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Blog Digital learning and pen-generation
Share your views 28/01/2019 by Maja Andjelkovi… Language: EN
Do you belong to the pen-generation? This is how I call all my colleagues who completed their university education by 1995. Not a word about computers, only pen and paper. Remember Commodore 64? I was introduced to Microsoft operating system and a printer for the first time in 1994. And for the first time I realized that the lifelong learning, cooperation of teachers and self-motivation are the foundation of our progress. My colleague gave me instructions for typing and printing of my master thesis (just basic information). With a little luck and attention, I used the computer as a typewriter, and with such pride! It was something to start with.
Lifelong learning, part 1
The first computers entered our schools at the time of a terrible economic crisis and war in Yugoslavia. There have been enthusiasts, and there always will be. Still, the digital education somehow reached our children first, and then us, teachers. An irresistible attractiveness of the screen and the keyboard mesmerized my son, too, and he used the computer more than I did. While preparing for classes, I still wrote notes by hand (1992), and in 1999 I decided to use Word. I believe I was the first one with the printed notes for classes in my school, maybe ten years before the others!
The Ministry of Education required the use of digital systems. Lesson plans had to be submitted in the electronic form. Information was sent via e-mail. Seminars for the use of information and communication technologies were ready. We attended them. Dealing with ICT is the same as dealing with language – if you do not use the computer every day, you forget how to use it. Whatever was planned and learned – it would disappear into thin air in a month. Some things were completely incomprehensible. I was not able to find even the simplest things on my own, like adding a link in different programs. During one break, I asked my colleague, a teacher of informatics, how to add a link. The moment between the two classes, four clicks, and everything became clear. And again, an example of horizontal and lifelong learning. Informal, of course.
Mind you, the English language was a barrier, too. After years of using the original software, we got used to English names, and the use of Serbian on Microsoft computer created quite a stir. Commands were not in English anymore, but in Serbian. The children solved these problems by using the English words and adding Serbian suffixes for person to verbs. English in Serbian.
The first gathering of leading teachers in digital sphere was initiated by Microsoft Office Serbia through the international project “Partners in Learning”. About twenty teachers from the whole Serbia met at Microsoft premises. There, we were greeted, networked, guided and inspired by Katarina Milanović and Tanja Tatomirović from Microsoft. Without their support, cooperation and efforts, we would not be where we are today. Mentoring and collaborative learning through cooperation.
Their first instruction they gave us was: “Open Facebook and Twitter accounts”. Most teachers reacted in disbelief. We have heard about Facebook only through our pupils and we knew only that it was used for photos and self-promotion. It has never occurred to us to use it as a base for professional cooperation. We are still connected through Facebook and Twitter to this day. We use them to share information, data, professional consultations, to announce events, competitions, share successes. We support and inspire each other. The result of this cooperation is also a project with Vietnam, Israel and India I participated in.
Lifelong learning, part 2
When there is no formal education, everyone develops in accordance with their needs, wishes, and opportunities. Some people research, try, practice, learn. Some don’t. I started a blog. The first blog, for the first school I worked in for 20 years, is at www.kreativnostnadelu.wordpress.com (link is external). For the past three years I have been running a blog called the Literature Classroom (“Ucionica knjizevnosti” in Serbian), and you can find it on the Internet, at www.svetlostusrcu.wordpress.com (link is external). It is a digital environment for working on literature lessons with pupils of higher grades of primary school (aged between 11 and 14). I discovered the work on blog on my own. You yourselves know that it requires a lot of time, with all other duties teachers have. Without any compensation and with salary that was not sufficient for decent living, majority of teachers used to teach extra lessons or have another job. The intrinsic motivation has also led me to completely different researches, such as participation at Mensa Conference 2018 in Belgrade.
There was a period when we were flooded with presentations. Since 2010, Power Point was everywhere we turned. Whatever we learn, wherever we go, materials are in the presentation. This is when I had an idea about the actual use of computer software and applications (digital technologies). You should use specific tools for specific purposes. Even today, my pupils are still using Power Point presentations in the wrong way. They write everything they have to say on a slide, and they turn and read from that slide… But I discovered Sway (Sway.com) and I am thrilled by its elegance and motion. Intrinsic motivation and experimenting.
Serbian Ministry of Education encourages the use of computers in teaching and digitalization; there are competitions to which you can apply with the digital format of your works: Creative School, Digital Class, Learned on seminars, applied in practice… Many publishers announced their competitions, too. Digitalization in teaching and its use are appreciated. There are a lot of seminars. And there is a bigger and bigger gap between the colleagues who rarely or almost never use computers in teaching and those trying to make lessons more interesting.
Lifelong learning, part 3
The European Quality Label and nine national quality labels, 27 teachers, 11 countries and a large project “Tell me your story” can be found on the eTwinning platform (link is external). The best parts of the project are works of pupils, and I, as the project initiator, obtained the basic information from my mentor, a teacher from Portugal, Maria Silva. Here you can see the project review (link is external). Once again, the cooperation among teachers is the foundation of high-quality work and projects.
Younger generations of teachers were expected to use computers much easier. What a mistake. According to a research done for a paper presented at the National Conference on The Use of ICT in Education in Čačak, it turns out that teachers who have been working between 15 and 25 years use computers in their work the most. The youngest colleagues use them the least. Why? I don’t know.
I suppose that the manner of thinking of my generation is completely different. We used to live in a different, quieter and safer way, although you can never be bored in Serbia.
The lack of formal education made some of interesting and useful functions of different teaching programs permanently unavailable.
These days we are wrestling with electronic diaries. Completely new work environment, unusual and new to me. School coordinators have their hands full (correcting the incorrectly entered data). I am digitally literate, but I did ask for help on several occasions.
Owing to mutual support, collegiality and intrinsic motivation, my pen-generations manage to (barely) keep up with the modern generations. Inner motivation, professional responsibility and curiosity will always be a basic driver, a lever, and lack of formal digital education is absolutely irrecoverable.
The author lives and works in Serbia. She is a teacher of Serbian Language and Literature, Master of Science, and pedagogical advisor.