Sunday, June 12, 2011

Inspiration from Uruguay

Uruguay is the first country in the world where all children in public primary schools have their own laptop. Yes you read correctly. Whilst so many much richer countries agonize over the pros and cons of technology in the classroom they have just gone out and done it.  Of course this development has been built on the One laptop per child initiative and the inexpensive, no frills XO laptops but it still demands commitment from government level and a clear strategy; something that is sadly lacking in many richer countries.

The scheme has been a great success as the film below clearly shows. These children are learning 21st century skills whilst many children in Europe and North America are still learning as their parents did. Interestingly the film includes interviews with parents and teachers who have learnt from and been inspired by their children's success with their laptops. The children have helped the adults to become more digitally literate.

There are now plans to build on this success as can be seen in an article on the World Bank's blog EduTech, What's next for Plan Ceibal in Uruguay?. Now all public secondary schools will introduce one laptop per pupil and all schools will of course have internet connections.

According to the article the next ambitious stage in Uruguay includes the following measures:
  • the conversion of all secondary and technical school (and some primary school) science labs into 'digital labs', utilizing sensors and other 'probeware' devices
  • the piloting of new educational robotics curriculum
  • new online nationwide mathematics contest
  • the expansion of pilot efforts in online assessment and evaluation
  • a roll-out of Plan Ceibal into kindergarten classrooms on a voluntary basis (teachers submit plans to Ceibal for funding)
  • the regular refreshment/replacement of OLPC XO laptops already delivered
  • a new Plan Ceibal Digital Library, to include 100+ books and other educational materials (such as those from the Khan Academy), hosted on local school servers
Wouldn't it be nice if our educational decision-makers took a closer look at examples like this?

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