Katarina Veljkovic

First Grammar School of Kragujevac, Serbia

@kveljkovic76

Katarina  Veljkovic

Katarina is a Serbian programmer and teacher who has revolutionised how computing is taught in her school. Over 14 years in her secondary vocational school in Serbia, she has taught nearly 4000 students: an astonishing 30% have been inspired to study programming further, with about 80% of these in turn starting their own business or finding employment with notable companies.

At the beginning of Katarina’s career, her students typically considered programming abstract and complicated. The syllabus strictly followed a defined curriculum that lacked elements of innovation and creativity, and this led to a lack of motivation for both students and teachers. Katarina became acquainted with the research of Seymour Papert, who had demonstrated the method of learning through play in relation to tech subjects. As a result she began to encourage students to express their creativity in ICT lessons while also developing critical thinking skills. These lessons contained elements of real-world applications, such as choosing a job, designing a rover which collects data from the surface of a planet, and monitoring the condition of a beehive. She also uses robots as a central tool in her classes, changing the paradigm of IT education to a more participatory, practical model.

Katarina has also pioneered the teaching of ICT to children who are disabled or ill. One student who had insufficiently developed arms could not use an ordinary keyboard well, and struggled to keep pace with his peers. As the student could use the computer mouse, Katarina found a way to let him access a keyboard on-screen with the mouse. Additionally, she worked with other teachers to record their lessons, allowing the student to do the work later using the computer. Katarina has also created an e-classroom for students who cannot attend classes because of illness, meaning they can still participate in lessons.

Katarina’s model of work has received awards at the Innovative Teacher Forum in Paris and has been the subject of seminars. She has trained thousands of teachers on- and off-line on the topic of digital literacy. Some of her students have also placed in the top three in regional and national competitions, and she is the co-author of the accredited textbook for Informatics and Computer Science for the fifth grade in 1250 primary schools. In 2016, Katarina won the award for Best Educator in Serbia.

With the Global Teacher Prize funds, Katarina would create ROBOcamp, a series of workshops where teachers and students would gain basic knowledge and skills in the programming of robots as well as 3D modeling. There would also be a Centre for AR Learning at which teachers would create, develop and distribute material for AR learning for use all over the the world.