“MOOCs, flipped classrooms, distance learning and technology-enhanced learning environments have severely changed the landscape of education. I think we have to focus on learning instead of focusing on the process of teaching.” – Koen Timmers, Belgium

Expert Educator Koen Timmers has been at the forefront of e-learning innovation in Belgium for over a decade, but the relatively recent explosion in mobile computing devices is taking his approach to a significantly larger audience.  

When he founded Zelfstudie.be in 2000, Timmers understood that traditional pedagogy was changing, and that learning can take many forms.  Today, the e-learning site has more than 17,000 subscribers, and Timmers is no longer doing all of the content development himself. With the support of other content authors and web developers, Timmers is able to focus on researching the impact of various tools, and ways to improve them. 

Timmers also teaches IT at CVO Heusden-Zolder, and his classroom experience contributes heavily to his drive to innovate. He sees the value of distance learning and is an advocate for making it available to students who wouldn’t otherwise have opportunities to learn because of their geographic location.  

Fifty percent of my courses are taught by web conferencing,” he says. “And I asked the VDAB (Belgium’s employment organization) to approve for our school to offer 100 percent distance learning (in web design) to unemployed students who live about three hours from school.”

Like most Microsoft Expert Educators, Timmers is also committed to sharing his knowledge with other teachers – both at his own school and beyond. He serves as a mentor to new teachers at his school and posts everything he “discovers” on his website for others to access. Recently, he created a course on Web 2.0 tools in education at no cost for teachers. 

Asked about his future plans, Timmers tells us, “I think I will stay a teacher. I like the spreading of knowledge too much. But I hope the new technology (augmented reality, educational games, 3D printers, new software, etc.) will change educational values.” 

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Koen Timmers – and look for him in Barcelona next month! 

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
I’ve wanted to become a teacher since I was a teenager. I wanted a social job in which I had the opportunity to increase other people’s knowledge. To me, good pedagogy is key. I still want to conclude my daily lesson being sure everybody understands the curriculum.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
My teacher in KHLim University, Valère Awouters, triggered me to the concept of e-learning.  

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?
I developed two different applications which enhance learning. The first is Zelfstudie.be, which offers more than 50 courses with support. It’s one of the largest and most influential educational websites in Belgium. People can study my tutorials, screencast anywhere, anytime. I’ve received many testimonials from people who got new job opportunities because of my courses.

The second is an education app “Tree Key”, which enables finding the name of a tree by studying its leaves.  

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I use social media and Web 2.0 tools to promote collaboration in my classroom. Spontaneous students started writing tutorials and share these with other peers. Because of social media, even with other groups.

I use web conferencing tools to enable distance learning. I actually teach my students from my own living room.  

In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cellphones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work?
Students have access to information anywhere, anytime. Learning isn’t limited to a classroom. On the other hand, students start to check your curriculum on Twitter and Google. Collaboration and new forms of pedagogy are promoted. MOOCs, flipped classrooms, distance learning and technology-enhanced learning environments have severely changed the landscape of education. I think we have to focus on learning instead of focusing on the process of teaching. 

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
I already mentioned it earlier: collaboration. Students aren’t islands anymore.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
As a teacher, collaboration is key. But as a person I’m very fond of creativity. I honestly believe that creativity raises people’s standard of living. People can be happier by being creative. In their jobs, in parenting, in hobbies, etc. I agree with Sir Ken Robinson’s vision on creativity in education.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
Let’s first solve famine, but I think mobile devices can create major opportunities. 

What is your country doing well currently to support education?
My country is doing pretty well to support education, compared to other countries. Schools could have more financial resources, but every child has the opportunity to educate him or herself.

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

The schools that are implementing tablets are the real pioneers. The first school did it in September 2012, but the students had to pay for it themselves. This has to change. 

How have you incorporated mobile devices/apps into your classroom and have you seen any improvements?
I made my website zelfstudie.be mobile to promote m-learning. 

About Koen Timmers, Teacher, Author, Independent Web Designer
Belgium
@zelfstudie

  • Birthplace: Hasselt, Belgium
  • Current residence: Belgium
  • Education: Professional Bachelor Teaching, Msc Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation & Change
  • Website I check every day: tutsplus.com, social media
  • Person who inspires me most: What usually crosses one’s mind are icons and visionaries. In my case, I have to admit, my own students inspire me most. I learn new stuff from them on a weekly basis.
  • Favorite childhood memory: Playing with my toys, reading comics and sharpening my fantasy.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Barcelona 😉
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? Yesterday, with my 2-year-old son, discovering the world.
  • Favorite book: TheCatcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Favorite music: Jimi Hendrix, Foo Fighters, etc.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: Every person is equal.
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