Experts from Bulgaria and abroad discussed innovation and digitalization in education

Experts from Bulgaria and abroad discussed innovation and digitalization in education

Natalia Miteva, Atanas Georgiev, Alexandra Mechkova, Yani Gebedzheliev, Darin Madjarov, Albena Spasova, Ana-Maria Stancu, Gergana Efremova and Karol Gornovic discussed on “How innovation and digitalization change education? Challenges and best practices” within the Green Week 2023 forum, dedicated to the green transition in Central and Eastern European countries. The discussion was moderated by Vanya Ananieva.

The event is organized by Dir.bg and 3E news. It will be three days as a continuation of the Green Transition edition that took place last year in Sofia. BTA is a media partner.

“I can only speak about future plans at this point as it is the 48th hour since entered the Ministry of Education. What was approved today should be the action plan for the next nine-plus months,” said Natalia Miteva, an adviser to Education Minister Galin Tsokov.

According to her, from now on we should work on a vision for digitalization of Bulgarian education. “We need, together with the organisations here, to be clear about what end result we are aiming for,” she explained, adding that there is a need to work on innovation, but also to secure basic resources such as technological provision for everyone in the education system.

“A leading belief is that pedagogy should come first. Digitalisation is not an end in itself, it should be driven by pedagogical goals,” she said. Miteva added that work needs to be done on personalised learning and education – the whole system needs to be able to work around the needs of each student, how far they have come and what they need.

According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Atanas Georgiev from the Faculty of Economics of Sofia University, students should be given more and more case studies from practice to see how problems are solved. He explained that the main challenges are overregulation, lack of sufficient communication and the need for more formats in which to talk. “To share with the institutions so that they can hear us” he said.

“We have to be very conscious about what is coming in the next years,” said Alexandra Mechkova, CEO of Telerik Academy. She said the need for manual skills is decreasing and the need for digital skills is increasing. She explained that the modern person will have to change his profession several times.

“Every one of us should be ready for a lifetime of learning,” she said. Mechkova said companies are the ones that should be in charge of training and changing their people’s professions. If you are a cashier today but tomorrow the company needs a programmer, the company should take care of your retraining, she explained.

“Technology is just a tool. Technology is not a panacea by any means. If we expect to invent a box with one button and get all the knowledge and skills by pushing it, it won’t work,” said Yani Gebedzeliyev, senior technology consultant at TBS. He said it is up to us how we use technology. “We should try to use technology in such a way that it is to our advantage,” he said.

“First of all, it is very important that we, as a society, and the people in the system realise the importance of skills acquisition. More important than the acquisition of knowledge”, said Gergana Efremova, Strategic Partnerships Manager at “Zaedno V Chas”.

We need a clear vision of what the outcome of education should be at the end of secondary education. To give a basic framework to get to that outcome. There needs to be a change in the philosophy of the curriculum, Efremova said.

Darin Madjarov explained that his platform “Ucha.se” is already growing abroad. More than 110 million lessons have been watched and at the beginning everyone told him that he was doomed to failure and that no one would watch his video lessons. During the pandemic they launched in Romania, Italy and Spain. The content there is created “from scratch”, they don’t translate Bulgarian.

“Now it is my dream to prove on the world stage that we can make a Bulgarian product on a global level and with this to enter people’s houses. The most precious thing is a parent letting you educate his child,” he said.

Ana-Maria Stancu from Romania also joined the discussion. She presented the so-called RoboHub – a real place where we started to do robotics and programming training. “Digital learning is a fundamental human right,” she said. “We’re teaching kids about smart cities, using microbits. Kids can put together little smart cities in half an hour. We already have smart robots,” she explained.

They did three courses for teachers on robohub. Introduced such a class in schools and with funding from Microsoft we have introduced robots in 26 schools.

“We went into these classes, showed them what to do and how to do it, and even the lowest-performing students did great,” she said, adding, “My dream is to have hardware for every single school, and whenever new technology comes out, to implement it in schools.”

“I am an advocate for empowering teachers in every way when it comes to their role and their view of teaching,” said Karol Gornowicz, CEO of EdTech in Warsaw. He explained that the right curriculum needs to be secured and this is subject to very flexible interpretation.

According to Gornowicz, teachers’ work should be restructured and they should be supported to focus on learning. Artificial intelligence can help in some processes that can be automated.

“We will see students coming to school not with answers, but with questions,” he predicted.

“We need to create an equitable education. We always boast about the titles of the best students, but we never think about absolutely everyone”, said Albena Spasova, Microsoft’s Education Manager for Central and Eastern Europe.

She explained that we need to create an environment where every child has access to education. Not every child has access to technology, not every parent can afford it, she clarified. She said children’s digital skills are very important, but to be used for learning. In her presentation, Spasova also noted children’s emotional intelligence, critical thinking, communication and acceptance of criticism among the important skills children need to learn.