Educational innovation in Moscow

January 04, 2017

By: Claudia Struijlaart & Willy Wijnands

Agile in education Within the IT world, 'agile' has been the basis for various working methods for years. Agile literally means agile. In the work it becomes visible in a flexible setup and in the ability to quickly adapt to the situation or changing needs of customers Scrum is one of the possible methods for organizing your work 'agile'. Since 2012 we, Claudia Struijlaart, chemistry teacher at Sint Ursula in Horn and Willy Wijnands (founder eduScrum ) and Science teacher at Ashram College in Alphen aan den Rijn, have been working together to translate scrum into education, eduScrum . We do not only focus on the product to be delivered; the prefix edu indicates that we map out the process and the personal development of the student and teamwork. This development of contempaorary education to prepare young people for their future takes place all over the world: eduScrum is already active in Germany, Poland, Mexico, Guatemala and England, for example. In the spring we received a request from Natalia Gulchevskaya to come to Moscow. It has set up the ' Agile in Education' group in Russia . Her question was whether we would like to give a workshop and an eduScrum training to a group of about 30 Russian teachers, coaches and school leaders from different regions from St Petersburg to Kazan city. We went into that.


On Monday, August 13, the time had come. After a good flight we put the luggage in the hotel and we were allowed to work. The IT company Yandex (the Russian Google) supports Natalia in her work and organized an 'Agile in Education' mini conference where we gave the eduScrum workshop. After us, two Russian teachers told about a software application for education (similar to google classroom) made by Yandex. It was quite busy, as many as 200 people attended this meeting. During the tour, Yandex showed that it is a modern company that takes good care of the employees. They lack nothing, from roof terraces, deck chairs, board games, many plants to a traffic light that indicates the traffic in Moscow. Light on red: stay here, play a game and leave later!


Our three-day training started on Tuesday morning. The Higher school of Economics in Moscow facilitated these three days. At the start, all those present in the bus line-up were with a pen and paper ready to be taught by us. But that was not our intention; we work on the principle of 'learning by doing'. So everyone had to be taken out of their comfort zone right away, which was still a challenge. Because you are faced with a cultural difference and language barrier, you are not sure how it is received. But yes, 'agile' working requires agility, so we just started. We started with a game that introduced everyone to each other, followed by an inventory of all the questions the participants had brought to the training. These questions have been given a central place in the room. New questions could also be added later. This question wall became a place where contact was made. Many people had the same questions and were helped to answer each other whenever possible. For us, this place was useful to check at the end of the training if we had answered everyone's questions. We discovered that people in Russia also want to take the students out of the cinema posture and give them meaningful education, in which the outside world is involved. However, the same problems arise as in the Netherlands. Here, too, the government has strict rules, there are difficult or progressive boards and difficult mature parents. Sharing the questions and problems and solutions created a connection: a bond quickly formed. The joint search for answers to shape learning from the heart was started, with all the challenges that this entails. During the first day, people were mainly busy experiencing what is 'agile' and learning the basic principles of eduScrum to be. The confusion and chaos in everyone's head was great. The following two days, the participants started working on their own projects on the basis of information from day one. This could be done in groups or individually. Based on this work, the eduScrum method has been further explored these days. For example, attention was paid to the way in which group work can be assessed or to the way in which the personal development of a group and individual students is monitored. During the regular reviews, there was the opportunity for us to make adjustments and knowledge and experience were shared in the group. The sense of chaos slowly gave way to clarity and insight. During these three days we passionately worked together on new forms of education for Russia. We said goodbye to a group that worked together full of warmth and energy and shared knowledge to make good education for the Russian children. The participants were grateful, something that moved me to tears. It was a great privilege to work with this group, we also learned a lot!

We ended the week on Friday as a tourist. We were spoiled with a ride on the beautiful Russian metro and a great city walk with a guide who knew the places where the tourists did not go.