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.
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’ activity and listened to the youngest sing the ABC’s. What was notably absent was any use of technology. The teachers did not have computers, they did not have smart boards, they did not have LCD projectors, document cameras, televisions, ipads, chromebooks, or even a white board. Teachers had chalk boards and chalk but students appeared engaged and eager to learn.
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. Teachers 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.
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.