11November 2009 ORT Russia school joins international elite The ORT de Gunzburg High School in St Petersburg has become the only school in Russia to be chosen by Microsoft as a Pathfinder School. Bill Gatess technology giant chose 30 Pathfinder Schools this year from 110 applicants around the world to spearhead the expansion of its Partners in Learning network which was officially launched at its Innovative Education Forum last week in Salvador, Brazil. ORT de Gunzburg was chosen because it had demonstrated strong school leadership with a proven record of innovation and successful change implementation, a Microsoft spokesman said. The Pathfinder Schools have been chosen because of their vision for learning and have already started on the road to reform and improvement, he said. A vision for learning: ORT teachers can look forward to the support of Microsoft. At the Forum was ORT de Gunzburg Deputy Director Gregory Vodopyan. Together with colleagues Yana Orlova and Alexander Uvarov, Mr Vodopyan attended the Innovative Schools Programme Virtual University training session and the first in-person meeting for all Innovative Schools. It was an extremely interesting and useful experience, Mr Vodopyan said on his return to Russia. We learned first hand about new approaches to school education thanks to real team work. And we acquired some practical teaching techniques which we will certainly use at the school. Microsoft Partners in Learning is a 10-year, $500 million commitment by the company to help schools and teachers more effectively use technology to advance teaching and learning. The expansion of the Partners in Learning Innovative Schools programme with 30 new Pathfinder and 12 new Mentor Schools is the next generation of the Innovative Teachers Network (ITN), a global network expected to serve more than two million teachers and principals by next year. The network has evolved to include advances in social networking technology that will help teachers and school leaders do their jobs better by connecting them with one another in professional development communities. The network will give us access to practices which we can use to improve students 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, communication, contextual learning, creativity, and information and media literacy, Mr Vodopyan said. Over the next 12 months, Mr Vodopyan and leaders of the other Pathfinder and Mentor Schools in 35 countries will be encouraged to work together to rethink all aspects of school life, from the structure of the day and the use of technology in the curriculum to ensuring that teachers have the space and time to bring innovative practices to the classroom. Microsoft works in partnership with local ministries of education to implement the programme. ORT de Gunzburg has received thousands of dollars-worth of Microsoft software to help it organise its virtual learning environment, said World ORT Chief Programme Officer Vladimir Dribinskiy. What Microsoft is introducing to the school and what is welcomed by the educational establishment worldwide is a modern approach to the information environment for example, how to make the library more accessible, how to make textbooks and curricula available to students and parents at home, how to share educational resources between institutions, how to create a synergy of teachers experience and skills across national boundaries, Mr Dribinskiy said. This on-line space where students and teachers interact to facilitate learning is increasingly seen as a way to supplement and extend traditional face-to-face classroom activities. The fact that ORT de Gunzburg is the only school in Russia chosen for this role is further recognition of our leading position in education in the country, he said.