OLPC Uruguay Getting Ready for Middle School XOs


I'm just back from having a very warm chat with the Principal of the main secondary school in Treinta y Tres - where Ceibal ("OLPC" Uruguay) will be piloting Windows XO laptops.

It appears the whole thing is linked to what to do with those kids who completed 6th grade last year, and now have been in Middle School already half a year, with their own XO on hand (plans for doing this date back to January). Of course, we all would want those laptops to be used for education, yes?

OLPC Uruguay 6th Grade graduates

One day of training

Turns out the teacher training and principal training (separate) were about awareness, only one day in duration, with all the teachers of the CBU, Ciclo Básico Único (unified national program for Middle school, 7th-9th) of both the Liceo 1 and the UTU attending, I'd say maybe over a hundred people.

The awareness workshop for principals put stress on setting up a uniform approach to how teachers will use the tool, and that coordinating this effort is their assigned role. Also they were told there is a high need to share experiences and collaborate, thus a weekly meeting will be set up, maybe run by a Specialist in Informatics already in staff.

The presenter from Ceibal apparently did not indicate, however, that there are already active and lively communities that share and collaborate within Uruguay and abroad, which is a point I will follow up so as to invite the educators in Treinta y Tres to gain from other people experiences, and also share with us their own. My warm feelings for the actual people who actually are to do the work has increased.

It also helps that the quality of the phone call was excellent, something I had not experienced when calling Uruguay until now.

Connect the dots

The only sour note is the clear disconnect between what Ceibal proclaims, openness, horizontal communication, sharing, and what they actually do and set up, which is extremely one-way and top-down hierarchical. The Principal had no answers to my questions on how that was supposed to work. I don't get it. Why is it that Ceibal is not yet fostering open, sharing communities at all levels? Is it they are unable or unwilling to trust teachers? Or they don't know any better and don't want to learn? Several volunteer communities are already running in 'guay, but strictly following the OLPC party line, the officials basically don't want any part of them, except as a pool of cheap labor.

Treinta y Tres M.S. students

FYI: in Uruguay you have Primary Schools, grades 1-6, sometimes but not often with a Kindergarten, Secondary Schools, grades 7-12, usually having lower grades, CBU in the morning shift and in the afternoon, higher grades in the afternoon and the evening - 3 shifts per day is usual, and Vocational School (Universidad Técnica del Uruguay, UTU), which also serves CBU and also vocational training in several trades, also in several shifts, the later usually in the evening so people who work full time can still make it. Some cities will also have kindergartens and special ed schools.

On a personal note, as part of a well rounded education I did Chef's school at UTU in Minas for 2 years, while my sister did car repair. That period had late, late excellent dinners (we got to take home what we prepared that day, finishing often around midnight), with a wisp of motor oil...

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Since the information about the extension of the Plan Ceibal to the middle schools ([1]), another workshop for those teachers ("Curso de actualización para Docentes Encargados de Laboratorio de Informática") has been organized recently ([2]).

[1] http://web.ces.edu.uy/ces/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=259
[2] http://www.ceibal.edu.uy/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=936:curso-de-actualizacion-para-docentes-encargados-de-laboratorio-de-informatica&catid=34:novedadesprofesores&Itemid=72

The Uruguay deployment will be completed in two months, meaning that every child in public primary schools in that country will have an XO-1. In Peru over the next nine months we will roll out 900,000 computers in public primary schools.

- Says Chuck Kane

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