“In the Czech Republic there are many motivated and inspirational people who work hard, enthusiastically, innovatively and creatively. These people can inspire others. I think the main power of our education is in people, not in the system.” – Ivona Spurna, Czech Republic

“Clever students come from all socio-economic levels,” says Microsoft Expert Educator Ivona Spurna. “I think all children must have the chance to receive a quality education.” As a technology teacher and advocate, she sees IT as the best way to help her students attain the knowledge that they need to compete. And while not every student has access to the latest and greatest products, Spurna is determined to give them the skills that matter most. “There should not be any economic discrimination,” she notes. “There should be a suitable way to gain a good education that enables students to find a good job in their future.”

So Spurna – who recently completed MCE Technology Literacy Certification for Educators – has created an innovative program called Students’ Project. Classes are divided into five themes of innovation, creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking. Students are expected to investigate separate parts of each theme, and then present a “solution” at the end of the class. At the end of the year, classes will compete with others on by presenting their solutions to a jury.Although students sometimes see only the extra work they must do,” notes Spurna, “this real life situation will help them in their future, when they will find a job and must work with other people.”

Spurna created a video blog just for Daily Edventures, providing more information on Students’ Project. And Spurna’s words of advice for other educators? “Cooperate with others, share ideas, find creative solutions, don’t fear new things,” she adds. “Use every option, create social networks with colleagues, parents, graduates and students.” 

I hope you enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Ivona Spurna.

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
I was a good student and was able to help other classmates with learning. Helping people makes me feel good, and I like communication and knowledge transfer. My soul cannot get old if my mind stays young. Contact with young people is always inspirational and charging. 

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
First, it was my civics teacher who helped me to trust myself. She was very communicative and a good person. Second, it was my colleague at my current school, who helped me to amplify my skills and scope. He was a good human, who was loved by a wide range of people.

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?
When I came to my school 13 years ago, it was just in the beginning of teaching IT. I helped to enhance the teaching of programming, and I started teaching Cisco networking at our school, I gained first MOS and MCP certificates, so our school could become a Microsoft IT Academy and Cisco Networking Academy.

Over the years, we introduced many more activities, such as making the educational center PiL CoE[BR1] , launching the testing center of Certiport at our school, and offering discounted MOS and MTA certificates to our students. I create competitions for basic school students in Prague and surrounding communities every year. I encourage my students to compete in actual competitions, local, national and also international. I organize conferences for teachers from basic schools, so they can learn about the news from the world of technology and use it in their teaching. I began a partnership with the non-profit organization Junior Achievement, and my students try to work in student-run companies.

Our school became famous thanks to some unbelievable results in international competitions. Last summer I helped to find high-performing students and sent them to the USA for the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championships, where one of them won a gold medal in MS Powerpoint 2010. Next, our students won another gold medal at the Junior IT competition in Poland.  Our school has no problem with quantity and quality of students, because it is well known thanks to these activities. I try to inspire my students to work on their professional development, gain practice and train for improved communication skills.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I use the standard tools of IT, like a projector and computers. I prepare training activities for my students, so they are not only listening to my speech, but also practice skills of configuring network devices. Sometimes I use online testing for gaining feedback on how the students understood new information. I also found the Interactive Classroom tool useful, as it allows students to write their own notes to broadcasted as a Powerpoint presentation. I can also use it for anonymous polling of students. Each day, I use MS Word, MS Excel and MS Outlook, very often MS Powerpoint and occasionally MS Access. I use the MS Windows operating system on my teacher’s computer, my notebook and my personal tablet.

In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cellphones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work?
Thanks to mobile devices connected to the Internet, students are able to find valuable sources of information for studying or for free time. People can use interactive maps, translators, instant messaging, or search engines. This is all about searching and sorting information, understanding it and finding creative solutions. With the help of high-capacity computers, people no longer need to remember large amounts of data. People should know how to use devices, how and where to find solutions, and how they apply those solutions. With such wide quantity of information, nobody can remember everything.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
Education today gives students the opportunity to practice skills, practice teamwork, practice communication skills, practice finding innovative, independent and creative solutions using sources of information with modern IT tools.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
It would be the Internet. It is the best collaborative tool in the world. People can share ideas, find solutions using the help of other people, communicate, inspire themselves, inspire others…

What is your country doing well currently to support education?
In the Czech Republic there are many motivated and inspirational people who work hard, enthusiastically, innovatively and creatively. These people can inspire others. I think the main power of our education is in people, not in the system. The system changes often and this instability is not good for anybody. There exist some separate activities that improve the options of education. These are cooperation with companies, Microsoft is one of them, and they provide the possibility to gain grants, so it enables us to innovate learning.

How must education change in your country/region to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
Clever students come from all socio-economic levels. So I think there must be the possibility to receive a quality education, regardless of income. There should not be any economic discrimination, so there should exist a suitable way to gain a good education that enables students to gain a good job in their future. Not every student can buy modern equipment that is common in our current society. 

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
I had to learn new information and gain suitable certificates in the field of IT, and did it. It is now my normal way of life. 

How have you incorporated mobile devices/apps into your classroom and have you seen any improvements?
Students can use their own laptops or tablets in the classroom for making notes or practicing. I see it is useful to practice more instead of writing everything. I share my presentations with students so they can think about it, discuss, or ask me.

About Ivona Spurna
Teacher of IT, Smichovska stredni prumyslova skola, Praha (Secondary Technical School), Expert Educator
Prague, Czech Republic

  • Birthplace: Brno
  • Current residence: Prague
  • Education: Masaryk University in Brno, faculty of science
  • Website I check every day: www.skydrive.com, www.ssps.cz, www.facebook.com
  • Person who inspires me most: My parents during my childhood, my friend and classmate Renata in high school, my husband and friends in my adulthood. And Slave Taita in the novel River of Gods.
  • Favorite childhood memory: Warm nights in the nature where I had lived for 12 years.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Rome and Venezia in Italy… It will be a work journey where my colleague and I should find more partners for the next international cooperation of our school.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? A few days ago…reading a funny book. More days ago… My colleague told me funny story from his life.
  • Favorite book: River of Gods (Wilbur Smith), Eragon (Christopher Paolini)
  • Favorite music: ABBA, Eros Ramazzotti, Beatles, Bon Jovi
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? Connect with other people and share activities. If you work together you can do more than all of you alone…
  • Your favorite quote or motto: Take it easy. J

 [BR1]Not sure what this is? Tracy?

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