Turkey: Taking the Leap into the Future with Technology?

Educational technology offers many potential benefits and opportunities, helping our students to learn, collaborate with others, and create more than ever. In Turkey, as in many other countries, integrating education technology into our classroom curricula is a substantial challenge for educators.

In the last five years, there is a growing awareness of and interest in ed tech among teachers in Turkey. Many private schools are spending more money on digital devices to become fit for the new century. Schools are wired with fibre to take advantage of broadband, classes are equipped with smart boards, Internet connections, computers and projectors. When you attend conferences, you see that most of the sessions are about educational technology; we have even started to see some Turkish teachers presenting in worldwide online conferences. More and more, teachers are blogging with their students or using Twitter, lighting the way for others eager to adopt ed tech in and out of the classroom.

Unfortunately, the situation is different in many public schools. Government funding is not enough to support an educational technology environment. Most teachers lack confidence in their ability to use technology, some teachers do not know how to use Word or PowerPoint—and most of them are not interested in using technology in education at all.

Why is this? Probably it's due to factors such as heavy workload and lack of knowledge, equipment or in-service training. But one of the biggest handicaps is lack of English proficiency, since many web tools and new technologies are designed for English-speakers. Teachers also have the fear of losing authority in their overcrowded classes. Time constraints are also an issue, because teachers have to search for online materials and tools and then have to make adjustments to fit them into their own curriculum.

The most popular technologies being used are PowerPoint and video-sharing websites in general. In some schools, teachers are using blogs and wikis with their students to produce videos and animations. Some private schools and universities are using Moodle to keep and share everything that they do at school in a safe online environment. Moodle includes blogs, homework, forums, quizzes and many more things that teachers, students and parents can use and share.

Turkey has also recently initiated FATIH (Movement to Increase Opportunities and Technology) project with the aim to improve the use of ICT tools through tablet PCs and smart boards in public schools. Once this project is completed, it is expected to encompass 570,000 classrooms in 42,000 schools across Turkey. Students will be given tablets and classrooms will be equipped with Internet connections and interactive smart boards that are compatible with tablet PCs. Students will be able to access their course books and materials through tablet PCs with videos, pictures, simulations, animations, audio, maps and graphics.

Another project that has started in Turkey is aPlanet (Autonomous Personal Learning Networks), which is a European Union-funded education project. The aim of aPlanet is to help teachers to create their own personal learning networks and acquire the digital literacy necessary to compete within the new digital world.

Good examples of tech use in Turkish schools include digital games that are drawn, colored and dubbed by 6-year-olds, an iPhone/iPad application created by young learners and blogs of the ISTEK schools foreign language department.

Can Turkey make the ed tech leap? Perhaps not as quickly as some educators would like. But ed tech proponents are eager to see how education in Turkey will advance, with support from the government and professional development for teachers to learn how to engage kids with new ed tech tools.