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Dr. Polina Sabinin has long been interested in the use of educational games as a tool to teach math. This fall, the Bridgewater State University associate professor of mathematics was able to combine that interest with her fondness for the country of Georgia.
During a five-week trip, Dr. Sabinin facilitated eight workshops for 440 public school teachers across Georgia on how to use games to instruct children in mathematics and spatial reasoning.
The trip continued a collaboration that Dr. Sabinin, who grew up in Russia, has been forging the last two years with Georgian educators. The effort was inspired by the four months her family annually spent in the former Soviet Republic during her childhood.
“They really gave me and my family the happiest times in my life,” Dr. Sabinin, who is currently on sabbatical, said of the Georgian people. “When I grew up and entered the profession of education, I wanted to do everything I could to give back to the country and to Georgian children.”
The recent workshops “brought me as close as I’ve ever been to achieving that goal,” she said. Dr. Sabinin added that she was especially thrilled to see the Georgian teachers’ “excitement, curiosity, and openness to game-based learning.”
With Dr. Nicole Glen from the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood, Dr. Sabinin has co-led two travel courses in Georgia for BSU students – with a third set for next May. She also hosted Dr. Mikheil Elashvili, a professor from Georgia’s Ilia State University on a visit to BSU, and facilitated a Georgian doctoral student’s visit to conduct research on campus.
Additionally, Dr. Sabinin is helping Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Sciences develop a game-based learning initiative, and leading a BSU team in applying for a federal grant to allow undergraduates to conduct joint research projects in Georgia with students from that country.
In February, she and Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley, Dean of the Bartlett College of Sciences and Mathematics, will visit Georgia to meet with the president of Ilia State University and officials from the Ministry of Education and Sciences.
“During our time in Georgia, we plan to use the extensive work done by BSU and Ilia State University faculty as a springboard for developing a common vision for future collaboration between our two Universities,” Dr. Porter-Utley said.
Dr. Sabinin’s decade-long focus on game-based learning has included creating an online catalogue of education games, curating a game collection at BSU, and co-authoring a visual logic game published by Quebec-based FoxMind. She also facilitated the company’s donation of 3,000 games to Georgia last spring. During her upcoming trip, Dr. Sabinin will assist with a game-based learning exposition.
There is growing interest in game-based learning as educators recognize that the stress-free environment it offers is “conducive to learning,” Dr. Sabinin said. “It allows kids to be more willing to take risks, a requirement in the learning process.”
During her recent trip to Georgia, Dr. Sabinin also participated in a STEM festival, and with two BSU students – Mariah Fossella and Sean Carlson – took part in a multi-disciplinary research conference.
Kakha Khandolishvili, head of the Strategic Planning and International Relations Department of Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science, expressed his “deep respect” for Dr. Sabinin and BSU, and his appreciation for her contribution in support of Georgia’s game-based initiative, the donation of the games, and her recent workshops.
Back here at BSU, Dr. Wendy Haynes, Interim Assistant Provost for Global Engagement, echoed those kudos.
“Dr. Sabinin's work epitomizes what we mean by global engagement at BSU,” she said. “This sort of multi-dimensional sharing of ideas, passions, and commitment to making a difference in the world enriches all of us and fosters our students’ success during their time with us and throughout their lives.” (Story by John Laidler for University News)