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ECU plays host to Russian educators
(Apr. 16, 2002) — Sometimes more than a language barrier can impede collaboration between educators from different nations.
For instance, when East Carolina University presented an informal distance-education software overview for six Russian educators from Saratov State University and the Saratov Pedagogical Institute, the groundwork for a whizz-bang show was carefully laid. The computer screen danced with images and words as campus information technology experts described how students in faraway places can review study materials, receive assignments, submit their work for grading and converse with their professors, while using their computers at home.
The reaction was a surprise.
"We want to pay attention to all technologies," said Vladimir Strahov, a professor of psychology at Saratov State. "But we wouldn't use this system in my country very soon," he said, speaking through an interpreter.
Strahov explained: "Teaching is not only giving knowledge, but also making sure the student has the ability to apply it. Knowledge is not so good unless you can apply it," he said.
His colleague, Leonid Kossovich, a math professor, agreed and added that in Russia "we are not used to independent study."
"We prefer face to face," he said.
Such can be the woes of delving into the business of internationalization. And ECU is doing this very thing through a strategic initiative called the ECU-SSU Partnership Project in Education that involves the ECU professional schools and the College of Arts and Sciences and Saratov State University in Russia. Fortunately, whatever stumbling blocks may develop from cultural differences are far outnumbered by the opportunities to broaden educational experience for students at both campuses and to provide teaching faculty with the chance to interact with foreign scholars and engage in collaborative research and curriculum development.
Funded with a $300,000 grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, the ECU-SSU Partnership began in 1999. The project has brought about two dozen Russian educators and students to Greenville and an equal number of ECU representatives to Saratov. Six Russians visited ECU this spring and returned to Saratov in March. Saratov, located in south central Russia, has a population of nearly 1 million and is a16-hour train ride from Moscow.
ECU education professor Nancy Zeller developed the program based on the contacts she made during her Fulbright Fellowship in Russia in 1996 and 97. A year later, she began discussions with Dmitri Trubetskov, the rector of Saratov State, and her further work with members of the Saratov staff resulted in a funding proposal.
Zeller said the project was funded in part because of because of the movement toward a more open society in Russia.
The project is centered on four areas: special education, school administration, social work and child advocacy and library development and academic computing.
In special education, the partnership uses the strengths of ECU's special education program to address Russia's need for assistance in the identification and education of children with disabilities. School administration brings ECU's expertise in preparing school leaders to the task of developing a leader-training program with credentials for school principals in Russia.
Social work and child advocacy involves the ECU School of Social Work and Criminal Justice in developing advocacy programs and training teachers on how to address child problems. The last activity, involving library development and academic computing, fo
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