Today, Moscow has turned into a real rallying point for innovations. A special educational environment is shaped here for future generations to grow into successful professionals. Colleagues from all over Russia and abroad visit Moscow, as there is a lot to learn, a lot to adopt here. A major piece of evidence in support of that is a recent forum City for Education, which saw unprecedented attendance and concentration of cutting-edge technologies and solutions in the education sphere.
One of them, Video-360, both storms into our daily life and provides schools with outstanding opportunities to vary lesson activities and increase students’ engagement. How this state-of-the-art tech solution is implemented in the Moscow education system is the topic of our conversation with Head of Digital Technologies Development Department of Moscow Center for Human Resources Development, Julia Fedorova.
Julia, it was Moscow Center for Human Resources Development that devised the project of introducing the Video-360 technology into the schooling system of the capital. A year ago, we started talking about this video novelty with Head of the Center, Aleksey Rytov. What has been achieved so far?
“We have designed a hundred excursions for two hundred lessons, combined into seven interdisciplinary series. Within these series, each excursion may be a part of a lesson in one subject or another. By way of illustration, if we are speaking about the first space satellite launch, it might be applied both in physics and in history. As a matter of fact, we were trying to choose themes that are topical for teachers of different subjects but that also convey the same knowledge to children. We combined them within the areas of universal knowledge, such as space exploration, ecology, biodiversity, science, etc. Consequently, around 200 lesson scenarios of Moscow Electronic School can include our excursions. We have done this work, linked each lesson to MES, tagged subjects and key syllabus elements – it is all available.”
It is available for Muscovites. What about those people who would like to use your resources in the regions with no access to MES?
“Our organization works with other Russian cities and towns a lot; teachers and school management come to visit. They all set this question: “How can we watch it in our schools with our kids?” That’s why we provide two convenient access modes to our excursions. The first one is via YouTube, where all our interdisciplinary series are divided into separate excursions. However, if the Internet connection is slow or the number of devices available at the lesson is not sufficient, there is the other mode, allowing one to download a free player app and excursion videos. They will be stored on the smartphone, independently of the Internet connection. Currently, any smartphone model, no matter how simple it is, with minimal memory capacity, allows storing all our materials, using the menu and operating the film interactively – it is all very convenient.
The Video-360 project format is versatile and suits all kinds of learning activities: educational trips or demonstrating rare physics and chemistry experiments, which can be conducted with the help of unique equipment only present in restricted research centers. It can be basically anything because using such videos is very easy for both teachers and students; it is like a conventional player. It can be watched on any device, from an ordinary computer to a smartphone to VR headsets of any configuration, including the most basic ones, made of cardboard and used with a smartphone.
Today even the most sceptical pundits have nothing left to say against the films and reports created in the new format of Video-360. Are there no downsides to this at all?
“What downsides might there be? Theme journeys and educational excursions help children to get to spots hardly reachable or even impossible to reach in reality, to see and thoroughly examine objects which are impossible to visit in person but are highly valuable in terms of the educational worth.
You know, there has been no criticism even from the “old school” teachers, who have difficulty keeping up with the times. Yet, there was a catch while training teachers: some of the older ones were wary of using Video-360 at their lessons, as they were afraid of … the responsibility. The technology itself appealed to them, but the costly equipment put them off; they didn’t want to be accountable for its safekeeping, to deal with complicated settings and so on. But when they realized the technology is accessible and easy to use, only requires a smartphone, which nearly every student has today, and a special headset that can even be made of cardboard by oneself, their attitude changed at once.
It goes without saying that kids are excited. Using a VR headset, students don’t just watch a video created with some new technology, they are immersed in it, they experience incomparable effects of being present and included. The format is versatile, suitable for all activity types, and its merits are evident for any teacher concerned with their students’ achievements.”
This is, in fact, fascinating for students due to new impressions – journeys, films… But what about the actual learning outcomes? How successful have you been in integrating this content into the existing syllabus and putting it to use?
“It is more than just a supplement to the learning process. Virtual excursions with Video-360 provide extraordinary opportunities for educational activities in various subject areas. First of all, this creates a special interdisciplinary educational environment that helps children to see the big picture, applying metastrategic knowledge. They start to see the world as a whole instead of studying separate subjects. What’s more, the teacher gains an opportunity to compile up-to-date lessons to help achieve learning outcomes efficiently as a result of integrating various subject areas, immersing students simultaneously into the environments of historical, natural, scientific, architectural educational value.
No less important is the opportunity for every child to travel to fascinating places provided by Video-360. The system is invaluable for children that have to be sheltered from the outside world for some reason, for children with certain medical conditions.
As for the integration of virtual excursions into school syllabus, it is fully operational. Excursions are designed specifically to be constituent parts of lessons in various subjects, such as physics, chemistry, geography, and all the rest are no exception. They are accompanied with accurate data and a carefully edited text, delivered by a presenter or an expert, all helpful for a teacher willing to delve deeper into the topic.
