Friday, 24 January 2014

Enforcing independence at a country level - #rhizo14

Have just heard Miguel Brechner talk on Uruguay's Ceibal project, at one of the Leadership seminars at the BETT (technology) show in London.
Uruguay introduced the one laptop per child project for a specific purpose - equity. They saw the huge gap in access to technology between the wealthy and the rest, and decided that every school child should have a laptop. How they introduced it, the distribution problems, the costs, their perceived benefits, etc, are very interesting topics, but I want to concentrate on the unintended leap forward that occurred.
In one sweep they provided all students with the power to access their own learning. They didn't quite force or enforce independence, but, Miguel judges that around 80% of students use the laptop directly for learning, often learning independently. Despite the best efforts of training teachers in the laptop and the apps involved (including teaching English using tutors in the Philippines and many other countries), most students got to be much more knowledgeable and skilled than the teachers.
There is a huge lag in pedagogy, and this is admitted. But a country has put the possibility of learning in all their children's hands. Uruguay has around 3 million inhabitants, but it has managed to provide this throughout the state school system, often to small schools in rural areas. Think of the connectivity problems that they had to solve.
This may not sound like enforcing independence when viewed from the perspective of the developed world, where most (all?) children have access to this type of connectivity. But in a country where this was not happening, an unintended HUGE leap forward in independence has occurred.

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