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Barbara Zielonka, who was one of just ten finalists in the $1m Global Teacher Prize, writes about embracing the power of technology.

In 2007, I earned my master’s degree from the University of Silesia, Poland. I knew that I would like to move abroad. I had visited Norway several times, and it felt natural to move there and start one of the biggest adventures in my life.

In August 2007, I found my first temporary position as an English teacher at Trysil High School. I then got a permanent position in Nannestad High School outside Oslo, in 2008.

I am a teacher of English in both vocational and academic classes in a school with a multicultural student population. There are highly motivated students, but also the ones who struggle with English and would like to drop out of high school as soon as possible.

During my first year of teaching, my lessons looked totally different to how they look now. I would rely too much on the course book and not use any digital tools or devices. I focused more on hard than soft skills.

In my 10 years of teaching though, I have developed strategies and techniques that help low-achieving students. Through my preparation of materials for teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP), I have been able to make vocational students enjoy learning English.

Overall, my biggest interest in the field of teaching is the use of innovative technologies.

In June 2011, I joined ‘eTwinning’ which is the online community for teachers and students in Europe. I met amazing teachers and we decided to create projects together.

Because my students have access to the internet and mobile devices 24/7, we can make global connections on a regular basis. I have noticed that students who participate in Skype sessions can develop their speaking skills dramatically. One of my favourite projects I designed for the students has been ‘Genius Hour’. Students who participated in this project had to create their own research topic, collect data online, contact experts via Facebook or Twitter, create online questionnaires and share their results with an international audience. Evaluations received after this project showed that students are capable of selecting their own goals and this way of working can be easily replicable in other classrooms all over the world.

The biggest global collaborative project I have done so far was called ‘Be the Change, Take the Challenge’. This involved over 101 schools from all over the world. The aim of this project is to enable students to develop their understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and collaborate with an international community of students via Skype or Google Hangouts.

All the global projects I have designed help me develop my students’ emotional and social capacities. Students who collaborate with others learn how to approach problems and listen to others in a conscientious way. While many teachers still use textbooks as their primary material, I strive to find innovative, creative and digital ways of teaching that address the diverse needs of my students.

Global citizenship, global leadership and educational technology have a clear place in my curriculum, and it is hard for me to envision teaching in the 21st century without the focus on these three pillars.