It’s a regular school day. In a classroom with high-tech equipment, English lessons are taking place via videoconference. In another classroom, students are coding a prototype that uses MicroBits to automatically turn on classroom lights when it’s too dark. On the playground, some students are flying a drone to take pictures of the school’s roof in an effort to discover why rain water has been flooding a nearby orchard so they can come up with a solution.
This is a snapshot of a typical school day at public schools in Uruguay, a result of a government policy implemented in 2007 to reduce the digital gap and leverage technology for learning. Let me introduce you to Plan Ceibal.
Plan Ceibal is a government initiative with a focus on technology inclusion in education, implementing 1:1 learning and building education projects on top of it. As a result, every student and teacher in the public school system, from first grade through middle school, receives a tablet or laptop provided by the government. Every school – rural and urban – has internet connectivity and is equipped with videoconferencing technology so students can participate in a range of activities.
But providing technology and making it available to everyone was just the first step. Content development, education projects and teacher education are crucial for technology to impact learning.
Computers are motivating for students, but pedagogical content is also necessary. With that in mind, Ceibal provides 75 educational apps and four platforms – two math platforms, a learning management system for teachers and students, and a digital library for all citizens.
Many projects are implemented at the national level. One example is Ceibal en Inglés, a blended English learning project that involves weekly videoconferences with a remote teacher and related activities in a learning platform that’s helping solve for the lack of teachers in many parts of the country. There’s also our Annual Robotics and Coding Olympic Games, a two-day showcase of STEAM projects aimed at solving local problems using technology such as robots, drones or MicroBits. Students create models and prototypes and share them with real audiences, also helping to advance their communication skills.
The role of teachers in such a highly technological environment is fundamental. Technology has the power to enhance learning, inform teacher practice with relevant data and accelerate processes, but leadership and pedagogical knowledge are crucial aspects of implementing any innovative practice with good results.
To support teachers, Plan Ceibal provides opportunities for teacher devel-opment in a variety of formats, including online seminars, workshops and blended courses. The focus is on new pedagogies and innovative ways of teaching that use technology to enhance or enable learning processes. Digital citizenship, coding, STEAM projects and computational thinking, along with methodologies, such as project-based learning and design thinking, are some of the distinctive features of this training.
Plan Ceibal collaborates with the public education system and has shifted teaching and learning in Uruguay, making a great contribution to innovation and high-quality education.
Mariana Montaldo is a teacher and the institutional liaison at Plan Ceibal where she works with strategic alliances in edtech. She has a master’s degree in bilingual and multicultural education. Follow her on Twitter @montaldomariana.