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Global Focus: Russian educators develop digital competencies based on the ISTE Standards

By Boris Yarmakhov, Ph.D.
March 22, 2019
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Computers have been used in Russian schools since the 1980s, first as curious machines that helped computer science teachers explain how information is stored and processed, and then as tools students could use to write code and solve sophisticated algorithmic tasks.

Thanks to governmental programs beginning in the early 2000s, computers and the internet have now reached virtually every Russian school.

Still, the Russian educational system faces a serious lack of teachers who are well-prepared to use technology in classroom and provide students with skills that will help them to thrive in the global economy of the future.

Another issue Russian educators are confronted with is the inequality in career development opportunities between eduators from big cities and those from rural areas who drastically lack adequate resources for professional development. As most teacher training in our country is still provided offline, educators who live in remote areas away from academic centers have limited professional growth opportunities.

To overcome these obstacles, a group of innovative Russian educators established the Russian Association for Technology in Education (NOTO), an ISTE affiliate, in 2017.

NOTO aims to create an open forum that brings together educators, governmental agencies and businesses interested in promoting edtech in Russian schools. We launch and join programs that help meet rigorous education standards, along with some that help bring the opportunities that modern edtech provides to every Russian classroom.

As the CEO of NOTO, I’m particularly concerned about providing Russian school teachers with full-fledged opportunities for professional development. That’s why we created an online platform, “Pathway to the Future,” that aggregates edtech courses for teachers. 

Teachers who complete the program acquire important skills they can pass along to their students. Along the way, they’ve organized more than 50 school hackathons and taught students to use design thinking and to work collaboratively using visual programming languages like Scratch, App Inventor and Alice. Due to their efforts, the Russian student Scratch-using community grew from 5,000 to 60,000.

The content of “Pathway to the Future” is built on the ISTE Standards and thus provides opportunities for developing and mastering digital competencies for teachers. Last year, about 10,000 teachers from 82 regions of Russia participated in the program.

To help teachers build their digital skills, we’ve also developed a certification program that allows them to master one of five chosen areas of professional expertise, such as Leader of Change, Educational Designer, Teacher of the Digital World, Teacher Maker and STEAM Teacher.

Educators who chose to develop their skills in those areas study online and offline with leading instructors in the field, participate in professional contests, collaboratively create learning materials and study international experience in the field.

In 2019, a group of the first 50 certified NOTO teachers will gather for a certification academy to gain hands-on experience in using digital technologies for innovative teaching.

NOTO is a young but fast-growing community of innovative educators. We hope that our organization, in partnership with other nongovernmental organizations, will facilitate change in education in our country. We believe that the role of teachers is crucial for this purpose, and all of our efforts focus on providing educators with the necessary skills and knowledge to transform teaching and learning in Russia.

Boris Yarmakhov is the CEO of the Russian Association for Technology in Education (NOTO) in Moscow. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and was a Fullbright Scholar at Harvard University. An experienced educator and researcher specializing in learning analytics and blended learning, Yarmakhov is also the author of three books.