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

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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.