“Smart Education is not smart device education, but rather an educational paradigm shift for digital natives. Teachers cannot imagine what our future will be like after 30 years, so they have to study 21st century skills and know how to apply them to their traditional classroom with ICT.” – ByeongGuk Ku, Korea

What do baking and technology have in common? Everything, if you ask Korean food science baking and confections teacher ByeongGuk Ku. “I want my students to fully understand their skills are not just for their mouth,” says Ku. “Their skills can become invaluable by sharing them with others.”

Ku is passionate about sharing. So much so, his daughter’s name, Nanum, means “sharing” when translated into English. As a teacher and teacher trainer, he takes much pride in his ability to share and introduce new technology to both his students and other teachers throughout the Asia Pacific region.

“At first, students were perplexed by the fact that they could use their mobile devices in the class because to them, smartphones are just for calling, texting and playing games,” says Ku. “I had prepared many teaching materials, book and videos, and students practiced many times before adapting the class to these materials.” While it took some time, the students not only adapted, they soared. “As time went on,” notes Ku, “they realized the importance of social networking and cloud-based activities for their schoolwork.”

Ku also realized technology could be applied to the professional development of the teachers he was training. “Most teachers stick to 20th century visions and are not interested in the new educational paradigm shift,” says Ku. “They sustain the traditional teaching methods and methodologies. But it is inevitable that all the teachers must study the drastic changes in learning paradigms, and spend time to understanding the 21st century learning paradigm.”

Indeed, 21st century skills are front and center for Ku. His school hosts an annual collaborative day with Japanese students, where playing games using Kinect bonds students with each other throughout the year. He was presented with an Innovative Teacher award in 2006, and just recently attended the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague.

I’m pleased to share today’s Daily Edventure with ByeongGuk Ku.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

I have been a high school teacher since 1995. I founded Korea Exchange Users Group in 2000, and led it until 2007. From 2007 to 2010, I was a professor at Yanbian University of Science and Technologies – located northeast of China – and taught database and web programming.

I was an Exchange Server MVP (Most Valuable Professional) from 2003 to 2009; I have been a Microsoft Certified Trainer since 2001; and I was an Innovator awardee from Microsoft Korea in 2006.

I believe that I have knowledge about communication and collaboration needs in 21century companies. In 2011, I developed an interactive teaching/learning model that includes social network services and cloud-based web tools. And I successfully applied that lesson model to my baking and confectionary classes in my school. With this project, I won some awards from the Korea Educational Authority and Microsoft. Today, many teachers and students use social networking and cloud-based services such as Facebook, Twitter, Slideshare, Office365, etc. But they do not seem to fully understand how to apply these tools to their classroom to promote students’ communication and collaboration skills which are essential to the 21st century. I have made many speeches about my experience with those tools and my success stories and consulted with many teachers and school administrators. I have spoken about Office 365 in the classroom at the Office365 for Education in Korea launch day. And I opened Office 365 in School and Kodu in School Facebook groups to share information with Korean teachers.

In August 2012, Partners in Learning APAC (Asia Pacific) Korean Forum participants helped Microsoft Korea to plan Partners in Learning Teachers’ Festival @Everland (an amusement park in Korea) event. It was designed for about 180 Korean teachers to promote team spirit and collaboration. Four teachers made a team and they took part in special recreation, experienced Everland, and created learning activities with their team members (their works were already uploaded to the Partners in Learning Website). They used some Microsoft tools, especially OneNote, Office Web Apps and SkyDrive to make, save, and share teaching and learning materials.

We were surprised at the teachers’ willingness to share their passions, communications, and collaborations on team projects. Some teachers planned and conducted their own teachers’ festival in their region after this event. I think the event was a turning point for the teachers because I am sure it helped them to build up teamwork and consider 21century skills for teachers and students.

