Research Question Reflection

Research Question:

What role does technology play in schools in the Republic of Georgia? How do teachers engage students through the use of technology?

Technology is promoted as being the key to education in our schools.  Some seem to infer that if only every child had access to a computer the problems in education would be solved and all students would learn.  My district is not a one-to-one school, in fact, many times it has been difficult to schedule time for students to use the computer lab.  Recently, however, more chrome books have been purchased for our departments and access has been better. I have been interested to learn how other teachers use technology to engage students – not only teachers in my district, but across the state, the country, and the world.  With this in mind, I focused on how teachers use technology in their classrooms to promote education during my international field experience in the Republic of Georgia.

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Discoveries:

One of our first stops in the Republic of Georgia was a visit to a school where  the students were adorable and engaging.  Teachers, administration, and students alike seemed delighted to welcome us to their classrooms and share their mastery of the English language.  We interacted with older students by participating in a ‘speed dating’ 12722676_1141505359217553_1064047210_oactivity and listened to the youngest sing the ABC’s.  What was notably absent was any use of technology. The teachers did no12325954_1141505465884209_1936847636_ot have computers, they did not have smart boards, they did not have LCD projectors, document cameras, televisions, ipads, chromebooks, or12422339_1141505435884212_1685130373_o even a white board. Teachers had chalk boards and chalk but students appeared engaged and eager to learn.IMG_0904

Our tour included a visit to the computer lab which was modern and new and looked pristine.  Here, I thought, was the answer to my question regarding how teachers in this country engaged students with technology to promote education.  However, we soon discovered that the computers have never been used because there is not an IT person to connect and maintain the computer lab.  This was one of the better schools in the state capital – I began to wonder what I would find when I visited my host school in a more rural area of the Republic of Georgia.

My travel partner Linda and I were greeted at our host school with open arms.  Students, staff, and administration presented us with some of the traditional sweets, wine, songs, dance, and recitations welcoming us to their school and region.  The laughter was infectious and even though we did not  understand the language, the smiles told their story if students were not speaking in English.  Many students did practice their English and share their ideas with us, but others simply smiled and took pictures.

Thinking back to my research question, my first impression as to the use of technology was that while I saw an LCD projector and a screen, it looked like teachers had limited access. While working at the school and visiting classrooms we soon discovered that our school has one projector that most do not know how to use and a screen that is hung from a nail in the classroom or, if necessary, the images are simply displayed on a blank wall.  IMG_4615Teachers do not have computers or any technology in the classrooms – they have chalkboards and some chalk.  There is a computer in the office where teachers can research, but overall, teachers work with students the old fashioned way; with love and enthusiasm.

On the other hand, students engage with the teachers online via Facebook and most said they have wifi and ethernet at home. Just like United States teenagers, selfies are constant. Social media seems to increase a sense of community – parents contact teachers via Facebook and students are Facebook friends with their teachers. Upon our return to Tbilisi, we learned that others from our group had traveled to towns that were a bit wealthier and some schools did have computer labs but overall, students and teachers at large have limited technology skills.  It was interesting to hear the students tell us that they watch music videos on YouTube which has helped them improve their English.

 Reflections

There are no excuses in Gurjaani – students are held to high standards and expectations, the teachers work with few supplies in cold classrooms that are heated by wood stoves (many times wearing coats) but in spite of this, students are eager to learn and share their knowledge.

I learned that we can’t make excuses regarding resources but have to find a variety of ways to capture student interests to promote education.

 Questions for the future:

I wonder if money became available and computer labs were added and connected if the computers would be used?  Also, digital literacy is not taught and would have to be added into the curriculum. In addition, the teaching staff would also have to be computer literate which would take some time.  Overall, it would seem to have to be a total shift in their mindsets since teachers are very engaged with their students right now using their limited resources.

Last Day in Georgia

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All of us met back after spending a week at our respective sites and shared our experiences. Of course each of us was sure that our own visit was the best – it was interesting to learn about the resources and approach to education in regions across Georgia.  But in my heart, I know that I had the best host teacher and students!

We went to lunch where our group once again participated in a supra, then onto a couple of churches/monasteries.  The views of the city were exquisite and we were excited to continue to discuss our experiences.  Dinner was another supra with Georgian dancing as the entertainment.  Lots of tears and hugs with promises to stay in touch. I have the best colleagues in Georgia and the United States as a result of this amazing experience.  Now….on to visit the eternal city: Rome!

 

 

 

Thank You

 

How do we say goodbye to students who have shared so much of themselves this past week?  Linda and I have learned about determination and motivation from our students and teachers while we were in Gurjaani.  Time flew past and before we knew it, it was time to go.  Students again performed dances and presentations and the teachers surprised us with a cake and pastries and gifts. I feel that we’ve expanded our professional learning community and rather than saying goodbye , we’ve saying hello and welcoming  new colleagues and students.  Thank you Nana for providing us with an exceptional learning experience; the memories will last a lifetime.

