What it is to teach in Austria. OR: Teaching at the HAK Steyr is my passion

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Education in Austria

Education in Austria is free for all children who begin with four years in primary School at the age of six, followed by another eight years at a vocational institution which prepares them for university or collage. There are three types of schools in Austria- state schools, private and private schools run by the church. Children are taught, reading, writing, arithmetic and how to search and process information, especially now with the use of technology in classrooms. In Austria we have a special system in the Primary School called "Einlehrersystem" which means one teacher teaches all subjects to the students in a given class. We also have schools for students with special needs where classes are smaller, and each child receives more one on one from their teacher. In these schools, students are taught with a different curricula and assessment as well. After the first four years of primary school, students can select between the following types of schools (all with different admission requirements): lower secondary school (Hauptschule), new secondary school (Neue Mittelschule), academic secondary school lower level (AHS Unterstufe). The Austrian system is rather unique with these different tracks of schools at the secondary level. After this "middle" schools, the students can choose between a wide range of school types dealing with a business (HAK), pedagogical (BAKIP), technical (HTL) approach or go on to the academic school high level (Gymnasium). So there is a wide range of different ways for each student to fulfill his expectations in education.

My teaching profession at the HAK Steyr

I teach "Applied Mathematics" and "Physical education" at the HAK Steyr, a business college in Upper Austria with about 600 students. They are aged between 15 and 19 and have to pass a final state exam (these days) at the end of school. This is my 9th year of teaching and since four years I am here in Steyr, a very modern and technic-affine school. All our students learn the basics and skills of Office Management in special lessons and therefore I can build my lessons on a strong IT-foundation. I do not have to explain the use of ICT a lot and can rely on my colleagues that every student knows who to use Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Every classroom is equipped with a PC and a projector, so I can make use of it every day, we have over 10 computer-labs, and I can use them once a week in every class. That'S important, cause I teach "applied mathematics" and the use of maths programmes is essential for that and the students are allowed to use these apps (like GeoGebra and Excel) for their tests and exams.

The problem in business college is, that we only have 2 or 3 math lessons a week, but should provide a lot of higher math education to our students (calculus, probability and statistics, financial math,...) So I have decided to concentrate on the applied mathematics, I do not mind that much if my students calculate things by hand/mind or with computer, but I try to shift the focus to the application of their results.

Since four years I rely completely on a stylus-based tablet-PC for my teaching and collect and share all things I do with my students via OneNote. (A short video of my work can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECBOAOa7dxI). Teaching without OneNote and GeoGebra is kind of impossible for me, as I use these tools everyday and I can achieve completely new didactic scenarios with it.

My fellow colleagues are also very into ICT and teaching without ICT is not an option for many of them. For example, one history teacher has just finished a interactive blog with her students for the important Austrian memorial year 2014 at http://gedenkjahr2014.wordpress.com/. They won first prize with it at a national contest raised by our president! About a third of our teachers are only "half-time teachers" and do have another job in very different categories. Some of them are lawyers, running their own business, financial consultant or even farmer. It is very good to have such a widespread background and our students have definitely a benefit from this!

We have over 300 PCs in our school and last year we took the chance to get some Surface RT for our students. In the next school year we try to establish a full 1-to-1 environment just for one class with stylus powered tablet-PCs. We rely on Office 365 for education since two years and every student is used to use their own email-address on a daily basis. I think, in Austria we are a very innovative and tech-savvy school and this is due to very enthusiastic teachers. Our students get a lot of chances to work on projects and use the tools they are gonna use in their future business life. I can say, that there are a lot of cool things going on in my school and I have a strong passion to teach in this school!

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