Innovative Teaching Learning’s (ITL) LEAP21 (Learning Educators Project, Advanced Pedagogy for the 21st Century) is a very powerful tool for helping teachers to prepare for 21st century learning activities. I learned about LEAP21 at the Partners in Learning APAC Forum and the Global Forum, and have plans to introduce LEAP 21, Windows in the Classroom, and Office 365 in Education to Korean teachers.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

In Korea, “Smart Education” was announced as a future school system in 2011, but many teachers, especially most of the pilot school leaders and teachers, did not know how to apply the new system in their classes. Whenever consulting and lecturing, I have introduced 21st century skills promotion methods which I had learned and discussed with teachers from other countries at the Partners in Learning APAC Forum. In fact, most of the teachers are not digital natives, so they are nervous about the use of technologies (especially mobile devices and apps). I emphasized that Smart Education is not smart device education, but rather an educational paradigm shift for digital natives. Teachers cannot imagine what our future will be like after 30 years, so they have to study 21st century skills and know how to apply them to their traditional classroom with ICT.

The teachers I consulted with changed drastically. After my consulting, they stopped fearing technologies, and instead they analyzed their schools’ and students’ SWOT(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) first. Next, they made the 21st Century Learner Skills Framework with their detailed contents and methods. I was very impressed by their efforts and changes they made.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

Many early adopting teachers do not hesitate to bring new devices, applications, and services into their classes for progressing and reaching new educational goals. However, this method has some challenges. First, devices and applications always change, and we probably do not have much time to guarantee their usefulness in the class. Making a manual on selecting new technologies for school is very good. Second, students who have learned from technically outstanding teachers are different from other students who have not.

To make up the deficiencies, teachers should gather around, first discuss and decide critical 21st century skills and teaching-learning methods for their school. And then they should pick up some technologies to promote those skills and share how to use them. I think most successes and failures depend on how teachers involved in the project share their resources and try to generalize their methods. That is what professional development is all about.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

My department teachers gathered and made teaching/learning models to enhance engagement, communication and collaboration of teachers and students throughout the experiment and practice class. After we built the model, we selected the technologies:

  • Hardware: During the practice class, students use their mobile devices, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach. After practice class, we go to the computer lab to share the results via social networking and upload their results to the cloud service.
  • Software and Cloud Services: Facebook, Moviemaker, Twitter, YouTube, GoogleDocs(now using Office365 instead), Slideshare.

I have written a new technical training material for my students and taught these technologies with that. During the practice lesson, four students made up a team. Every student in a group takes one of four roles: Leader, Recorder, Supplier and Supporter. And they should do their jobs during the practice sessions. Only Recorders can use their mobile device to take pictures and movies. My team teachers believed that students had to discover that the mobile phone can be used for study in the class – rather than just gaming and calling.

As students switched their roles every month, they knew their responsibility, respected other team members, and kept sharing their work and giving feedback to each other.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

The South Korean government announced the future school plan, Smart Education. And it has increased investment to install digitalized learning environments in schools with advanced technologies.

SMART Education is the abbreviation for Self-directed, Motivated, Adaptive, Resource-enriched, and Technologies-embedded. By 2015, all students will be able to access cloud-based educational services via wireless Internet in school and utilize the learning materials whenever and wherever they want. And the Korean government provides good opportunities for leading teachers to further develop their skills.

What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

In 2012, government and local authorities focused on providing devices and developing applications to build infrastructure for digital learning. But some teachers feel anxious and some of them are against the use of these technologies in the class.

I believe that the new learning paradigm focuses more on changing educational contents and methods. So authorities should suggest the better or best practices for existing education experts to connect their teaching contents to 21st century skills and technologies.Teachers can be fearful about change, therefore authorities and leading teachers’ roles are to alleviate the fears and show the new vision and the best practices. We cannot forecast what 21st century working life will be. So teachers have been encouraged by transferring core knowledge and skills with innovative methods.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Through technologies, classroom activities can be extended to the real world. In the past, students’ seeing, hearing, and feeling were limited to only the classroom. But now, students can go beyond their classroom by using mobile devices as hardware, virtual reality as software, and the Internet as services. And students communicate, exchange information and progress through collaborative learning projects with colleagues around the world.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

When teachers prepare the teaching contents and methods, they must deeply consider their students’ future. In addition, teachers should take the following roles:

  • Mistake Acceptor: Until now, students have always been asked to give correct answers. But I think students should be allowed to make mistakes and be given enough chances to learn by themselves. When they do something on their own, they are learning something.
  • Communication Facilitator: Inside or outside of the classroom, most students want to communicate with teachers and other students more actively. So teachers should help them to do that by giving proper technologies, themes, and circumstances. Especially mobile devices and web services like Office365 help to stir up the process.
  • Collaboration Coordinator: In the past, students did their own work and received their own grade. Yet, in the current working world, there is little time to work alone. They should spend most of their time to work as a team, achieve the same goals together and share the responsibilities. Collaboration skills are crucial. So teachers must design the collaborative projects and teach the best way to work with other people. And a teacher’s role is to prepare, consult and assess on the project, rather than lead.
  • Challenge Promoter: Individuals and companies always fear uncertainty, and want to pursue a predictable future. But in class, with a well-designed curriculum and assignment, students can face the fears in a safe environment. Creative leaders in the future will be the people who are willing to fight against the uncertainty. So teachers should prepare challenging activities – from simple to difficult and complicated. I think Kinect is a very good device for students to safely and virtually engage challenges with motion recognition technologies.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

We should not restrict our students, because they will live in a completely different world. In spite of the difference, I believe these are the skills needed now to get ready for the time when mobile devices and life-long education are universal:

  • Students must know how to manage their abilities and careers. It is very important to make a portfolio so that employers can tell who you are.
  • Students must know how to use their devices, applications, and services for good purpose. There are no “perfect” tools – they are dependent on the user’s motives and methods. Device manufacturers, telecommunications, software companies, communities and governments, as well as schools, should work together to help students use devices and software properly.
  • Students must sustain their identity online and offline, because some students are completely different online vs. offline. Young people, who freely switch between on and offline, have to be balanced and use integrity in every aspect of their lives.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

Microsoft Office 365. In the past we had to separately install Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync Server, and spent a lot of time on administration. Now, with Office 365, no one needs to have special administrative talents.


ByeongGuk Ku

  • Birthplace: Busan, southeast of Korea
  • Current residence: Incheon, Korea
  • Education: BA, Agricultural Education at Seoul National University; MS, Information Security at Hoseo University
  • Person who inspires me most: Seunghun Baek (He has been my teaching colleague for more than 10 years)
  • Favorite childhood memory: Swimming in the river with friends.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure):
  • Bejing, China, to meet my Chinese alumni
  • Columbus, USA, to visit the Ohio Department of Education, and to study computer-based intervention in vocational training.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? Dancing ‘Gangnam Style’ with my little daughter. The music is very fascinating and easy to follow.
  • Favorite book: The Bible and 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times
  • Favorite music: John Sebastian Bach Cantata BWV147, “Jesus meine bleibe freude”
  • Your favorite quote or motto: Love is not giving, but sharing. I like sharing, so I have selected, studied, and taught the Microsoft Exchange Server. My first daughter’s name is ‘Nanum’(which means “Sharing” when translated into English).

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3 Responses to “Smart Education is not smart device education, but rather an educational paradigm shift for digital natives. Teachers cannot imagine what our future will be like after 30 years, so they have to study 21st century skills and know how to apply them to their traditional classroom with ICT.” – ByeongGuk Ku, Korea

  1. Jemin says:

    I love his though and idea but most of all, like this

    “students should be allowed to make mistakes and be given enough chances to learn by themselves. When they do something on their own, they are learning something.”

    thank you for sharing your valuable insight to us.

  2. deasiattere says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I really feel this web page wants a lot more consideration. I’ll likely be once more to read much more, thanks for that information.



  3. Classof1 says:

    A very enlightening and inspiring interview. I’m sure all teachers can learn from ByeongGuk Ku, in adaptation of new and innovative teaching practices.

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