In her 10 years as a primary school educator, Maria Loizou has always tried to integrate educational technology in her teaching — from her very first attempt at installing overhead projectors in classrooms, to leading the first pilot 1:1 laptop initiative in her class. “The introduction of the first pilot laptop initiative in Cyprus in my classroom has been the best chance to prove how ICT can advance innovation in education and promote 21st century learning,” says Loizou. “Assessing the final results from the first year of implementation of the Kolossi one-to-one laptop initiative has given us the courage to try and change traditional teaching methodology even more.”
According to Loizou, students, parents and teachers have responded so positively in the interviews and questionnaires assessing their views on the 1:1 program, reporting on many occasions that they could never think of going back to old methods of teaching and learning. “However, expanding such an initiative on a larger scale, no matter how ideal it is, requires a lot of effort in terms of firstly training and educating teachers, and secondly investing in the purchase of all necessary equipment for successful implementation,” notes Loizou. “This encompasses a change in teacher mentality as well, since most educators feel a lot more safe in adopting more traditional teaching methodology in their classes.”
Yet when it comes to changing teacher mentality, Loizou is already making great strides. She was recently named a global winner in the “Teacher as Innovator and Change Maker” at the 2012 Global Forum in Prague. Her project, which covered online community-based research on recycling practices, not only changed the attitudes of her students, but of the whole community. Earlier in the year, Loizou was a first-place winner in the regional European PiL Forum in Lisbon in the “Collaboration” category. And she also just won a national award for promoting Internet safety.
Today, Loizou shares her experiences leading a national school program through systemic change, and why getting parents involved in the process is essential. Enjoy!
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
Through the workings of the one-to-one laptop initiative in my classroom, collaboration amongst all stakeholders has been highly enhanced, including parents and local authorities, as teaching and learning are extended beyond the classroom. The online educational platform [Moodle], which has been developed by the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, is currently extended to include all classrooms in our school, with student/teacher and parent accounts for everyone, as several presentations of students’ work, forums, wikis and many other applications are available on the platform. This has convinced everyone of the added value ICT can have in teaching and learning. Additionally, during the first year of the program’s implementation in my class (the one-to-one initiative), research results on all stakeholders’ views were highly positive, illustrating their satisfaction for continual implementation of the program in the second year with the same students, and have the chance to assess student achievement, both by the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute and the Centre of Educational Research and Evaluation.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
My work in integrating ICT throughout the National curriculum, especially in the new reform of teaching methodology proposed, is uploaded and shared by all my colleges on the school Moodle platform, especially in regards to the one-to-one methodology. The daily lesson plans and student outcomes are uploaded in the equivalent discipline page every time so that parents, teachers, the principal, my school and ICT inspector, ministry people and research specialists can have a very clear view of this whole new way of teaching and learning adopted in my classroom. Lesson objectives and processes are described in detail, all links and collaborative tools embedded are made visible through access codes, especially students’ work and correspondence in the forums, wikis and online chats used. Additionally, much of the students’ work is shared on the Youtube channel of our class on the class blog as well as on my personal website. Many projects have also been shared on the PiL Network, the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute forum, on various blogs, wikis and on RSSFeeds created.
