The unavoidable prerequisite to use any e-solution, is a good internet connection. More than 90% of Estonians use the internet on a regular basis and all Estonian schools were connected to the internet during the Tiger Leap program 20 years ago.
All Estonian schools were provided with the Internet in 2001 already and Estonia continues upgrading the digital infrastructure of schools.
Estonia’s efforts to leverage technology for teaching and learning began in the 1990s with an ambitious Tiger Leap program to build up schools’ technology infrastructure, including providing internet access to all schools nationwide. By 2001, Estonia had already met this goal.
For the development of the digital infrastructure of schools, the state has provided funds for a high speed Internet access, modern equipment and digital learning tools to reach the educational establishments.
Throughout years Estonia has maintained a parallel focus on building digital literacy skills among educators and students. One example of this is school-based educational technologists — experienced teachers and technology integration specialists who support teachers in schools. Their focus is on how digital resources can best be used to enhance the curriculum.
The 2013 ‘Survey of schools: ICT in education‘, by European Schoolnet, found Estonian schools students use of their own laptops and mobile devices in education is above the EU average.
In 2014, it was decided that BYOD – bring your own device would be the Estonian way. No big, country-wide device roll-outs will occur. For students who don’t own devices, there’s always one set of commonly bought devices in schools.
“BYOD is seen as an example of efficient management of resources,” describes Future Classroom Lab’s Guide for School Leaders Estonian model. “The schools would like to make more use of technology but existing computer classrooms are insufficient and the schools lack funds to buy mobile devices for all students. Also, any devices purchased need replacing every two or three years. However, most students already own at least one device and, therefore, making educational use of these is seen as sensible. Also, the students are already in the habit of using their smart devices which is helpful.”
To use the possibilities of technology wisely at school, it is good to have “a translator” – someone who can find suitable solutions for the field of education. In Estonian education system, an educational technologist is like an interpreter between teachers and the field of technology. They are experienced teachers who have completed a master’s degree to become technology integration specialists and have been working at Estonian schools since 2005. With the COVID-19 crisis, their role became even more important.