“We all learn in a different way, at a different pace, and as a teacher, it is practically impossible to cater to everyone’s learning needs. But I strongly believe that we can make that a reality in the near future. The field of learning analytics is very promising and great things are already happening.” – Robin Smorenberg, The Netherlands
For the innovative educators we’re fortunate enough to speak with here at Daily Edventures, technology of some kind – mobile devices, smart boards, laptops, tablets, or PCs – can usually be found in their schools and classrooms. But while technology is widely available, and even cutting-edge in some cases, almost all of them agree that digital technology is simply a conduit for learning. The rest depends on great educators.
For Robin Smorenberg, this couldn’t be more true. Smorenberg, along with his colleagues and students at primary school De Windhoek in the small Dutch town of Egmond-Binnen, were the lucky recipients of brand new tablets as part of the school’s pilot program. And while the new technology was appreciated, it was the way Smorenberg and his colleagues put the tablets to use – including allowing students to use a multitude of educational apps and take the devices home – that really started to make a difference.
“We had the fortunate opportunity to bring a lot of new technology into our school, but instead of trying to do the usual old-fashioned stuff with brand new technology, we started with thinking about what this new technology could mean for our way of teaching,” Smorenberg tells us. “We always shared our experience with fellow schools and teachers. It made me very proud that others wanted to learn from our experiences and the way we incorporated new technology in our everyday teaching.”
Today, Smorenberg shares how his students have now taken their learning to the next level with technology – sharing new information not only with themselves, but also with their teachers – to develop a reciprocal “ecosystem” of learning in their classrooms. Enjoy!
What inspired you to become an educator?
I was always the kind of kid who was interested in a great many things, like geography, history, nature and science. When we went to the library as a kid, I usually ended up with an encyclopedia or something like that. During the final year of primary school I was wondering what kind of career I could spend time on all these different subjects and then it kind of hit me: I should become a teacher myself. It’s still the only occupation (in my opinion) where you have the opportunity to not limit yourself to only one particular field, and also to pass on an eagerness for learning.
Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?
Another very important, and very proud, moment was when our OneDrive and Skype environment started becoming a real platform for cooperation. Not in a one-way stream from teacher to learner, but especially between students themselves. That was really a beautiful thing to witness: when students started finding out new ways to use this technology on their own, and started helping each other. They then incorporated how teachers could enhance what they were doing. It became a little eco-system that became a very valuable part of how we do things in our classroom.
Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
That our current teaching staff can’t really keep up with our students, regarding ICT and how flexible we view new technology. More and more schools are bringing in this new technology but go at it completely the wrong way. They start with trying to substitute what they were doing with new devices, not with what this new technology could do to transform to reach learning goals. We need a lot more Microsoft Expert Educators (or Microsoft in Education Experts) who advocate that we can really make a change for our tech-savvy learner who are growing up in a world where technological change is an everyday thing.
In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?
That we can make personal learning a reality, where we can use systems that can help students in a way that a teacher or a textbook could never do, to hone in on the actual level of skill at which a student can perform and help them improve in a way that is most suitable for that particular student. We all learn in a different way, at a different pace, and as a teacher, it is practically impossible to cater to everyone’s learning needs. But I strongly believe that we can make that a reality in the near future. The field of learning analytics is very promising and great things are already happening.
About Robin Smorenberg
Primary School Teacher and ICT Specialist
- Blog URL: www.tabijn.nl
- Birthplace: Heemskerk, The Netherlands
- Educational background: Primary school teacher for 12 years now, in the same small town school near the shore. Educational ICT expert for about nine years now, for the organization that my school is part of.
- Website I check every day: Right after I check Daily Edventures (wink 😉 I check www.nutech.nl a Dutch gadget/technology news site.
- Favorite childhood memory: Sharing lunchtime with my grandmother on Mondays when I was in primary school.
- Favorite book: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Office365, Surface, XboxOne
- What is the best advice you have ever received? If you don’t like something, change it (and if you can’t change it, change your attitude).