Georgia‘s Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport pursues innovative teaching strategies, including virtual classes, chatbots, and game-based learning, to materialize its visionary concept of technology- empowered hybrid education. To enable this sweeping school reform, the Ministry selected Microsoft 365, and Teams, to help open a new chapter for digitally driven instruction.
“In the 21st century, digitalization of every aspect of human activity is of paramount importance. To have an all-round education, and be competitive upon graduation, students need access to digital resources and global expertise. Interactive materials, online courses and collaborative study groups, digital libraries, game-based lessons … these are all key components of the learning experience,“ observes Dr. Mikheil Chkhenkeli, Minister of Education.
In 2018, the Georgian Ministry announced a comprehensive “New School” reform to introduce digital education to all public schools in the country. Working closely with Microsoft and the government‘s Education Management Information System (EMIS), the Ministry rolled out Microsoft 365 to digitally revamp its educational environment. A series of training workshops were conducted through a network of EMIS specialists and Microsoft engineers to facilitate the adoption for teachers. The localization into Georgian of the Microsoft Teams interface and of all online classes, making them available to everyone, boosted usage from 750 daily active users to nearly 300,000 in three months.
Educational access for everyone, everywhere
EMIS provides an ongoing learning experience for all students, including those in remote areas, using Microsoft 365 to run virtual classes, prerecorded lessons, and real-time communication and collaboration. Altogether, 330,000 unique virtual classes were conducted. “Using Microsoft School Data Sync, we built a centralized portal connected to our school information system, and created personalized accounts for every student and teacher in Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), making it possible for them to reset a password and request account information regardless of their location, using just their mobile phone and personal ID number authentication,” says Dimitri Beridze, Director of EMIS. “It was also very easy to set up a technical support hotline at a distance,“ he adds.
Coupling culture with innovation
“The reform should transform the entire philosophy behind how subjects are taught. It should always foster curiosity,“ emphasizes the Minister. To that end, several solutions have been incorporated into Microsoft 365 apps, including a digital educational content library and a chatbot that supports Teams users and answers topic-specific questions. Moreover, a pilot Minecraft Education Edition program across 150 schools was launched to develop game-based lessons and stimulate student creativity, collaboration, and engagement.
“Psychologists and teachers agree that youngsters absorb material better when they have fun. Minecraft Education Edition captures the spirit of education as well as play. It incorporates a module where you can build virtual museums, castles, or historical monuments, sparking interest not just for your own culture but for the culture of others,” says the Minister.
The Ministry is doubling its efforts to deploy the Minecraft program in most public schools by September 2020. “Computer literacy has become a vital skill today. Our digital transformation is aimed specifically at preparing the new generation for the ever-higher technological environment that they will work and live in tomorrow,” concludes the Minister.
“To have an all-round education, and be competitive upon graduation, students need access to digital resources and expertise.”
Dr. Mikheil Chkhenkeli, the Minister, Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia