New training course began - “New Pedagogies in the 21 Century in Higher Education”

We have realized that this particular seminar its very effective in its methodology. We absorb new information and skills in very amusing and no painful way. We have enjoyed the lecturers and topics, which increases our motivation to learn new things. The focus is not on the accumulation of information but on creative thinking. We have the impression that we are   participating   in   some   exciting game, but   actually,   we   are   involved in   very serious   learning   process,   because   we   are   constantly   exposed   to   new   input.   We explore new practical tools and their application; listen to people’s experiences and opinions and got new ideas how to make learning processes more vivid and useful. It’s quite exciting to realize that different culture mixture contributes in creating new and fresh energy and is very inspiring.

During the first day of the course, we reflected on the factors affecting the pedagogy of the 21st Century. We have been thinking about the changes or improvements we have to undertake as teachers to approach our students, who are millennials. We came to the realization that we are teaching learners of the 21st century using the curricula of the 20th century in the institutions of the 19th century. The paradox need to be solved, for us to remain relevant and address the needs of the 21st century. 

We also learned about the Israeli Higher Education System, the structure, priorities etc. Since Israel has enough higher education institutions, the Council for Higher Education concentrates in the improvement of quality. The most important priorities are to improve the research infrastructure, innovation in teaching, promoting internationalization of higher education, increasing the amount of students in the STEM fields, integrating minorities into the Higher Education System and promoting women in academia.

We also learned about the cultural aspects of Israel such as military service, religion, diversity and access to higher education. The three-year compulsory military service prepares young people to enter tertiary institutions as mature adults with some useful soft skills that they can build on in their education. 

The other important aspect that we learnt was the priorities of the Council given to research especially in technology and sciences. Research is done for the purpose of knowledge transfer. Tech transfer companies are attached to the universities. This companies transfer all the research results into the economy, companies etc. This is not the case in most countries where research is treated as an academic exercise.

Financing research is a major challenge in most universities around the world. However, the case of the Israeli Education System is different and worthy emulating. About 1.9 million Euros is set aside by the government for research with the universities having the autonomy to decide on how to use it.  

Quality assurance is critical in universities and the Council of Higher Education in Israel have set standards for accreditation of universities, programs, courses and lecturers. Teaching and Learning its also part of the framework for accreditation, this is why the Israeli Council for Higher Education ordered all the universities to have a Teaching in Learning Center, to assure quality in teaching, curricula and assessment.

It also came as a surprise to learn that Israel was rated as number one start up nation with many new innovations, which has boosted the economy of Israel despite not having natural resources to depend on. We have realised that human capital is the greatest resource any country can invest in.

Among the many achievements, Israel have attained include lowering the dropout rate to about 4% for school going children, second highest number of graduates in the world, increased life expectancy to about 83 years, efficient water supply despite the area being a desert through the use of technology, High military tech and efficient medical systems. It is simply amazing and quite unbelievable. 

The course gave us also some insights into the use of technology for education, such as the e-platform "Edmodo". Edmodo is a tool to approach and interact with students in a more direct way by organizing e-groups in the platform. Through Edmodo one can share documents, links, assignments, videos etc. which foster autonomous learning.
We were exposed to different approaches to learning which we think are quite exciting. We were encouraged to exchanging ideas with facilitators, peers and students, asking questions during the training was as result of reflective thinking stimulated by presenters forcing us to ask such questions. Group assignments encouraged collaborative learning and the exchange of ideas.

Video recordings, hands-on practice in the computer laboratory and educational tours gave us the opportunity to learn in diverse ways.

From the learning sessions we identified that the following to have helped us to learn:
• The possibility to ask questions every time.
• The combination of different methodologies.
• Visual materials.
• Statistic information.
• To think outside the box
• Mutual support of the group.

The main challenge that we faced which we could term as a barrier to learning is the accent of the English language due to the different backgrounds but it also added fun to our learning because we were able to appreciate our limitations.

We may conclude by stating that the learning experiences have helped us to change our mind set and to think out of the box: that is the mind of the 21st century educator and learner. We have also appreciated the value of experience and background of others. We have discovered that the will power to survival and taking risks is what has made Israel and its society to be where they are now. The learning encounter has given us the opportunity to be more flexible and understand that what unites us is more important than our differences. We are one despite our cultural differences, race, or backgrounds: we are educators and we face the same challenges.

In our quest for learning, we are anticipating to learn and discover more real methodologies or real tools/instruments in order to improve the quality of teaching and how to apply new tools, which are unconventional and creative. We desire to import ICT technologies of Israel to our institutions in order to make a difference to improve education standards in our countries and contexts. 

Yevgen, Edward, Luisa, Tatjana & Ku Kyi

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