More then a teacher

We have managed to get an interview with the young, but very skilled and enthusiastic teacher Marija, who is an inspiration to her pupils and should definitely be a role-model to her peers. Read through further and find out how does she see the education, learning and what are her tools in realizing the most interactive classroom Macedonia has ever experienced.

Cultus: Tell us briefly something about yourself.

I am just as the characters from Ken Robison’s The Element, once I entered the classroom I knew all I wanted was to be a teacher. When I was growing up, it was similar, I was the girl who wanted to be an actress upon watching a play, a writer upon reading a book, and an artist whenever I could get my hands on my mum’s brushes.

Hence, teaching is living my dreams. My classroom is my stage, my lectures are the book I had in mind that day, and my students are the art work. It is true, you don’t have to be famous to be unforgettable. I find touching points with this vodeo: I am a teacher

Cultus: How did you become interested in e-learning and edutech tools?

It was before the era of eduClipper, Blendspace or Sophia. I needed a place where I would connect with my students and give them assignments. I had just started using Facebook (all of my students already had accounts) and got familiar with the Facebook groups, and I also created a Facebook page.

My school knew nothing about social networks and I was blessed with a year of blended teaching on Facebook. The content was public, so my classroom got bigger and bigger every day. However, Facebook was blocked and I needed something as useful as its tools, so I started researching.  Every time I asked Mr. Google about edtech tools, he suggested two sites: Free Technology for Teachers and Edutecher. Then, I stopped bothering Mr. Google and started following Mr. Byrne and Mr. Bellow.

This is how it all started.

From there on, I kept stumbling upon people who simply thought out loud. For social network, I started using Edmodo and it has evolved into something better than Facebook, but I never saw new students coming in.

What are the most common tools that you use in your classroom lately? What is the feedback from the students in this process?

It is never about the tool, but about the idea – what can you do with it. Twitter was considered that it will never be an educational tool (How could it, 140 characters?)

Yet, the most inspiring reading this past year, came from a book named Storify and all the authors had the same first name Hashtag. Teachers are sending their thoughts to one place – Twitter, creating an amazing book of ideas. It is just the book that Raghava talks about on TED – A story from hundreds and thousands of different perspectives.

In reality, my classroom is not very different from where I learned twenty years ago. They have only different names now.
When I was growing up I had this unstoppable urge to draw over books (well, who hasn’t), change character names, add scenes and give stories a different endings. I would write on the margins of a book, stick drawings of the characters and leave notes to the future readers. Now, we have an app for it and students are encouraged to do exactly what most were expelled from the library do – they even have a name for it, it’s called critical thinking.

Remember how the teacher would come up to your desk and turn the page for you when you weren’t paying attention and you held your finger on the wrong page. Now we call it Nearpod. When I flip the slide it flips on every computer, tablet or phone. If you remember how you underlined things you thought important, put question marks next to something you didn’t understand. Well, now students can draw and write over my slides and send an immediate feedback on my lecture.

When I was a student, my notebook was full of red ticks and notes on the bottom of each page, and my teacher would occasionally hold my notebook up and wave it so everyone could see my work. We now call it like, comment and share, and the notebook is called a post.
We had pen-pals in my childhood, now we have communities. I wrote letters, now we schedule hangouts. We had time capsules in a tin box buried in the yard, now we send video messages to their future selves. We had homework, now we have dropbox.

Copying the answers from the person next to you is now screen share. We called it cheating, now we call it collaborating.

Imagine giving all the student a piece of chalk and lining all twenty of them on a single blackboard. It’s no longer black, nor green, but a white one. All twenty of them work on the same whiteboard, at the same time and they don’t even have to be at school. The best part is that you don’t have to ever wipe the board, but create a new one for each lesson. And if you share your board with other teachers from other schools anywhere in the world, you can all work together.

We do have bulletin boards, but virtual ones called Padlet or Lino and all our work is displayed in the classroom in somewhat strange art called QR codes.

We still have observation journals, but now with Jelly and Google image search we are a snapshot away from the answer.
We still go on field trips, only now Skype and Google have taken us from mountain peaks to sea depths, from every corner of the Earth to space, yet we never left our classroom.

The phrase you can now start the test no longer means pick up your pens, but pick up your phones. And the going around the classroom and peeking over shoulders to see how far each of them got with the test, Socrative now calls it live feed.

I had a friend who loved biology and read the lectures in the book before the lesson, so that she is ready for discussion. It’s now called a flipped classroom and I spend hours and hours creating short two minute funny videos, or infographics that the students can watch or read and come prepared for the lesson.

There are however some things that have changed over time. Now students would read the same text over and over again just because they mispronounced a word and it won’t sound perfect for their SoundCloud collection of My Reading.

They would rather do a quiz, than take a break (Kahoot thank you for this one). They get excited over reading comprehension (It no longer means answering a bunch of questions, but creating PowToonanimation or Canva infographic). Now they are thrilled to make corrections on their written work, even erase whole passages and start over since Google Story Builder turns it into a video. They all keep journals, have published a Storybird book and have audience.

They are mad about writing dialogues since Go Animate turns a simple written or read dialogue into a cartoon. Now they all behave just for an extra point awarded to a monster avatar (ClassDojo)!! They even like creating flashcards (it no longer means a word with an explanation on the back but a Vine video). They love grammar and learn grammar rules by creating comic books.

Oh, I can go on forever with so many other tool we use.

I would realy like to be at a class similar to this one: Space Station Crew Discusses Life in Space with Students at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Cultus: What do you find most rewarding?

Whenever I see lightened faces! When they question everything. Whenever they question me. When I’m no longer needed and learning doesn’t stop with a bell. When they realize that here and now you can become almost anything.

Cultus:  What will education be like in ten years?

I do hope it is something like in A Day Made of Glass video

I have faith in Facebook for Schools and Google + Classroom. When I say classroom- I mean not a thick-walled room in a building.

Paperless and individualized
I may be sentimental and say paper books will still exist, but the endless possibilities of an e-book makes it hard for me to believe. Just imagine an infographic-like, learning-styles-based textbook with embedded in videos (for the visual learners), podcasts (for the aural learners), hands on activities (for the physical learners), texts (for the verbal learners), diagrams and charts (for the logical learners), groups and communities (for the social learners) and a quiet place to think (for solitary learners), a whiteboard, a notepad, quizzes, back channels, and all on the same page.

New approaches
I think future education will be about finding new approaches and reimagining teaching. Merging old pedagogical methods, with technology might be a good idea.

Marija P.Kitanoska is an English teacher at Hristo Uzunov primary school in Drugovo, Macedonia. She is currently blogging on using technology in an ESL classroom.

Google +

Cultus would like to thank Marija on the inspiring interview. We wish there were more innovative and pupil-friendly teachers around the world, so that we can all make learning enjoyable and fun.  

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