In our field of work, it is as necessary for us teachers to keep ourselves updated about recent developments as it is to keep informing students and their parents. A few days ago I came across an article with the title «The digital public school is coming». These powerful and ‘easy on the ear’ titles always excite me because they make me think –idealistic as I tend to be sometimes – “Finally we are not the only ones out there”. However, my enthusiasm disappeared in less than two minutes. Our long experience in the field of online teaching puts us in the advantageous position to understand better what has been initially planned and what will the final outcome be.
The article talks about the use of digital learning material inside the classrooms, about interactive whiteboards and computer labs as well as digital “yards”, where students and teachers meet, discuss, cooperate and exchange ideas. The most important issue now: The European Union confirmed a budget of 146.635.815 € for the implementation of this program. No, I won’t start complaining about the waste of funding for unnecessary equipment. What I have to mention though, is that all these people who successfully managed to ensure the subvention, forgot the most important thing above all: the necessary education of the teachers who take over the job to administrate and coordinate this digital school.
What I picture in my mind, with certain exceptions at each school, are teachers who do not even dare to push the ON button; which is a completely normal and predictable reaction. This type of knowledge cannot be communicated in a seminar over one or even over ten weekends. It takes years of practice for a teacher to recognize these tools as extremely useful rather than a burden to the process of teaching. I and all the team of Greek Lessons OnLine and Ετσι Μαθαίνω continue to educate and inform ourselves every day and we still have so much to learn. That is why I am really afraid that all this equipment will remain unexploited just like it happened to many of the facilities constructed for the Olympic Games. We have to focus on the key element of systematically preparing the future teachers to involve modern technologies in education. And yes, it may be harder for teachers of a certain age to adapt to new conditions and to change their way of teaching. A great deal of careful planning needs to take place when you promise to deliver to young students so many changes in the way their schools are going to operate.
As for the amount of the subsidy, words fail me. Did you know how many online tools for students and teachers are actually available for free? Greek Lessons OnLine and Ετσι Μαθαίνω started operating and have exceeded 100 students without any loans or funding. Parents from all over the world trust us to teach their children the greek language while we enhance the digital mobility of our students and teachers by enriching it with many excellent free applications. The main force in building our online school, which celebrates 4 years of operating in a few days, was a lot of personal effort and hard work. That is exactly what our educational system needs in order to modernize. It needs creative people, full of ideas, imagination and ambition for work. The state has to invest in manpower rather than soulless equipment.