Sunday, February 28, 2016

Education in the Digital Age under the IVLP Program

At the turn of January and February I took part in an international project named Education in the Digital Age under the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) sponsored by United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Institute of International Education. There were 18 representatives from 16 different countries nominated for this program - two from South Africa and India, one from Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Iraq, Maroco, Mexico, Palestinian Territories, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. 
All the participants were connected to education in a different way. They were teachers, lecturers, education specialists, school principals, directors and deputy directors, co-owners and founders, IT researchers, associate deans, professors and assistant professors, vice presidents, entrepreneurs, developers, promotion video makers or people dealing with online education.

The IVLP program set four project objectives:
  • Provide an overview of current technological trends in education;
  • Assess how new technologies impact student learning, including the advantages and disadvantages;
  • Examine partnerships between educational institutions and private business or philanthropic organizations;
  • Explain teacher training and continuing education on how to work with new technologies and its integration into existing curriculum.

The program included the visit of 6 cities - Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. For each city there were main topics and a program consisting of meetings at various educational institutions from primary, secondary and high schools to colleges and universities, educational centers, networkings with people from the education field and also many cultural events. 
More about the program and topics in each cities you can find here.

A collage of my pictures from the US stay created by Fotor.

I do not want to expand here on all visited places or projects that I have found interesting during the three weeks, which either have come from the United States or my colleagues from the other countries that attended the IVLP program. The most interesting ones will be prepared in separate articles and published as a series. I would rather focus on how this program can help evolve collaboration between schools and institutions concerning the integration of technology in education.

At the school visit I have discovered that when it comes to implementing technology in education, many American schools are very similar to ours. They also face challenges of Wi-Fi network infrastructure, they address which technology is favorable and affordable as well as we do. Schools often use Chromebooks in a 1:1 model which we can see in our schools too. A blended model using LMS has been a standard at every visited educational institutions. Primary, secondary, and high schools use systems such as Google Classroom, Edmodo or Schoology, at the universities it is Blackboard, Moodle or Versal.

We discovered an application of many contemporary ICT trends, namely 3D printing, integrating drones in education, virtual reality, programming, the Green Screen technology and other. An implementation of Web 2.0 services based on Google Apps is very common. Some schools also integrate Office 365. It is obvious that there are not big differences here.

Universities concentrate much more on designing online courses in which students are closer to their teachers unlike today’s so popular MOOC courses where due to the massiveness a personal contact disappears. Some universities, such as Georgia Tech or Carnegie Mellon (CMU) are engaged in developing their own systems and designing online courses tailored for other universities based on materials and data provided by their clients. It results in efficiency improvement of the course preparation and the percentage of the successful participants. It is not unusual nowadays to graduate from university entirely online even including the final exams and gaining the iMBA degree.

Many universities (e.g. already mentioned Georgia Tech or Pittsburgh University) try to provide their students an environment that is available in companies and business sectors today, e.g. classrooms connected with videoconferencing systems, continuous whiteboards on the walls, an open space with movable furniture with great variability of its arrangement etc. The main reason behind is to offer their students the facilities that enable them to accomplish project and cooperative work.

During all the visits and conversations with the educators and employees I have been thinking about the ways of connecting the particular institutions with our schools and finding an appropriate topic and areas of interest. I have been asking myself what are the projects that the Czech and American students could work on together. 
I do not have answers to all these questions yet but one thing I know for sure. A willingness to cooperate is obvious and significant on the American side. I believe and I am convinced that it is also on ours.