Episode 19 – João Couvaneiro


João_Image1“Every kid has a smart phone in his pocket, most kids have iPads or tablets or devices like that, and with these mobile devices we can have access to the world,” says Mr. João Couvaneiro, a High School history teacher in Almada, Portugal and a 2017 Top 50 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize. “If you bring this technology to the teaching methods, you are using the tools that kids are using in their daily life. [Students] are hyper connected, they are doing lots of stuff online and we can use it for good or for bad… Bringing these devices to the teaching process, we are dealing with the tools that kids recognize and feel that are useful for all their learning.

“For instance,” João continues, “if we adults are at a dinner and speaking about a subject
that we don’t know that much about, we Google the thing we are speaking of. Why not do that in the classroom? I’m a history teacher … if I am speaking about the New Deal in the States, or if I am speaking about Mussolini, or if I am speaking about the European
construction, I can have access right now to lots of media that is available online, and that enriches my teaching process. So I can be more effective in the teaching I am doing if I am using all the resources available … so why shouldn’t we bring the technology that we have available in our daily life to the classroom? Students are very fluent with these technologies, teachers sometimes are not that fluent, but if teachers are comfortable with the idea of not leading the process all the time, but scaffolding the process, teachers can achieve much better results using these powerful tools.”

João_Image5Fast Facts about João

  1. Full name: João Couvaneiro
  2. Years teaching: 21
  3. Grade(s) taught: 7th-9th grade and college courses
  4. Current position(s) and location(s):
    • Mozambique – Teacher and Teacher Trainer (School in a Box)
    • Portugal – Deputy Director of the National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education (ANQEP)
  5. Current city of residence: Almada, Portugal
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Mentioned during our chat:
    • UNESCO: Encourages international peace and universal respect for human rights by promoting collaboration among nations.
    • School in a Box: A community digital engagement project developed by the Institute of Art Design and Technology (IADT), Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. The School in a Box project is a program in Mozambique that João helps to facilitate the advancement of local teachers in incorporating the use of film and digital technologies to enhance learning among a typically underprivileged community of learners.
    • Apple Distinguished Educator

Noteworthy Outtakes from João’s Chat


João Couvaneiro, a son of teachers, lives and breathes teaching – whether in his own history classroom in Portugal, or in schools in Mozambique that are often times a far distance to travel to and from, are overcrowded, and lack an adequate number of quality teachers.

Having been a former oversees territory of Portugal, Mozambique is also João’s birth place, and so when he was asked to join the School in a Box Project through UNESCO, he jumped at the opportunity to help train teachers on how to use technology to enhance student learning.

Listen in as João talks about how this work aims to support teachers in becoming comfortable with using iPads and setting up projection and solar energy components. Teachers are also trained to quickly and easily create lessons using these technologies. The focus entirely being on making learning relevant and meeting the needs of bringing students in Mozambique into the 21st century.

João_Image2João’s commitment to teacher development, in a still rather underdeveloped community, is evident in his description of the very real struggles teachers and students continue to experience.

“[Empowering] teachers right now in Mozambique and in Portugal, it means different things,” says João. “In Mozambique the wages of the teachers are very low, some of them struggle a lot just to arrive to the school because there is no public transport system, they have to take several private transports to arrive just in school. It is a very difficult reality. The school we are working in it’s a school with 5,000 students, so teachers don’t have good conditions to work… showing [teachers] different technologies, showing them that they can use different tools that we are providing them [allows them to] have access to all the resources that we have in Europe or the States.

“They can have, right now, access to the internet. They can use different apps to enhance their lessons, so they are bringing their teaching to the 21st century, and that is empowering teachers,” continues Mr. João. “…being a teacher in Mozambique right now, it is not that different from what teaching was 100 years ago, with a book, in front of the class, the students in a passive mode. Changing that allows these teachers to be a teacher of the 21st century… so we are allowing teachers in Mozambique to be teachers of the present.”

Here is a sneak peek at João, and the School in a Box Project, working on empowering teachers in Mozambique through the use of technology:

Along with his commitment to his work in Mozambique, João also shares about the work in his own high school classroom in Almada, Portugal. Additionally, he talks about what it’s like taking on all the projects that he does while also being a husband and father to a nine-year-old son and newborn baby boy. Here is a look at João’s students in Portugal: