“All of the 21st century skills are equally important. One of them can’t be enough on its own, but all of them combined can provide a synergistic effect and make a great impact on the future of the world.” – Saša Španović, Serbia

At the recent Windows 8 App-a-thon in London, we had the privilege of meeting and working with innovative teachers from around the world. One of those educators was Serbia’s Saša Španović, who contributed this geometry-focused app to the project. Španović has been instrumental in promoting classroom technology in Serbia, a country that had struggled to get teachers on board with its “Digital Schools” program to equip classrooms with computers. Working with Partners in Learning, Španović was able to help his colleagues overcome their fears and concerns about technology through a series of articles and tutorials, ultimately leading to a faster, smoother adoption of the new tools.

Today, Španović shares his views on the importance of 21st century skills, and of teachers collaborating with each other to achieve better outcomes.

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?

Education is the foundation of the society. If you can make education better, then the future of that society will also be better.  One of the best ways to make something better is to be directly involved, so by entering into the world of education I hope to make a foundation for a better future.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?

Many teachers passed through my life and many made a great impact on me. It wouldn’t be fair to put one of them in front of the others. I would just want to say: thank you all!

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?

Two or three years ago, the project “Digital School” started in Serbia. The idea of the project was to equip one classroom in every primary school in Serbia with up to 30 thin client working seats. Microsoft’s MultiPoint Server was the perfect solution for that and combined with Dell Wyse e01 thin clients, everything was set up and ready to use. There were problems with using that new powerful technology by teachers not equipped with knowledge on how to use it. That was the time when I met our Serbian Partners in Learning program manager Katarina Milanović. She involved me in the Partners in Learning program and proposed that I write a series of articles in the Serbian Partners in Learning Magazine, with MultiPoint Server in “Digital School” environment as the main theme. So, a series of articles and tutorials was published. Also, I have done presentations at several seminars for teachers on the same subject. As a result of that, many teachers implemented my advice and made their everyday work a more pleasant experience. It gives me great satisfaction when I am contacted by a teacher who just wants to thank me on some advice from those articles or presentations.

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

Every day is a new challenge, because new technologies and ideas are born every second and it is our job to be in touch with them. I am trying to apply as much of it in my everyday work as I can.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

Nowadays, everything is moving to the cloud, and so is 21st century education. Many of the new and innovative tools that are available to teachers are cloud-based, enabling educators and students to use new cloud power. This enables students and teachers to work and collaborate from home.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

All of the 21st century skills are equally important. One of them can’t be enough on its own, but all of them combined can provide a synergistic effect and make a great impact on the future of the world.

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

It would be a tablet with long lasting battery and broadband Internet connection, because Internet is the place where 21st century kids can connect with the whole world. The world of knowledge could be at the touch of their fingers.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?
Now there is an idea to connect all primary schools to the Internet via fast fiber connection, because most of them are still using slow ADSL Internet connections. That could bring more cloud-based educational tools to the schools.

How must education change in your country/region to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?

Education should be more oriented toward children’s needs in the 21st century, not bothering them with some unnecessary facts. It would also be a great thing if smaller classes could be formed with 10 to 12 pupils per class, so the teachers could give more attention to every child. Also, the educational system in Serbia should be set as one of the most important things in the country (unfortunately, that is not the case right now).

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Explaining to students and parents that ICT education is not just knowing how to use social networks and games. There are many other things that they can learn in ICT.

How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

You must be an innovative educator in order to succeed.

About Saša Španović

  • Birthplace: Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia
  • Current residence: Sombor, Serbia
  • Education: B.Sc. in Computer Science, Programming and design at Faculty of Informatics and Business, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Website I check every day: zdnet.com
  • Person who inspires me most: my wife
  • Favorite childhood memory: Summers spent at my grandparents and playing with my sisters.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Hungary
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? A moment ago, looking at my baby daughter growing up and exploring the world around her.
  • Favorite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Favorite music: 80s
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? You should always try.
  • Your favorite quote or motto:  I wish to learn.


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