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The Art of Winemaking

Georgians are delighted to share their history and their culture, especially in regards to how they produce wine.  In the region around Gurjaani, many people have their own vineyards or produce their own wine in their homes.  Wine is stored in the ground in kvevris which is a practice that dates back to ancient times.  **These images are from a modern wine factory and also from a 1400 year old monastery.

We were welcomed to a wine ‘factory’ where the owner actually opened a kvevri and we had the first taste of the wine!

An Education System in Transition

We have met with officials from across Georgia – from the cities to towns to the villages.  In every meeting we are asked out the United States system of education.  Officials, administrators, and teachers all have questions about how lessons are presented, what is covered, inclusion in the classroom, discipline, etc. Peace Corps volunteers work in the schools, along with volunteers from other programs helping with English lessons.  Georgian students all study English and are excited to practice with guests.

 

Students are motivated to go to the university to bring change to their proud and timeless country.   It is heartwarming to see and hear how motivated the Georgians are to move their country forward.

A Mixture of Traditional and Modern

The capital city of Tbilisi is teeming with cars and people rushing to their jobs but it is the countryside that really tells the story of Georgia.  Here is it is not uncommon to see a donkey cart loaded with goods, cows grazing in city squares, women and men carrying water from the city spring, and  sheep herded near towns.  We even saw a wild horse being passed by a car!  At the same time, cars rush past the donkey carts and everyone has a cellphone.  Many people don’t have cars but taxis are easy to hire.

We were introduced to the traditional method of making bread and pastries in a clay oven.  It was an awesome experience shared with our host teacher Nana, her neighbors and family.  Family is the center of Georgian life and the roots run deep.  While the bread is baking, out comes the wine along with cheese, peppers, tomatoes and herbs. It is a social event to be enjoyed.

A Country of Rich Traditions

Traveling in the regions near Gurjaani it seems that around every corner there is a monastery or church.  Georgia is a deeply religious Orthodox country.  The churches are decorated with icons and are filled with candles which lends itself to a serene atmosphere. The people are proud of their heritage and proudly share the history of their saints, kings, and queens.

Georgia is a welcoming country – the people embrace the idea of guests as a gift from the gods and are happy to help a visitor in every way.  Throughout her history Georgia has been at the crossroads of trade and  has been subject to numerous invasions.  One can see the evidence in the numerous defensive walls around cities and monasteries.   Through all of this, Georgians have persevered and held true to their traditions and culture.

 

 

 

Gurjaani – Day 2

Our host teacher keeps us busy – not a minute is allowed to be wasted!  We began the day co-teaching a lesson to her English classes.  We introduced new words and worked with the students on their assignments.  Many were shy (this was an 8th grade class) but when we observed and worked with the younger ones later in the morning, they were much more outgoing.  Each classroom is heated with a wood fire and because it’s cold, most students keep their coats on.  The warmth of their smiles makes up for the cool temperature in the rooms.

Naturally, because we had an hour free, Nana arranged for us to visit the Church of All Saints which was built in the 7th century.  This is a beautiful Orthodox church and the legend that accompanies the construction is wonderful.

Upon our return, we were once again  serenaded by students and welcomed by the faculty and administrators. There is only one male teacher in the school and this is normal for Georgia.  The pay is very low and isn’t enough to support a family. Most, if not all, teachers also tutor in order to make ends meet.  We gave our presentation regarding the US system of education and answered teacher questions.

We see many similarities in the goals of education in Georgia with the US, but sadly, they do not have the resources yet.

We ended the day after we attended a traditional Georgian dance performance.  Georgia is a country with many faces – modern and traditional.  Horses are hobbled outside of the school and cows graze near monuments.  Chickens roam the streets along with the ever-present dogs, while everyone has a cellphone.   One of our coordinators explained that in the 1990’s people were starving to death and most didn’t have electricity.  Since the civil war ended in the mid-1990’s, things have improved and the people are determined to continue to bring great changes to their country.

 

Day 1 in Gurjaani

A short drive from the capital brought some unexpected surprises – our driver stopped at a fortress where he said the people hid from the Turkish invaders. Linda, my partner teacher, and I were surprised to see a shepherd with his sheep inside the keep!

We received such a warm welcome from our host teacher, Nana, and the students at our school.  Words cannot express our happiness, but perhaps these pictures can help.  Students sang, danced, recited poetry, prepared a presentation, and gave us gifts of sweets and wine.  Lots of smiles and tears of joy!

Open Air Museum of Ethnography

After meeting with some Georgian education officials and discussing teacher training and standards in Georgia, we stopped for a cultural visit at this open air museum. It was cool and brisk out but felt good after spending the morning  indoors.  The museum  reminded me of Greenfield Village aka The Henry Ford but more rustic.  Original buildingsIMG_4569 from across the country were brought here to really give one a feel for Georgian history and culture.  We were able to go into many of the structures led by our very knowledgeable tour guide.  What was amazing was that the tapestries were out for anyone to feel and photograph.  Early wine making implements were on display along with harvesting equipment.