Tuesday, 5 February 2008


LUXURY! For our next grading period (some 6-7 weeks) I will be able to teach two out of my 3 groups in a classroom equipped with a mounted dataprojector on the ceiling (we are still waiting for these to be installed in all the classrooms!). Not much of a 21st-century setting yet, but as I've written before, we all have to start somewhere. If only I could still get some sense and organisation into this mess in the drawer of the teacher's desk!!!

This is what happens in schools, where teachers haven't even got their own classrooms, let alone their own laptops! At the moment, if something doesn't work with the laptop or the projector, I simply get frustrated and totally paralysed with this jungle of wires (remember, I am an absolute tech-amateur language teacher!). Luckily, my students are usually capable of helping me out. So, first job this week, do something about this and insist that the colleagues sharing this classroom keep it tidy in the future!

I must say I am slightly envious of my colleagues around the world, who teach in 1:1 schools, such as Clay Burrell in Korea, or what Ewan McIntosh wrote about Pine Crest School in Florida, just to mention two of the edu-bloggers that I regularly follow. Although I agree that it's not ultimately about technology and the equipment, still, you can only do as much if you lack the gear.

Just less than a decade ago Finland professed to be among the top countries in the world as far as technology in schools was concerned. I can remember how I used to visit project schools elsewhere and boast that we had a modern computer lab and even some student computers in the corridors. In 2008, however, I'm afraid Finland has already fallen way behind. Not much is said about the necessary shift in pedagogy to move into a 21st-century learning environment. Simply having a dataprojector in class is considered top-notch! And even that is only randomly used by a few teachers, since the rest are so much in awe of this new-fangled technology that they prefer their safe old OHP transparencies. Talk about activating students... It keep amazing me that teachers in Finland can afford to selfishly object to integrating the latest technologies in their classrooms. Is there any other profession where an employee could simply refuse to use the computer - shop assistants, bank clerks, doctors, journalists... almost anybody else?? You'd soon make yourself unemployable in any other field, but oh no, not if you have secured a permanent tenure in a Finnish school.

At the end of the day, though, who am I to sneer at any of my colleagues? Even I am not much more than a fledgling dabbler in Web 2.0. But at least, for the next courses I will be able to enliven my English classes with up-to-date BBC news flashes, or interesting YouTube videos every now and then. And to bring in a bit of authentic interactive learning, I will be able to use the computer room once a week, to carry out an Asia-Europe project on young people's use of technology. I guess I should really be thankful for small mercies. And really, if learning is supposed to be most efficient if it involves authentic problem-solving situations, I am happy about these challenges, which constantly give me good learning experiences. I must admit, though, that sometimes I wish it wasn't such an uphill, lonely struggle every step of the way.

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