As part of continued engagement efforts with program alumni, the Edmund S. Muskie Professional Fellowship Program provided 12 alumni with funding to implement community development projects between March and June 2023. Alumni from 9 countries were selected for the first iteration of the Muskie Alumni Small Grants Program, with projects’ topics ranging from environmental and conservation issues, to youth projects, to photo and video projects. Lutfullo Tagoev, a 2020 alum from Tajikistan, implemented the project “Digitalizing the Future of Education in Tajikistan” for the Alumni Small Grants Program, and shares his experience with us below.
What was the project goal?
This project aimed to raise awareness of the benefits of online education and the introduce the basics of e-learning skills in Tajikistan by producing and disseminating animated video explainers in Tajik. Moreover, a workshop equipped English teachers with the basic educational technology (EdTech) skills to increase the effectiveness of their classes using technology. This small-scale project will have a significant and sustainable impact due to its “train-the-trainer” approach. To successfully implement this project, I drew on my experience in digital education and the connections I made with other alumni of U.S. government exchange programs.
What inspired you to create this project?
I pursued my master’s degree in Educational Technology at Syracuse University. With the help of the Muskie Program, I had my internship in Ohio, where I worked for Hyland. My job was to design and deliver online courses on credentialing systems for the company’s customers and partners. Working with content experts, educators, and partners to develop e-learning materials and online courses helped me practice my skills related to educational technologies in real life. Therefore, my experience and academic degree in this field inspired me to apply for this grant. Moreover, the Muskie Program always inspires me to take on more innovative initiatives. Today, I run the first instructional design company in Tajikistan and the Muskie Program played a huge role in getting me to the place I am now.
What have been some highlights of the project implementation period?
The highlight was working with twenty experienced English teachers and training them on educational technologies. The project also put out five creative videos that educate the community through social media. As part of the project, I collaborated with two programs supported by the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan, English Without Borders (EWB) and American Space Dushanbe (ASD). EWB helped me reach English teachers and ASD provided me with the facilities and space to organize the workshop. As English is one of the most widely spoken languages, I decided to equip teachers with tech skills to better deliver their classes. Additionally, due to the existing partnerships I had and limited resources, this project was best suited to English teachers.
How will this project change your community?
This project enables teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms and raise awareness of online education’s benefits. Another purpose of my project was to increase the number of English-speaking members of the community by using education technology. People who aren’t literate in English are becoming increasingly vulnerable in the world, and the role of languages is becoming increasingly important. People in Tajikistan mostly speak Russian and Tajik, but not English. Therefore, Russian-speaking media, books, and television are their primary sources of information and knowledge. As part of this project, I helped English teachers deliver more interactive classes to their students.
How has this project made you grow?
It helped me connect with English teachers and create lasting relationships. Also, working closely with the video production team enabled me to learn about creating animated videos and films. As an instructional designer, I worked closely with educators and content experts. It is very important for me to receive feedback and comments from teachers when I design and develop online courses and learning materials. Therefore, this project helped me connect with people who I will continue working in the future.