“We Would Like To Contribute To An Education Model Raised By A Questioning Generation”

We talked to the General Manager of Teachers Academy Foundation (TAF) Füsun Çürüksu about the eCampus application where they aim to meet teachers’ and education supervisors’ professional and personal development needs. Füsun Çürüksu states that they mean to contribute to the implementation of an education model in which questioning children and young people would be raised.

Can you briefly explain the works of TAF?

Teachers Academy Foundation was established in 2008 to support teachers’ personal and professional development. We are the first and most effective non-governmental organization focused on “teacher education” in Turkey. We design and disseminate training programs to support the development of our teachers and training managers who take responsibility for raising individuals with the mental, social, emotional and digital skills required by the 21st century.

As Teacher Academy Foundation, we aim to contribute to the implementation of an education model in which children and young people think, question, research and train in our country.

We have a team of 220 educators working in the headquarters of the Foundation and in all parts of Turkey within the scope of the training programs which have been developed and spreaded for this main purpose. Together with more than 180 thousand teachers and training managers who have participated in our trainings in 81 provinces since the day we were founded, we have contributed to the empowerment of education of approximately 8 million students.

Can you give us some information about the eCampus application?

We have renewed our eCampus platform, which we launched in 2009 with the grants offered by TANAP Social and Environmental Investment Programs in 2018 in order to provide an environment for educators to access quality educational content that will contribute to their professional and personal development and to share information among colleagues. Aiming to be an important resource for educators with its advanced technological infrastructure and current contents, eCampus has become open to all teachers in January 2019. Our aim is to increase the number of the audience we reach by making maximum use of technology, and to provide a reliable knowledge / experience sharing environment for our teachers and educational staff.

In this new system which we designed as an interactive learning space that will be enriched with the contribution of the participants where users can also access through the mobile application and which has a gamification setup, video-based trainings and supportive content meet with teachers and education supervisors.

Last year we published 20 ready-made training programs in eCampus and produced new training content for 12 needs. In addition to the trainings, 1,500 blogs that came from both from users and from ÖRAV trainers were published. eCampus is also used in many of the Foundation’s training programs for tracking face-to-face trainings and for mentoring. We include teachers participating in our training programs in the relevant social learning groups, and they have the opportunity to share their work on this platform and to get mentoring about the programs from TAF educators.

However, don’t think that we only have content for teachers’ professional development. From simple experiments that can be done with children at home to the tricks of raising children and to creative writing and reading programs a wide extent of content is available to everyone for free.

Distance education has come to the agenda with the coronavirus epidemic, but you are already prepared in this regard. How would you evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of distance education?

One of the most serious decisions taken to prevent the spread of the epidemic was to introduce social isolation into our lives. This decision had a direct impact on working life. In fact, teachers have become the first occupational group to be affected, as schools were closed first. We see that many suggestions are shared in the media in order to adapt students to distance education. But it should not be forgotten that teachers also need support in this regard.

eCampus app has become a good support for teachers at this point. We have had 1,450 new members since the first week of March. While nearly 27,000 people visited our platform, the blogs we published have been read 41,500 times.

What do you think about the current distance education, what are the areas that need improvement?

The Ministry of National Education started broadcasting on television to reach students who do not have access to digital technology in addition to opening the EBA platform to teachers, which they started preparing before the epidemic and they recently launched. These broadcasts that respond to this urgent situation will of course develop further over time.

On the other hand, in order to eliminate the negative social-emotional effects that may occur among students, teachers try to reach their students by using digital education technologies with their individual initiatives and to establish a balance between normal life and the current situation. Although we have teachers who are interested and who are experienced at the use of technology in education, we also have teachers who do not have the practice of integrating technology into their lessons during face-to-face education. These teachers started to search for channels where they could meet with their students in order to keep their bond strong and I believe that there will be a rapid development in this regard. It is necessary to evaluate the works carried out this period as an emergency crisis response mechanism.

I think our teachers need to gain experience and specialization in designing real-time and non-real-time content by combining technology and pedagogy as well as delivering it to the target audience, and this will be achieved over time.

What should be done to support teachers in this process? Some teachers contribute to distance education on their own initiative during this period, what advice would you give them?

While the world struggles with such a big epidemic for the first time in a very long time, it is the teachers’ duty to protect children’s right to quality education, to perform education and training in a way that meets the needs of the day in the means of method and quality. Although face to face and experiential learning are important in learning, today’s experiences and future predictions show that knowing the ways to use technology more and more effectively will make our expertise more valuable.

Most of the teachers have discovered communication platforms and web tools that they could have live connections with their students which they have not heard of or have never used it with students or that they try for the first time. As TAF, we have prepared some tips for teachers to be able to plan the lessons they will carry out with live connection and to prepare content that would be close to face-to-face learning by considering the pedagogical approach of the work. (You can find it here: Buradan)