"Digital renewal of education: on the way to a smart school"
Seminar by Professor of the Institute of Education of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Leading Research Fellow of the Axel Berg Institute of Cybernetics and Educational Computing of FRC CSC RAS, Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences A. Yu. Uvarov at the Institute of Education of the National Research University Higher School of Economics
Schools are stuck in the era of "early informatization": why the digital transformation of education is moving so slowly, and what to do about it
At the Tuesday seminar of the Institute of Education of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, they recalled the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU and jokingly quoted Zhvanetsky: “Why look ahead if all the experience is behind us?”. Indeed, the origins of the digital transformation of education, which is much talked about today, can be found back in 1985, and if we look critically at these almost 40 years as a single process of digital school renewal, we can draw many conclusions and even forecasts. They were shared by Professor Inobra Alexander Uvarov, an expert who dealt with the problems of introducing digital technologies into education back in the 80s. The seminar was timed to coincide with the anniversary of Alexander Yuryevich, on which we heartily congratulate him.
“An order came to us from the RONO: to send one teacher to courses in informatics and computers. We gathered in the teachers' room and cast lots. It fell out to me. I cried and cried and left.” The speaker cited this quote in the presentation, it conveys the atmosphere in which new technologies came to the Soviet school. The resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR, adopted at the dawn of perestroika, brought informatics lessons to the school, although there were no computers themselves yet. For many, this caused misunderstanding and opposition.
“A discussion arose in a group of experts of the USSR Ministry of Education on how to explain to people why computers are needed at school. The proposal to describe what the school should be like in the information society was rejected. We thought that parents, teachers, the public will not understand this, since people do not know anything about the possibilities of digital technologies, and very few people have seen computers themselves".
Uvarov Alexander Yuryevich, Leading Expert of the Laboratory of Innovations in Education
A full member of the APS of the USSR, Mikhail Nikolayevich Skatkin, who in 1974 led the forecasting of the development of the school until 2000 and proposed at the academy meeting to start research on the use of computers at school, was also not understood by his colleagues. In 2010, a book by Alexander Asmolov, Alexei Semenov and Alexander Uvarov "Russian school and new information technologies: a look into the next decade" was published, where the authors predicted the inevitability of the digital transformation of the school and the personalization of education. According to Alexander Uvarov, the opinions of the readers of this book were divided at that time: some believed that the obvious things were written in it (personalization of learning, “for all the good things”), someone that it was fantastic: after all, many schools don’t even really have computers and the Internet.
The idea of the digital renewal of education, which was proposed in the book by Asmolov, Semenov and Uvarov, is still applicable today. Individual schools are moving along the path of digital renewal at different paces and are at different stages of this process. The first step is computerization. Here, schools concentrate on solving the problems of equipping with technology, teaching computer science and using computers to solve routine tasks (preparing plans, reports, etc.). The second stage is early informatization. Some teachers are beginning to use digital technologies in the study of certain disciplines, show presentations, and conduct automated control. The next step is mature informatization: a developed digital environment is used to solve the problems of management, training, access to educational materials and services. It was in such schools that they managed to do something intelligible at a distance when the pandemic began. And, finally, the stage of digital transformation is the transformation of the educational process, the transition to a personalized and effective organization of learning.
“Education that emerges as a result of digital transformation can be called smart education, and a school can be called a smart school. This acronym began to be used by Korean educators and is widely used today. SMART education stands for Specific (well-defined), Measurable (measurable), Achievable (actually achievable), Relevant (corresponding to the point) and Time-bound (corresponding in time) education".
Uvarov Alexander Yuryevich, Leading Expert of the Laboratory of Innovations in Education
Smart school is the result of the digital transformation of education. She:
— ensures the full personal development of EACH student and the demonstrative achievement of all the required educational results,
— moved from classroom-based to personalized-productive organization of the educational process,
— has become a learning organization that systematically develops the educational environment (physical, virtual and social) and ensures the continuous professional development of teachers,
— has become a full-fledged cultural center of the local community.

According to the results of monitoring the digital transformation of education, today about 12% of schools are at the stage of computerization, 43% are at the stage of early informatization, 27% are at the stage of mature informatization, and only 18% are starting digital transformation. Moreover, this is an optimistic assessment of experts “with their most condescending view”, according to another method of evaluating schools at the stage of digital transformation, an order of magnitude less. These results are comparable with the results of measuring the information and communication (IC) competence of ninth-graders (such a tool was developed by Inobra psychometrics): more than a third — at a level below the basic one, every fifth has IC competence at zero.
Why are schools moving so slowly? There are many obstacles, but generally speaking, there is not enough transmission link between the mass school and those developments that have already proven themselves in the practice of individual schools and teachers. So, in particular, at the seminar they analyzed the experience of school No. 550 in St. Petersburg - ten years ago it became a platform for an experiment in the introduction of digital technologies. Being neither a lyceum nor a gymnasium, she achieved impressive results and is very popular among St. Petersburg families.
“During the experiment, there were many funny stories. To tell a story about one case: the school was suspected of rigging the results of the VPR. City methodologists have standard assessment methods by which they identify where they "draw" the results of the check. The school strongly falls out of the overall picture - which means that this is a juggling, because everything should be “within”. And although the methodologists knew about the ongoing experimental work, they did not believe that such results could be achieved in a regular school".
Uvarov Alexander Yuryevich, Leading Expert of the Laboratory of Innovations in Education
Many developments leading to digital transformation are already spreading at the word-of-mouth level, but it is far from mass application. “In Russia, we have developed solutions that provide evidence for the formation of algorithmic thinking in students, and they can be widely distributed in kindergartens and schools,” says Alexander Uvarov.
Three groups of scenarios for the further development of the school. The first is inertial: "We continue what we are doing." There is an increase in the bureaucratization of the school system, which leads to the erosion of the school. The second is divergent: a focus on the use of digital technologies for education outside the school walls. Dissatisfied families increasingly receive educational services outside of school (tutors, etc.). This is partly what is happening now (take the same services for preparing for the USE, distance courses, etc.). This is happening not only in Russia. For example, recently in China, the authorities limited the paid provision of distance learning services to schoolchildren in order not to increase inequality in education. The third scenario is transformational: the school becomes the center of the local community, where lifelong learning takes place.

To implement this scenario, serious methodological developments, personalized learning support portals, and new models of teachers' work are needed.
“We need to support those who are already on this path and can demonstrate to everyone that our schools are able to ensure the full personal development of EVERY student and the demonstrative achievement of all the required educational results”.
Uvarov Alexander Yuryevich, Leading Expert of the Laboratory of Innovations in Education
Today we are able to answer the following questions:
— What is the digital renewal of the school and what are its stages?
— What is the digital transformation of education?
— What is a personalized, result-oriented learning organization?
— What is a smart school?
— Where are Russian schools on the way to the digital transformation of education?
We can, based on real examples, demonstrate how a personalized-effective learning system is built in practice.

But all the main work on the digital transformation of the school is still ahead.
Full video recording of the seminar