TeachUP interview series: Aivar Hiio

Aivar Hiio is working as a project manager for the Innovation Centre of HITSA - the Information Technology Foundation for Education, the Estonian partner in the TeachUP project.

What are, in your view, the main challenges teachers have to face in their new roles?

Well, first they really need to understand and accept their new role. Without this and the confidence to use modern teaching practices and technology, we will not be able to see a change in all our schools. While Estonian teachers have embraced the change, we still have work ahead of us to help teachers complete this transition.
Teachers do amazing work every day but it is a challenge for them to keep up with changes happening in the job market and equip students with the skills that future employers expect. The pace of change is very quick and we all need a bit of help to keep up with it. We at HITSA do our best to support teachers in the smart use of modern technology and try to keep them up-to-date on teaching methods. From our point of view, a key challenge for teachers is keeping up. Keeping up with both students' and employers' expectations as well as with technology.

How can Teach-UP help to overcome these challenges?

Overcoming these challenges is at core of TeachUP.

On an institutional level, HITSA is naturally interested in the results TeachUP will provide on the cost effectiveness and efficacy of online teacher training through online courses. Online courses are a way to provide training to many more professional as well as student teachers. We are particularly interested in moving towards a more cost effective way of carrying out teacher training. We are looking to meet this challenge through making evidence based decisions on how to proceed. 

On the school level, TeachUP will provide courses on four key themes regarding teachers' new roles. We at HITSA are anxious to see what Estonian teachers will make of the courses and use the course content following the end of the project.

Could you tell us a few words about your work, and how your organisation's experience contributes to Teach-UP?

I work at HITSA, which is an Estonian acronym for Information Technology Foundation for Education. Although some teachers in the country consider us as technology evangelists, I cannot agree with this. We help provide the IT sector with competent specialists and provide the national education system with most of the digital services they use daily. At HITSA's Innovation Centre, we promote the smart use of ICT to teachers and provide training to thousands of teachers yearly.
The work here is really gratifying! Some of the solutions we are developing and introducing in the education system honestly make me want to go back to school. An average Estonian spends around 20 years in the education system starting from kindergarten to higher education. I am grateful to be playing a part in making these years of learning more fun, engaging, effective and more relevant to students and their future careers. This knowledge is the fuel for continuing to work at HITSA and the motivation for working in education for both teachers and myself. I am glad that European Schoolnet and TeachUP as well as our project partners have the same goals. Making teachers more comfortable with their new roles and have them engage students on a deeper level is a common ambition.

And, finally, three words that best describe you?

This reminds me that we did a profile test at a work outing recently. They handed me the results after answering what felt like hundreds of questions. I was glad to see that I fit in at an Innovation Centre – analytical, creative and structured. I am not sure about the last one though.