3 March 2021
When schools switched to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tatiana Matokhina, a teacher from Kyrgyzstan, realised that she would have to make serious changes to her teaching style.“I thought the online format was not for me - I like to teach in person,” says Tatiana. But with live training now impossible, she took to the internet to find help upgrading her online teaching skills.
Tatiana, an experienced coach and teacher training specialist at the Center for Educational Assessment and Teaching Methods in Bishkek, explains that “studying advice from well-known online trainers on my own was just not enough to fully master the skills.” She and her colleagues were preparing to deliver training to 30 teachers from across Kyrgyzstan as part of a UNESCO project to equip them with new teaching approaches. They realised they too needed high-quality training themselves on how best to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in their work, so they decided to find support.
Since 2018, UNESCO has been working with partners, including the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Education and Science and the EdNet Quality Assurance Agency, to provide an online curriculum for educators in Kyrgyzstan known as Education for Sustainable Development – Training of Trainers, or ESD-TOT for short. The programme is supported financially by the Republic of Estonia and aims to help teachers improve the quality of teaching through ICT by providing content, resources and advice for Education for Sustainable Development.
Growing importance of online teaching skills
The project took on an even greater significance as school closures and the shift to online learning began to affect teachers, students and pupils across Kyrgyzstan. UNESCO staff and their partner tutors began adapting the programme for these new and unique circumstances. Tatiana and her colleague enrolled on one of the project’s specially arranged training courses in Summer 2020. In the same month, 58 more teachers and trainers from schools and universities in Kyrgyzstan also learned crucial new skills and techniques from ESD-TOT.
Tatiana has been a trainer for over 15 years and has experience across several different spheres, including expert knowledge in ICT competency for teachers. She is clearly no novice in the field, but the unique challenges of the pandemic meant that even she came to the course with tough questions for the trainers. Tatiana explains that in the beginning, “problem number one was just a lack of familiarity with the online training platforms [so] organising online training was very time-consuming at first.” She also faced issues with trainees’ concerns about appearing on camera, and a lack of suitable equipment.
“We learned how to overcome [these] psychological barriers,” says Tatiana, explaining that thanks to ESD-TOT she has now been able to introduce her trainees to the possibilities offered by apps like Zoom and Google Forms. “Since completing the course, my colleagues and I have conducted five 3-day training sessions reaching 55 teachers, and two training webinars for about 60 teachers and university lecturers. I also participate in online conferences, where I moderate individual sessions.”
Wide impact of ESD-TOT
The impact of Tatiana’s participation doesn’t stop there. She and her colleague passed on the skills and knowledge they gained from the course while they were training primary school teachers in implementing Education for Sustainable Development. Tatiana proudly adds that three participants from that course went on to become winners in a competition for best teaching practices.
And the knowledge and skills Tatiana and others gained from ESD-TOT are spreading too, just as the programme intends. “My colleague and I conducted three training-of-trainers sessions with 28 teachers and university lecturers on strategies for reading comprehension in primary schools,” she continues. “As a result, these trainers then organised and conducted a further 18 courses of their own, reaching 473 teachers from 36 schools.”
Silver linings for the future
While she has no doubt that the pandemic has brought untold suffering and hardship to millions, Tatiana can also see that even amidst the COVID-19 cloud there can also be silver linings. “To quote a Russian proverb,” she says, “if it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. If there had been no pandemic, it might have taken us teachers another 20 years to master ICT. It forced us to solve the problem quickly and master new technologies.” And, though the pandemic has brought great hardships, Tatiana believes the move online bodes well for future learners: “modern technologies are effective tools to develop critical thinking, research skills, autonomy and creativity in students as well as in ourselves.”
Tatiana and her colleagues know there is more work ahead, but she is positive about the future and how ESD-TOT has helped equip her and her trainees for the changes in store. “I think education in the future will come in different forms, online and offline, so you have to constantly work on yourself and improve your skills.”
She adds, on a personal level, that “the training gave me confidence in my own future and a good idea of where I should aim from here.”