“Practical advice for teachers: always plan and realize your classes in a team, in cooperation with other teachers.” – Snežana Marković,Serbia
Serbia’s education policies don’t allow online education for primary and secondary students, but that hasn’t prevented computer science teacher Snežana Marković from implementing effective online learning programs in her school. Marković doesn’t allow regulations to hamper her work, and the innovative ways she’s dealing with those rules and limitations have translated into strong results.
Marković and her team were recognized with first place awards in 2010 and 2012 as a creative school program from Microsoft Partners in Learning, and the work they’ve done has transformed learning for both students and teachers at the school. Marković has a long history of innovating. “In 2003, I was among the first in Serbia to promote the use of multimedia in education by showing a PowerPoint presentation to students through a project called ‘How Comics Beat the Books’” she says. “And since 2009, I have been intensively promoting the use of ICT in education through e-learning, using web tools and multimedia.”
Today, Marković shares what she’s learned through video and words, providing some inspiration for any of us facing the challenges of policies and rules that don’t necessarily take the best interest of students into consideration.
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
I built a technological base with a multidisciplinary approach and teamwork and I have introduced two interesting innovations through two projects, for which I have received two national awards. In the “Creative School” project (along with other teachers and team members Emilija Marković, Ljubica Lalić, Ivan Bućković), we integrated three subjects, and managed to create an approach to the topic from different perspectives. Students were given an opportunity to use web tools of their own choice, so they could study a topic in a way that inspires them the most. Students were given a chance to set their goals, and also evaluate themselves by formulating assignments and questions, estimating their difficulty, and assessing them, thus creating a wiki-workbook. We were able to integrate online activities in spite of the regulations which do not allow for that.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
The teachers’ interest in using ICT in education has increased. Students’ motivation and interest in learning has increased and students who haven’t been interested in a particular subject have managed to find a way to be successful in it, in their own way. Students define the limits and tempo of learning themselves, and also compare their achievements with achievements of the others.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
My papers can be downloaded from the “Creative School” database. Practical advice for teachers: always plan and realize your classes in a team, in cooperation with other teachers. Find out what students think, and take their needs, abilities and opinions into consideration. Use ICT to its maximum. Teach them every subject through different perspectives and while giving assignments and assessing them, give students an active role.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
Students are able to choose a web tool that inspires them the most. For every class, there is a “closed” Facebook group for cooperation, reminding and keeping in touch. We use moodle and wiki (PBWorks) to achieve cooperation with students and we use e-mail communication and store documents in the cloud.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Administrative obstacles – our policy still doesn’t permit online education in elementary and secondary schools.
What is your country doing right to support education?
A new strategy of education has been approved that recognizes the role of ICT and new pedagogical methods. We expect that it will have impact on future policies.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
There are two main conditions:
First, all teachers must be trained for ICT. Second, we must change the concept of education and curriculum that are still content-centered, instead of student-centered.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
To give innovative teachers that work in schools (young, as well as experienced) permission to be the creators of education plans (curriculums, textbooks, handbooks, web platforms, etc.) instead of always the same university teachers or ministry officers that only see the bare facts, which they think are important. They don’t see students and their needs to prepare for the future. There is a need to change the concept from content to communication skills, research and critical thinking; that is to say, we must “learn how to learn.”
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
You MUST listen your students. You must hear their voice, needs and opinions, and get everyday feedback, both formal and informal.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
Inquiry-based learning for sciences and critical thinking while searching and using repositories for learning is a positive trend. So is shifting focus from learning facts to learning principles and forming a way of thinking.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
Not one; two are minimal. First, a technological tool (computer connected to the Internet, of course). And second, a mental tool: critical thinking, for using the computer and Internet in the best way possible
For more on Snežana Marković’s work:
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About Snežana Marković
- Birthplace: Zaječar, Serbia
- Current residence: Belgrade, Serbia
- Education: mathematician, informatician
- Website I check every day: Facebook, Linked-in discussions in groups of my interest, pil-magazine http://pilcasopis.wordpress.com/, http://srb.edmodo.com/ ; Network of Serbian teachers http://kolo.wall.fm/
- Person who inspires me most: My own children
- Favorite childhood memory: Working in the garden with my parents
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Tunisia
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? With my friends, two days ago. We made jokes.
- Favorite book: Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau
- Favorite music: Not one genre. Djordje Balašević, The Doors, Vivaldi, modern music which my students listen to.
- Your favorite quote or motto: Don’t look for me in the past, I’m not there anymore.