Part of the series: Investigating International Edtech Issues (Turkey)
My title sounds weird, doesn’t it? But believe it or not, this is how I learned what a keyboard was! It was 1993. I was 15 years-old. Computer class was an elective course at my school and in the first computer lesson our teacher drew a keyboard picture on the board and showed us the positioning of the keys on that picture. So I saw ‘enter’ and ‘backspace’ keys for the first time in my life on a blackboard.
In this post that I am writing for Shelly, I won’t be telling you about the education system in Turkey. If you want to have an idea about it, here is a link: Education system in Turkey – http://www.allaboutturkey.com/education.htm
What I want to point out is the dramatic difference between the 1990s and 2000s regarding the use of technology in education in Turkey. My experiences as a student and then as a teacher…
Computers were not a real part of my life when I was a student at high school. The only things I can remember about technology are our funny computer lessons and some boys in the classroom who had Commodore 64s.
I had my first computer when I was at a university. My dad brought a computer one day and left me with it without any explanations. He just told me not to be afraid of touching it and trying things. I used to have a dial-up Internet connection which was very noisy, slow and problematic. I was very enthusiastic about using my new computer. First, I designed a very simple web site on Frontpage. My amateur web design career didn’t last for long:-) My content was silly stuff like wallpapers, funny pictures, .midi files, etc. and I got bored with it in a very short time. It was the year 1996 and at my university (ELT department) which has a good reputation in Turkey, there still weren’t any lessons related to the use of technology in education. If I hadn’t been interested in computers that much, probably, I could have never found the courage to use technology in my classes.
I graduated from the university in 2000 and started teaching at a language school. I worked there for two years and during that time I used Power Point very creatively:-) It was an unusual way of introducing topics. Lots of colourful images, animations, etc. I was happy and my students were happy. Then I started working at a private school in 2002. Since then, I’ve been working at private schools because there are huge differences between state and private schools in Turkey in terms of language teaching programs, career development opportunities and financial resources.
In state schools, students start learning English at 4th grade. In private schools English education starts at kindergarten. Starting English education at early ages leads to better results which is motivating for teachers as well. Since state schools do not charge any money to students, they can hardly afford their essential expenses and cannot allocate money for the use of technology. The exception is in some rich areas, there are state schools which can afford technological equipment with donations from parents.
While state schools are still struggling; for about a decade, there has been a competition among private schools to buy the latest technological equipment for their classrooms. I’m saying ‘classrooms’, not ‘students’ because usually the equipment cannot go beyond being decorative objects. Most schools think that making huge investments in equipment means ‘using technology’ in education.
Future of Technology Use
However, I’m not hopeless about the future of technology use in education in Turkey. Some schools started to realize that teacher training is as important as equipping the classrooms with the latest technology and that if they don’t have well qualified and enthusiastic teachers to use that equipment, the big investments become a total waste.
Providing equal opportunities for state and private school students is another case waiting to be solved… The changes needed to make schools more engaging places for students will not be able to occur nationwide in the near future unless state schools have the necessary budget and support. Besides, in order to make the necessary changes happen we need a better teacher education system and educational leaders who are visionaries.
“Change starts when someone sees the next step.”
Burcu Akyol is an English teacher from Istanbul, Turkey. She has been teaching English for nine years. She has experience in both the young learners and adult classrooms. At present she works at ISTEK Schools as the Foreign Languages Department Coordinator. Her main areas of interest are using web technologies in ELT and teacher training. She shares and tries to encourage teachers to share, on her blog http://burcuakyol.com.