“Tweet! Retweet! Share! Open the doors of your classroom and let your students learn from their international peers.” – Croatia
Arjana Blazic’s students undoubtedly appreciate her enthusiastic and innovative approach to teaching, but they’re not the only ones who benefit from Blazic’s efforts. Realizing that teacher-to-teacher collaboration was key to moving the profession forward, Blazic introduced TeachMeets to fellow teachers in Croatia. As part of a three-person team, she organized and hosted a successful event that attracted 19 teachers from all over Croatia to Zagreb (on a Saturday morning) in order to share their passion for teaching in three-minute presentations. Blazic is also a co-founder and co-host of TeachMeet International, a virtual gathering of teachers. These virtual TeachMeets, which have brought together more than 50 teachers from 26 countries, have become an extremely popular form of continuous professional development. Today, Blazic shares her excitement about technology in education and the rewards of collaboration – for both students and teachers.
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
My most significant accomplishment is my award-winning project Greetings from the world (see photo story here), which has connected teachers and students from 27 countries from across six continents. The project reached the finals of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum in 2010 in Cape Town. It also won Best Educational Wiki Award in 2009 and 2010. Its main goals are to integrate new web technologies into the classroom, to develop students’ reading and writing skills and to foster mutual understanding and respect.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
My students think that learning is fun. I have transferred control over learning to them, which has led to a classroom filled with excitement and passion for learning. In such an environment, my students are empowered to think critically, to solve problems and make decisions independently. What they find especially challenging is the fact that they have been given the opportunity to be responsible for their own work. However, they know that if necessary, they can rely on my help, advice and guidance. My role as a teacher has changed. Today I am only a facilitator whose students glow with pride when they teach me how to use a web tool or a gadget.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Students are motivated to do an activity if their work is published online and seen or read
by their peers. Students significantly benefit from the collaboration with students from different parts of the world. Feedback from a distant audience boosts their self-confidence, builds their self-esteem and keeps up their morale.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I have used technology to connect my students with their peers from all over the world. I have shown my students how to take advantage of online resources in support of their learning.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
At my school there are 550 students and only 26 computers, which are now more than ten-years old. If we want to use the computer lab we must sign up for it a week in advance. Sometimes it is impossible to use the lab because there are a lot of teachers who are keen on using technology for educational purposes.
What is your country doing right to support education?
All elementary and secondary schools in Croatia have free broadband Internet access via ADSL and are equipped with at least one computer lab. Computer literacy training is an integral part of teacher education.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
Croatian education policymakers still regard teaching with technology as a fad that will soon disappear. Teacher education programs should be harmonized with the latest changes in technology-enhanced teaching. Croatian classrooms are still mostly teacher-centered. Teachers need to direct their students to follow the path of independence and autonomy. In order to facilitate this process with competence, teachers themselves must be autonomous and committed to lifelong learning.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
The new teaching is learning. The students we teach today are not the same as those we taught 10 or 20 years ago, which means that our teaching practices can’t remain the same either. A great teacher is a lifelong learner.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Tweet! Retweet! Share! Open the doors of your classroom and let your students learn from their international peers.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
I think that teachers should be where their students are so that they can take advantage of all the new trends and implement them in the learning process. For example, if students like playing online games, why don’t we deploy games in education?
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A Kindle – because children nowadays do not read as much as before. I believe that the Kindle (or any other e-reader for that matter) can rekindle their love of reading.
For more on Arjana Blazic: visit http://iasku.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/arjana-blazic/ and http://www.teachingvillage.org/2010/03/05/teaching-high-school-in-croatia-by-arjana-blazic/
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About Arjana Blazic, English and German Teacher at IX. gimnazija
Arjana Blazic is an avid user of web 2.0 technologies and a lifelong learner with a strong passion for travel. One of her major goals is to teach her students how to effectively use technology for learning. She has organized and participated in many international projects and school exchanges. She is the author of the award-winning wiki Greetings from the world and co-founder of the learning portal Moja matura. She writes about education, technology and travelling on her English blog Traveloteacher as well as on her Croatian blog, The Fellowship of Twitter.
Her Twitter handle is @abfromz.
Birthplace: Zagreb, Croatia
Current residence: Zagreb, Croatia
Education: Faculty of Arts, University of Zagreb
Websites I check every day: Twitter, Facebook, Moja matura
Person who inspires me most: Sonja Lusic Radosevic teaches ICT and math at IX. gimnazija. She is an innovative and inspirational teacher with a mission to empower her
students to use new technologies responsibly and efficiently. She is very supportive, helpful and caring.
Favorite childhood memory: Getting into the car and hitting the road with my parents and sister for a long weekend which we usually spent in one of the neighboring countries. That is, I believe, the main reason why I got bitten by the travel bug.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Swindon, UK (study visit) and
Malinska on Island Krk, Croatia (holidays)
When was the last time you laughed? My husband and my two sons make me laugh every day and it’s easy to laugh together with them.
Favorite book: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Favorite music: R&B and house dance
Your favorite quote or motto: All things are difficult before they are easy.