged to this approach from the beginning.

The next occupation in which I was responsible for the establishment of service bringing information about the usage of ICT to our teachers was much more determinative for me. I feel it as my personal mission for the rest of my life. In the middle of 90’s we were provided by internet and thanks to it we have got the possibility to use the free resources of the whole world. I think we took as much as possible from it. In the first stages the process of passing information, materials and programs had typically only one way direction. We only spent and didn’t offer anything back.

When I started to teach the subjects connected with educational technology at Charles University Prague, Faculty of Education and the service called Teachers’ Helper was established in 1997 I involved my students into the activities helping to open the online environment for all our teachers. The intention is evident. I wanted to give them the experience of sharing – to show them that the only possibility in the coming days is to take the active role in the exchange of experience among all of the teachers around the whole world. The contrast to the traditional approach in which the students write the seminar work only for the teacher is visible.

When I first met the conception of connectivism around 2005 I immediately realized that this is “my cap of tea”. It gives the appropriate meaning to all I have done from the beginning I got the open internet connection. It is a big pleasure for me to know I am not alone on this way. Unfortunately there are plenty of barriers and drawbacks around, but we have to face them and be prepared to overcome the coming changes which are often described as singularity or even disruption today.

I try to implement the principles of connectivism and openness in my teaching. This school year is the first in which my lessons are broadcasted online (by Google+ Hangout now). The intention is to give the opportunity to learn not only to students, but to inservice teachers too. We are connected not only by almost the traditional lectures held on university ones a week, but also virtually by the (Edmodo) back channel with no time restrictions. For the evaluation of students I set two levels. In the first they are supposed to establish their own online connections to lead teachers (or experts) anywhere and prove that there already exists some preliminary version of their Personal Learning Environment. In the second stage they have to take an active role in the given process. As the evidence they can use the published article on Teachers’ Helper or their own independent activity – for example a private blog.

I know very well that I must serve as an example for them. There are not only my lectures but many other products, e.g. about 50 articles every year. Last years I began to make also a video mini-lessons dedicated to students (I don’t speak about the flipped classroom in my case). Only one of my video has already the English transcript thanks to the specialized event for which it was recorded. Here you are:

Bořivoj Brdička – Information Society for the Third Millenium

Advertisements

What is the value of the help for teachers?

spomocnik_BBmIn my memoirs here I already mentioned that we are running the web service called Teachers’ Helper providing technology oriented information for Czech teachers beginning 1997. After the refusal of the assistance from the Ministry of Education in 1995 and transfer of the service to my private web (BoBr’s Helper) this work finally became an official part of my full time job at the Department of Information Technology, Charles University Prague, Faculty of Education. I get the direct support and we had intention to involve all teachers of the department into this activity and connect it with the learning process of our students.

The first part of this intention wasn’t viable, but the second was successfully accomplished. Students are very important element participating as authors on the service. Instead they produce the paper only for the teacher, in my courses they are supposed to produce publishable product increasing the knowledge of our teachers. Even the first contribution published at 22nd of February 1997 preserved on the portal until today was written by the student (Education in the Information Society – Bangemann speech at the seminar of the European Parliament).

I guess you would agree that such a long period of continuously existing info-service publishing 1 to 3 articles every week except vacations could build some influence in the practice. All the time we have covered news about interesting gadgets, educational software, teaching methods, policy decisions, research results, project proposals etc. The most profitable consequence of this long-lasting approach is the possibility to link the articles themselves. When we open a new theme we can mention the information we brought several years ago.

During the first years we didn’t have any competitors in the given area. Then in 2000 the government started to realize the project handled several billions of Czech Crowns (CZK) where not only computers and connectivity for schools was included, but also the Educational Portal for hundreds of millions. We were prepared to take some part in this activity, but the reality was very different. The beneficiary institution (surprisingly the same Institute for Information in Education where such a service was several years before refused) get money and opened the tender to outsourcing the realization. The portal was really established and money spent. The functionality is maybe questionable, but there is one unquestionable fact – this Educational Portal (Edu.cz) never had the educational content. It was finally cancelled with the whole Institute in 2011. Make your own opinion!

The same situation has continuously repeated with the EU projects after 2005. I remember several portals providing some kind of info-services supported by Structural and Cohesion Funds which only started but immediately died after the end of supply. The situation became so evident that in 2012 European Commission stopped the funding of the Individual projects handled by our Ministry of Education, the minister was dismissed and finally most of the new proposals (with several portals among them) were canceled.

The only working portal providing our teachers with information, learning objects, training, and the space for cooperation is the Framework Education Programme Portal RVP.cz (see The Education Portal to support the Czech Framework Education Programme) managed by the National Educational Institute. This portal exists thanks to Individual EU projects too. It was established originally with the intention to give the teachers some methodological help inside the ongoing reform of the entire educational system. The project finished in 2011 and nowadays all the activities there are mostly voluntary.

You can easily recognize by the address that our Teachers’ Helper (spomocnik.rvp.cz) is a part of this portal today. We moved in 2010 thanks to loss of the assistance from the Charles University. The reason is very simple. Last years our higher education institutions became competitors for money from the part of the national budget dedicated to research. These sources are distributed strictly in accordance with the rules approved by the government based on the impact factor of the published research outcomes. The documents or articles propagating the actual development in field of educational technology to teachers published only on the web don’t fulfill the conditions of the given rules, don’t obtain any recognition and consequently any money. That is the reason, why such activity is not perceived by the university as valuable even if students are involved.

The conditions of my work are unsatisfactory during almost the whole my carrier. I gave up all dreams that this could change in the future. In spite of this I am sure I do the right things. And there are visible results. I never stop.

 TH_Visits

Visits of the Teachers‘ Helper during the last 2 years