“Redefining Education In The Global Age”- A Lecture At AGBU Toronto

Yervant Zorian during his talk on AGBU’s educational programs, April 9, Toronto.

By: Talyn Terzian Gilmour

On April 9, AGBU Central Board Members Lena Sarkissian and Yervant Zorian gave a presentation on AGBU’s new and exciting educational programs entitled “Redefining Education in the Global Age”.

“AGBU has always been a major force in education in the Armenian reality,” said Lena Sarkissian. “From the early 1900’s, the educational goals of AGBU have been about building (individual) prosperity while building identity which converts into building communities,” she added.

AGBU has had a long-standing association with schools and programs providing the traditional brick-and-mortar style of quality education and cultural enrichment opportunities; its efforts have helped to promote the Armenian heritage and support the Armenian identity for many generations. However, during the past two decades, AGBU has evolved to provide its programs on a much more modern platform which not only allows for greater depth and breadth in education, but also to disseminate the materials much farther and wider than was possible from a traditional structure.

AGBU’s roster of innovative programs aims to address the global realities of the 21st century and the needs of our growing communities both in the diaspora and in Armenia.  Understanding that how we learn is just as important as what we learn, AGBU’s educational platform has integrated technology into its teaching methodologies allowing education to change and update as fast as the world around us. Keeping up with these changes means that AGBU is able to offer exciting and innovative new experiences while still embracing the organization’s mission.

Perhaps one of its leading programs, as outlined by Dr. Yervant Zorian, is the Armenian Virtual College (AVC).  AVC provides e-learners around the world with the opportunity to obtain Armenian education regardless of their age, country of residence, or knowledge level. In fact, as AVC’s founding president Dr. Zorian pointed out, one needs only to have the desire to learn as the program is offered in multiple languages of instruction including French, Russian, English and Spanish. Benefits of AVC include membership in a virtual learning community and the provision of a global space for cultural, educational and social ties.

Another innovation discussed during the presentation is AGBU Atlas – a virtual global access point which will deliver a collection of innovative multimedia education tools to foster and promote the learning of Armenian language, history, and culture. AGBU Atlas will be a “virtual learning hub” or electronic learning resource platform for disseminating information and promoting Armenian heritage to Armenians and non-Armenians around the world with content geared towards students, teachers, academicians, business professionals, and life-long learners.

The AGBU Central Board’s latest initiative involves a new partnership program being developed with Armenia’s TUMO Center for Creative Technologies for diaspora youth which is anticipated to launch sometime in 2020. The goal of the partnership is to create a unique educational experience integrating a custom blend of technology, design and Armenian content delivered through an afterschool or one-day program for school aged children and teenagers. The program will allow participants to connect with other Armenians and develop their sense of Armenian identity, all while utilizing engaging inquiry-based projects to develop technological and creative skills as well as Armenian language skills and experiences.

Both Sarkissian and Zorian emphasized that in today’s world, education is being tailored for the individual:  what they want to learn, how they want to learn, where they want to learn and when they want to learn.  Above all, that the experience of education is just as important as the material. 

When coupled with AGBU’s mission to uphold Armenian heritage through education, by using multiple approaches and platforms such as apps, eBooks, web videos, travel tools and more, AGBU can offer the learner a much more tailored and customized product to “Do Armenian” resulting in a more meaningful learning experience to “Be Armenian”.

In addition to the Armenian Virtual College (AVC) program, some of AGBU’s innovative virtual Armenian learning opportunities include: AGBU WebTalks, an online video series featuring the insights of leading scholars and artists on a wide range of Armenian topics; the Armenian Holidays & Traditions app which allow users to access recipes and learn about the expressions and conventions relating to popular Armenian holidays; and for children, the Im Armenia travel app which takes them on an exciting adventure to Yerevan and beyond, and the Gus on the Go: Armenian for Kids language app.

“The delivery of personalized education and the need for lifelong education has become a reality,” Sarkissian said, “we have to define what is an Armenian…identity is fluid and consists of multiple features, and to be Armenian, one needs to do Armenian. [AGBU] wants to develop educational experiences that provide personal growth, are meaningful and enjoyable, and transformative on the individual level as well as the community.