The role of the teacher in traditional school teaching is not uniform, but depends on historical and cultural traditions, institutional characteristics, conceptions of teaching and learning, individual experience, and type of teacher personality.
It is obvious that the role of the teacher will have to change in view of new information and communication technologies.
The new technologies will not change the role of the teacher fundamentally, but will, nevertheless, have profound impact on how the various approaches to teaching can be implemented in school environments.
Do the new technologies change the essential relation between teachers and learners? In my understanding, teaching is a communicative process with the aim of enabling and enhancing learning, and this does not change with technology.
On the other hand, the emergence of a new technological environment may very well lead to major changes in any organisation and ways of implementing the teaching/learning process.
In this sense we may say that the role of the teacher will have to change more or less dramatically, depending on how we imagine these new circumstances.
Many schools are successfully integrating new technologies into their teaching. One of them is Doukas School. How easy or difficult is it to shift from the traditional teaching model to the digital one? How strongly do teachers resist in change?
A talk with George Drivas sheds light on these issues.
George Drivas was born in Athens. He studied English Literature at the University of Athens and Theoretical Linguistics at the University of Reading, UK.
He has worked in Foreign Language education since 1981 as a teacher and a teacher trainer.
He is Director of Studies at the Department of Foreign Languages at Doukas School since 1994.
He is an inspector for the European Association for Quality Language Services and a certified assessor for the European Foundation for Quality Management.
∙It is very well known that Doukas School is gradually but steadily changing to fit the digital age. How long did it take you to reach the current level?
“2011-2012 marks the third academic year that the “one student – one computer” is being implemented. It started off with extensive research into good practices both in Greece and abroad.
The whole effort underwent the basic steps of project work: we planned our actions, we researched educational experiences from around the globe, we analysed our learner and teacher needs and goals, we evaluated procedures that were piloted across different sections and teachers, we explained to our stakeholders what we were trying to achieve and implemented our findings on a grand scale.
We created the first ‘Classroom of the Future’ in Greece in 2007 and have since continued to build upon the ‘School of the Future’ concept (http://www.schoolofthefuture.gr).
Students have their own lightweight portable ‘electronic schoolbag’ (Tablet PCs) and are connected wirelessly to the interactive whiteboard and the Internet. All textbooks, practice materials, virtual labs, simulations, multimedia material, and ICT tools are installed on every student’s tablet PC.
At the end of this 5 year period we have reached a point where we can confidently say that we progressed from much needed ICT literacy, to Knowledge Deepening: i.e. feel secure with why and how we are approaching our learners and their acquisition of knowledge.
We are fast moving towards Knowledge Creation, i.e. the phase where we are developing skills and know-how which is specific to the profile of our teachers, our learners and their parents.”
∙In order for a school to change teaching and administrative staff need to use the tools that affect change. How easy/difficult is it to persuade human resources to change the way they think and operate?
“Implementing change is a very difficult process especially in an organisation that has a long and successful history like Doukas School. All members of staff feel secure that what they are doing is effective and appreciated. They can see it in their interaction with parents, learners and their peers.
All of a sudden they need to move outside their comfort zone. They need to acquire new skills and knowledge, usually the first step of insecurity. Then they need to recognise themselves that what they are doing is equally effective and productive. Lastly they need to personalise the new processes. It is similar to trying a new recipe.
Experimenting: The first time round you follow the cookbook instructions to the letter. Chances are that you are at least surprised with the results.
Persevering: You may abandon this recipe completely or you may try to prepare it again but this time experimenting with ideas that reflect your personal taste and preferences.
Adapting: If you abandon this recipe it means you are steering away from any innovation. If you change the recipe too much you run the risk of cooking a totally different dish. You need a balance between the old and the new. You also need time and space that allows you to go through these stages.
In short you need to convince people of the benefits of experimenting, the need to persevere and the need to adapt. Results can be achieved when you listen to what people have to say and you support them through this learning process.”
∙Change demands collaborative action. It demands the reconfiguration of many of the school’s structures. Was it your hardest challenge?
“It became immediately apparent that change of this scale would require two initiatives:
A multidimensional strategy
The overall educational approach is based on four key innovations which constitute the multidimensional strategy of the school’s teaching philosophy: The Learning Map, an integrated curriculum across subjects and grades, The Life Skills Programme, a framework of fundamental moral values, The Career Counselling Programme, a career choice and skills programme, and, finally, The Cultural Activities and Physical Education Curriculum, a framework for the development of European citizens possessing the knowledge and skills required in the 21st century.
