TSW #4 - Birgy Lorenz

17 November 2012


I am a PhD student from Tallinn University, Estonia (syllabus Information Society Technologies). I also am a teacher and ICT Development Manager in Pelgulinna Gymnasium and eSafety trainer/materials developer in Estonia in a program Safer Internet in Estonia EE SIC. I include to my accomplishment list - being part of developing National Curricula ICT syllabus, writing articles about e-safety, project management in TurvaLan project what has been awarded by Microsoft (2009); I have recieved Innovative Teacher Award and European Schoolnet (2010); 1st eLearning Award, in ‘Internet Safety’ category. I am also teacher of the year in Estonia (2011).

Moto: “The only limits in your life are those that you set yourself.” - Celestine Chua

What are your current projects related to technology?
Currently I am working with several projects and trainings about mobile learning with Elisa Eesti AS and writing my thesis articles about “teacher-student online relationship”, “developing internet safety strategies for schools” and “laypersons password challenges”. I have just got a grant from EITSA and this motivates to work even harder than before to prove the trust that they have had in me. As a volunteer I have taken the duty to build up the Network of Estonian Teachers of Informatics and Computer Science (www.eiops.edu.ee) where I’m also one of the founder and leaders.

What is the most exciting part of your work?
I am a workaholic (read: innovative teacher). Interacting with various people from Estonia or abroad inspires me. I like to promote Estonian best practises and also my co-workers doings as we may only be as good as are our friends and partners. When you have the opportunity to say something good and really mean and believe that it will shine your and life of others. At the same time I still like that my students who are ages form 5-93 are creative, eager to learn and express their ideas on how the world could be better and interesting place as they have found something good about technology or it has helped them to achieve some goals.

How did you discover and first become engaged with technology?
My first experience with a computer was with Estonian origin computer called JUKU. I was 11 years old and our parents asked the school to provide ICT extra lessons for us. We learnt to play games, program triangles and calculate biorhythms. After that I got a PC with a Swedish Windows 3.1. It had black-and-white screen and I liked to write, draw and play cards on that. To learn computers, I also used my mother’s materials where the ICT was taught never using a computer itself. In modern times, like now, it is something you can’t even imagine.

What is the biggest problem you have ever come across with technology?
Usually I see problems as challenges and I haven’t met one which I cannot cope with. Aside technology the most difficult is to be in two places once, but nowadays this problem can be solved with Skype in some extent.
I am not happy with how some Estonian educational databases are constructed. Their usability and user-friendliness is low and this is a problem for me as a user or administrator of these systems – this wastes time. And as I spend a lot of time of my day using the computer, the health issues of hurting back and eyes has also popped out. to deal with this issue you need time to rest and do sports.. so the solutions are there, but I have no time.

What was the most important thing that you’ve learned in the past year and how did you learn it?
I have learnt a lot from my students, trainings and research. The internet safety is a area that needs a lot of investigation and training as people still believe that when you post something online it will stay private. Also the issue of anonymity - people just don’t grasp the idea of that when you do something not nice everybody will know it was you.

I have had possibilities to work with lot of companies and meet people all over the world to see the similarities and differences of mind-set, environment and habits. I have learned that people are basically happy and interested what is going on in the world. It’s like you know there is always sun above the clouds (when it is not night) and Estonians also should let it shine through smiling more and being open to each other’s ideas and doings. And when you yourself start acting more friendly and nice, the world will mirror it back to you.

If you could change the world with technology, how would you do it?
Provide more inventions where we can travel faster from one place to another cheaper. At the same time it is needed to develop medicine to help us deal with diseases, economy to deal with rising population. Maybe we should develop more technologies, which help us to conquer new planets?

Does Estonian current education system support female techmakers?
Estonian educational system is supporting female students as techmakers very well. The door is open and you are welcome. You have the chance to develop your skills, speak what is on your mind, study abroad or study here – you are equal. Estonian women are wise and nice, they may develop their career or stay home with the kids and still work or learn part time if they like. They are always welcome to learn and be active and their opinion is valued. But it is always the person who is behind the gender – if you are hardworking and smart. If you are more average, then you just have to know your limits and how to bring out your best quality and life will be good also for you. You need to have a drive to work in ICT field and experience these doings, otherwise you are not happy. You must always follow your heart not only your head.

In the conclusion I suggest people to choose their career as it would be their hobby, what makes them elated and happy. Then you never have to change your main doings. In ICT area you also have to be a person who is easily getting along with changes and uncertainty as this area is evolving rather quickly. Today we have one skin and toolbar on Google and tomorrow it is completely different. You cannot get upset of that - you must be thrilled!
*Picture is taken by Maris Jürgens

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