Monday, December 19, 2011

Overview of and Approaches to Teachers’ In-Service Trainings

By Kayhan Karli

Turkey has a long-standing tradition of educating teachers. However, it is not possible to say the same thing about their professional development, which has not been a priority in Turkey. Teacher training is defined in two major areas: pre-service training and in-service professional development for teachers. Regarded as a professional occupation, teaching requires a special training. Teacher training system is provided in three dimensions - field knowledge, professional knowledge for teachers, general knowledge - requires a well-planned and programmed educational process. Pre-service teachers or candidates (trainee teachers) receive education at Universities regulated by Higher Education Commission (YÖK) in cooperation with Ministry of National Education (MONE). In-service teacher training or professional development for teachers is regulated and directed by MONE. Half of all teachers in Turkey have never attended a training program during their professional careers. In our time, professional development of teachers is not only important but also a necessity in the future of learning because:

Globalization. It’s more than economics. Globalization is social. As we witness massive migration from underdeveloped cities/countries to more developed cities/countries, people who go through various social changes have difficulties in adapting and continuing their living habits. Learning becomes important and will occur in a multicultural setting.

Technology. Planning learning environments where learners are independent of technology is impossible. The new millennium’s student is defined as “knowledge builder, multimedia creator, collaborative learner, inquirer, experimental learner through real life and simulations, and an individual who can learn for everyone and for the sake of his/her own needs.” We have to ask “How can our teachers be efficient and competent in an environment where especially Web 2.0 technology is used widely?” Teachers won’t disappear. But they do need to use technology efficiently and design learning and its environment according to the structure of the new millennium. In other words we need teachers, who have web sites and write blogs; who can use social media tools like Facebook, Twitter etc. as a learning tool; and who can transform mobile phones into a learning tool, instead of dismissing them. Today, in an environment where even Presidents are using Twitter and conveying information firsthand; teachers who do not use new technology will stay behind of their students.

As TALIS (Teaching and Learning International Survey) results show, in Turkey, about three quarter of teachers are under 40 years old; they are the children of the digital age and they can adapt easily. This is Turkey’s competitive advantage over developed countries. In the last years, Turkish Ministry of National Education has provided all schools with Internet connection and even some village schools have computers now. Teachers, who can own the digital transformation in in-service trainings, will also be able to transform learning.

Brain and intelligence research. There are 79 faculty of education and 64 school of medicine in Turkey. But, none focus on brain and learning research. In the last quarter of the 20th century we tried to understand brain with experimental studies on mice. With the advancements in technology amazing discoveries have been made and experiments on animals have been replaced with new imaging techniques like fMRI. These discoveries showed that every individual has a unique way of learning. It is not hard to foresee that the answer to the question “How are we going to learn?” may change a lot as we learn more about our brains in the near future.

While we evaluate learning in the light of these three factors, the most important questions are: “Who is the learner? Is learning only for students or for everyone? For teachers to catch up with the new era should they concentrate on life-long learning?”

My father knew radio very well. He used television widely. He has encountered with computer recently and has been trying to comprehend it. Advancement in technology has changed how even the radio and television are used. Today, he needs the help of his grandson, my son, to be able to use the first two. My father is still learning in his 70s. But, the interesting part is he is learning from today’s children. In the figure below, which defines teaching very well, teaching as a profession is evaluated. The world is getting “smaller and more complex” so teaching has to be redefined as life-long learning as well as personal development.
Figure: A Framework for Understanding Teaching and Learning, Darling-Hammond & Bransford (2005, p. 11)

How do we do that? As Howard Gardner mentions in his new work “Five Minds for the Future”, we have to work on a learner’s profile. We have to teach individuals to master a discipline, use creative thinking, and infer strategy via synthesizing. New era’s teachers should be able to think differently, respect to differences in every sense, and behave ethically. Without forgetting that the teaching profession is a clinical one, we have to create a sustainable, hybrid, and a replicable model that will support master-apprentice, supervision, and mentoring relationships. Ogretmen Akademisi Vakfi has been training teachers from all around Turkey with this vision in mind. The goal is to establish an education system where all parties involved think critically and analyze skillfully.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Words To Inspire

By Dicle Kortantamer

“Why didn’t you go to work for Google?” someone asked after I graduated from computer engineering. I had gone into banking. When I graduated in 1998, Google was just being incorporated as a private company and technology talent primarily existed in the West. In 2011 that’s different, and that’s a good thing. Many new career opportunities are created every day. Technology isn’t confined to Silicon Valley. People from Turkey and around the World are inventing solutions to solve global problems. It is a tremendous opportunity. And, it all starts with education.

The education of future generations is so important. Randomly, we leave behind a whole group of children, whose talents are wasted and dreams are unrealized because they do not have equal access to quality education. Underutilisation of human potential is extremely costly. For individuals, this has a direct and serious impact on their lives: they are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed or earn a dramatically lower income during their lifetime. For the world, the cost is not only to the economy. It is also in terms of missed opportunities, great inventions, entrepreneurs and leaders.

So, how do we prepare all children for an unpredictable future with the skills that will enable them to fulfill their potential? Passing on mere facts isn’t helpful. Creativity, critical thinking and collaboration become key to effectively recognizing and solving problems. It is a bit like learning to think like an entrepreneur or an inventor.

What if every child had the chance to learn these skills? What if we engaged the most skilled to help accomplish this? Those thoughts are what inspired me to leave a career in banking and become a social entrepreneur. I am the founder of 'Words to Inspire'Words to Inspire, an educational charity based in the UK. We envisage a world in which all children and young people have access to quality education and are inspired towards achieving their dreams. We believe that engaging skilled individuals in solving the most difficult problems in their community can be powerful and it can be done sustainably by creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.

I have a passion to give back to the community that educated me, so Turkey became our first country of operation. Although Turkey has made significant progress, many children are still falling behind. Only 7% of the lowest socioeconomic quartile has a chance to go to a school that provides world class education. Furthermore, half of the 15 year-old have not acquired critical life skills due to drop outs or achievement gap.

Our vision with our first project ‘Develop to Learn’ is to establish a free, world class, interactive digital library. We engage local university students through their final year projects in developing digital games that advance children’s ability to imagine, experiment and collaborate. Given the major initiative by the government to give every student a tablet computer within the next three years, this digital library has the potential to reach and transform the lives of 16 million children in K-12 education. Additionally, the project advances university students employability skills through engagement in a real project.

Human talent is extraordinary when it is nurtured. It is true that immediate needs like food and shelter are critical to a child’s well-being. We need, however, to aim higher and provide all children with equal opportunity to uncover their full potential. That will empower us to create a future full of hope for all of us. All we need is a small action from each individual to start the ripple effect. Let’s get it started...