My work was also presented on many sample lessons organized by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Official Press Conferences, informative television [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD62wYAIuWg&feature=plcp] and radio shows/interviews, press publications, presentations on the National Educational Exhibition and university workshops and poster sessions [Open Discovery Space workshops, ICEM 2012 conference], share of work on virtual university workshops [ODS, January 2013- Microsoft] and collaboration with University of Leeds for the development of a Web-based learning environment , based on Scenario-based Needs Analysis [SUNA], piloted by my students prior to publishing.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I have always tried to use ICT in a way that it has an added value in terms of building 21st century learning. Unlimited access to the Web together with the daily use of laptops, both in class and at home through the 1:1 program, offers students a massive amount of knowledge sources which they primarily have to search for and evaluate every time. Apart from this, I usually use WebQuests which guide students through relevant-to-the-project websites, but also offer them the base for knowledge building and brainstorming outcomes, as realized through mind-mapping and collaborative tools. Interpretation, analysis and comparison is usually enhanced though chats, forums and wikis created and shared with other schools nationwide and internationally, as this is mediated also by multiple forms of synchronous and asynchronous tools of communication. The use and build-up of their own multimedia through various ICT tools is a step further as students move beyond reproduction to evaluation and recreation. Presenting and sharing their work online highly promotes collaboration and authentic learning, as data collection is more meaningful and learning is definitely achieved anywhere/anytime.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
The biggest challenge in education is addressing the heterogeneity in student population within the same class. The differing levels of achievement due to a difference in prior knowledge and learning style means that the teacher has to adjust the teaching aims and methodology for each lesson so as to cater the needs of all of the students and maintain equality and a quality education at the same time.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
The New Educational Reform in Cyprus is under the process of gradual implementation, throughout the whole of the educational system, from primary to tertiary education. The New National Curriculum emphasizes the need for ICT integration as well as the adoption of 21st century learning methodology in all subjects. The 1:1 pilot laptop initiative employed by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute in my classroom, is the first attempt to assess such innovative practices and evaluate possible best practices and drawbacks. The involvement of all stakeholders in the educational process is also highly recognized as Moodle expansion is in process, promoting parental involvement and collaboration at all levels. Additionally, ICT coordinators are doing a great job in educating teachers in the best use of current ICT equipment in every school, whereas the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute is organizing free seminars, conferences and workshops for all educators and educational leaders on any subject matter that needs to be addressed every time.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
ICT is no longer questioned as to whether it should be part of any learning process. The question is whether it is used effectively and in a way that it has an added value. Therefore, the best opportunity for innovation is to exploit any possible help and share experience with other colleagues who have been lucky enough to work using ICT in their lessons. Collaborating with such individuals, exchanging ideas, views and discussing teacher methodology is the best training a teacher can enjoy. Microsoft is working hard on this, as Partners in Learning connects thousands of educators around the world through the online forums, innovative learning workshops for educators and school leaders as well as peer coaching and mentoring programs for any kind of learning community. This is also highly promoted through the regional and global forums, which are organized every year, bringing together the most innovative teachers around the world.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Every teacher who wants to make a difference should think of how children spend their time at home and why they are now called “digital natives.” Increasingly, new technologies are needed for everyday “life administration” and leisure pursuits. This is particularly true for young people for whom SMS text, instant messaging, social networking and social software maybe primary means of communication. With this in mind, Prensky (2001) coined the term “Digital Native,” proposing “…our students have changed radically.” Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach. As young children enter education, all teachers should respond accordingly, supporting pupils’ ICT development. This should be coupled with the willingness to collaborate with other educators and share their knowledge and experience at all levels. This is what I have been taught by Microsoft and Partners in Learning.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
The World Wide Web (WWW) is undoubtedly an important reference resource for our students with the increasing need, however, for training on how to use it effectively. The control of information with dangerous and undesirable content very often gives rise to the debate about violent images, propaganda and terrorism. One of the main concerns, therefore, with regard to ICT is safety with a high demand for mechanisms that allow parents and teachers to keep children from exposure to undesirable content. My students have developed last year a small video clip on how to promote Internet safety. This video was awarded a National Award on Internet Safety, winning three tablets for our classrooms as well.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
Surface tablet of course! Working with laptops these past two years some limitations were realized, especially in regards to carrying and using them in field research. However, I believe that the next step in education is Surface indeed. The ability to consume and manage information is an important part of the learning process and the Surface tablet does offer an advantage over laptops because of the small form factor, mobility and touch screen interface. The advantage over other tablets is of course, amongst others, Windows 8 and the USB portal. I realize that there is not much educational research done yet in the advantage of tablets over PCs, but I’m sure that Surface, once piloted in real educational settings, can really have amazing results. I am so willing to try that with my next year class and maybe participate in a pilot program as case study on how Surface can really make a difference in education.
About Maria Loizou
- Birthplace: Limassol Cyprus
- Current residence: Limassol Cyprus
(a) Graduate of the American Academy Limassol, Cyprus (Average Grade 20/20)
(b) BA Primary School Teaching, University of Cyprus (Grade: Excellence)
(c) MA ICT & Education, University of Leeds (Grade: Distinction)
- Website I check every day: http://elearn.pi.ac.cy/kolossi [My Class Moodle]
- Person who inspires me most: My father
- Favorite childhood memory: Christmas mornings and family gatherings
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Finland – for pleasure and also a chance to arrange school visits with teachers I currently collaborate with and have met at the European and Global Partners in Learning Microsoft Forum 2012, in Lisbon and Prague respectively.
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? Chatting with a friend on Facebook and sharing online funny fairy tales for our students
- Favorite book: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
- Favorite music: Singer- Tanita Tikaram
- Your favorite quote or motto: Multitasking, multitasking, multitasking!!!