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

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.