Investment in Technological infrastructure
Student and Teacher Tablet PCs with an interface developed especially for Doukas teachers and students. The Tablet PC is an invaluable supplementary tool and a very effective means of learning and/ or teaching. It does not antagonise or cancel established ways of instruction. Some of its benefits are:
Internet information search
access to digital tools
teamwork activities environment
The Doukas School Tablet PCs interface includes:
school publications and textbooks
support material for Foreign Languages
teaching materials created by teachers
educational 'microcosms' classified according to content
educational games, quizzes, etc.
multimedia content: videos, presentations, quizzes, maps, etc.
specialist educational software
office applications, dictionaries, etc.
Every classroom is equipped with an interactive whiteboard and projector, audio equipment and wireless internet access that provide sizeable opportunities for creating and presenting information visually, using vivid displays impossible on the traditional blackboard.
Each classroom, also, allows for a modular exploitation of space, enabling the teacher to create an environment with alternative set-ups that encourage communication, teamwork and foster creativity.
The development of these two initiatives required the collaboration of different members of staff across school sections and subjects or services never experienced before.
It has been our biggest challenge and still is the greatest educational experience for all involved.”
∙How difficult is it for teachers to replace familiar classroom tools with technological tools that change the way students learn?
“Do you mean “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Not all professionals respond to the challenge of change with the same fervour. This is an established fact.
However, when people work in groups, with clearly defined goals and enjoy the support and recognition of their peers they feel more confident to take risks and experiment.
Introducing technology in the learning process both inside and outside the school environment is a welcome novelty and opportunity for all involved. Mistakes are forgiven, help is offered, participants are easier to impress.
However, teachers and students need to assign technology enhanced or assisted activities the same degree of educational value that more traditional approaches may have.
Basically they need to be convinced that this is a new way to learn, as legitimate and as effective as the old ones. Again, it is a question of balance. It is not a case of “out with the old in with the new”.
It is a case of functioning within a digital environment and at the same fulfilling personal goals, e.g., taking part in state exams: an internet search engine will not be there to help you.
In our experience, teachers responded so positively that their students were amazed by the speed at which they acquired digital fluency. Teachers were amazed by their ability to invent new ways of exploiting digital possibilities for the benefit of their students.”
∙Does technology liberate teachers’ time for the students’ benefit?
“Digital reality helps to create a “new” learning environment that is:
Continuous, i.e., independent of time and space. Students and teachers should be allowed to make use of it depending on their needs, age and the amount of effort they want to invest or is required by their in- and out-of-school commitments.
Relevant, i.e., the focus of the activities, the syllabus and the ICT tools should relate directly to the student and teacher needs and requirements.
Adaptive, i.e., the teaching environment should be defined by te student’s individual or group needs, interests and characteristics
Pleasant, i.e., to offer those involved a strong motive to continue their effort and engagement.
Useful, i.e., it should afford a strong link between what takes place within the teaching environment and the real world outside it, meeting the student needs and expectations.
Creative, i.e., to offer opportunities for knowledge deepening as well as knwledge creation.
Effective, i.e., to meet its goals, to fullfill its role in society.
Teachers still need to invest time and effort to deliver what their learners need. The difference now is that they can do it more effectively and with far reaching consequences: they can communicate with their learners more frequently, they can seek advice from other educators and learning communities, they can access information and resources that they previously could not, and so on. Their workload and involvement can be as heavy and as extensive as they decide to make it.”
∙Do you believe that the current construction of Doukas School will effectively serve the needs of learners in 20 years time?
“Our aim is to help our learners set clearly defined goals that will assist them in their personal, professional and social development in the years to come, long after they have graduated from Doukas School.
This is a tall order in the sense that we need to anticipate and predict changes in the local and global work and social environments that are unprecedented in human history. James Martin in his book The 17 Great Challenges of the Twenty-First Century itemises what lies ahead as follows:
Saving the Earth, Reversing Poverty, Steadying Population Growth, Achieving Sustainable Lifestyles, Preventing All-Out War, Dealing Effectively with Globalism, Defusing Terrorism, Cultivating Creativity, Conquering Disease, Expanding Human Potential , The Singularity, Confronting Existential Risk, Exploring Transhumanism, Planning an Advanced Civilization, Modelling the Planet's Systems, Bridging the Skill and Wisdom Gap.
A school needs to incorporate as many of these questions into the range of questions it needs to explore and expose its learners to. This is our goal.”