Today, Moscow Electronic School is a project that has absorbed the best of both worlds: traditional education and digital technology. This is what allows Muscovites to teach and learn in a new way. What part does Video-360 play in MES?
I would say Moscow Electronic School is a megaproject with outstanding opportunities for improving the learning process and sharing teachers’ experience. The project is shaping the Russian education of tomorrow, so to speak. For the time being, it is happening within the Moscow education system, but it is possible for others to adopt this experience. We are all for helping with that. Now, MES contains dozens of educational films in the Video-360 format for lesson planning and delivery. All of them are combined into series of theme journeys, as I’ve already mentioned, which ensures a convergent approach to studying, helping students to develop integral perception of newly acquired knowledge, not limited to one subject.
What new topics have you covered in the video format recently? Let’s go over them, because we have readers in other regions, they would want to know something about it.
Multi-confessional Moscow is a series of nine excursions covering religious and ethical principles of the peoples of Russia. In reality, it would be impossible to take a whole class of students up a bell tower; there just wouldn’t be enough room. Meanwhile, a video lesson shows specifically the places a child would never visit, things that are talked about but unavailable. Speaking of Orthodox Christianity, it includes an excursion into the altar, a priest’s talk on the ceremony of making communion bread and so on.
Another series is Electric Power of Moscow, which covers all stages and construction of the capital’s electric power complex, its management, energy production and distribution. In one journey, you can see several eras, from the establishment of the first Moscow electric power station to modern projects on partial use of alternative energy sources to produce electricity. You will see the electric system control center of Moscow and the Moscow region and even a simulated accident drill. Textbooks do present such information, but a tiny printed scheme looks unreal until you find yourself actually standing on top of a nuclear reactor lid. That’s when all values come together.
After a series of environmental excursions, we faced an enormous demand for ecology-related themes from teachers. As they see it, Video-360 technology is best suited for travelling outdoors. Our city has sufficient opportunities to demonstrate its biodiversity to the full, show the complexity and diversity of its ecosystem. We were in a position to provide a great number of school lessons with high-quality materials, and we were happy to do it. The best scientists, biologists of Russia worked on this trip. It also contributed significantly to the quality of lesson resources. Though, all MES resources are of an equally high level.
Our journeys show that Moscow is a city for education, that subject skills and knowledge can be acquired through the objects present in the capital. Everything can be learnt through them.
No matter how great a project might be, there is always room for improvement. Do you take into consideration teachers’ opinions on the new video technology?
Absolutely. The project is constantly developing, and teachers’ feedback is of crucial importance to us. We regularly carry out professional opinion surveys and analyze the collected data. These studies give a clear picture of teachers’ expectations. Their high estimation of virtual excursions was a pleasant surprise. Over 90% of all respondents awarded the work 9 to 10 points out of 10. Getting such recognition from the academic staff, traditionally very critical of the content side of any learning materials, is a worthy achievement.
What other benefits of virtual journeys have teachers emphasized?
Those are being illustrative and spectacular, the opportunity to see complex processes, invisible to the human eye, in detail, to model any processes and phenomena. Besides, they’ve noted the unique ability of Video-360 to engage students and focus their attention. It is learner-centered and blocks external distractors. Certainly, teachers haven’t missed the opportunity to increase the amount and richness of information and, consequently, the efficiency of the lesson.
There is one other thing I’d like to emphasize. It’s really important that teachers have mentioned how useful Video-360 is for developing interdisciplinary and convergent approaches to education. It indicates that teachers and school management staff are beginning to explore the world of convergent ideas. Obviously, one who does not truly believe in an idea cannot convey it to others. So now, we have come a step closer to getting our school leavers ready for life and labour in the era of convergence, in the world where the lines between scientific and technological knowledge are going to get blurred.
What is to be expected of the project in the near future?
Definitely, new theme journeys in the Video-360 format are. In addition, we are going to insert stories, created with a new type of technology, into our conventional video products, designed to assist teachers. We’ll add them to the TV journal The World Around, each episode of which contains several educational stories and animations teachers include in their own lessons. We’ll also add them to the programme Modern Lesson School, where teachers can watch the best lessons designed by their colleagues and discussed by experts. The can also find an almost complete set of instructions to these very lessons in MES: teacher’s notes, assignments, videos on lesson planning and preparation. I’m sure that integrating our conventional products with Video-360 technology will have a profound effect on the development of the Moscow education system and up-to-date teacher training.
All city projects are pointed in the same direction and turn teachers into modern day citizens of Moscow. What could be an unexpected discovery for a teacher in the recent past, is now part of the job, an additional tool to support students during the lesson. And we are contributing to this.
For several years now, we have been creating video content that has become an integral part of supporting teachers’ professional development and that is used in teacher and education management staffl training. Hands-on experience of applying current information, computer and media technologies is becoming a constituent part of Moscow teachers’ professional style.
We dispel our teachers’ fear of not coping with new technologies quickly and efficiently.
Source: Large Moscow Newspaper
October 9, 2018