In late March Uruguay's Plan Ceibal held a press conference where the initiative's major plans for 2011 were unveiled. To say that I'm excited about the list of undertakings would be quite the understatement. I also think it's safe to say that in many ways Plan Ceibal is now branching out and moving into a second stage of implementation based on the foundation which they built in the past 2~3 years.
The plans for this school year are organized in a number of tracks which I'll brielfy describe below with links to more detailed descriptions (in Spanish) which Plan Ceibal made available on its Web site.
- Educational robotics: Primary schools which apply for this program and technical secondary schools will receive as-of-yet undefined materials and tools to enable their pupils to work on a variety of robotics projects. The goal here mainly seems to be to provide a different venue of learning about physics, mathematics and programming. I certainly hope that the fine folks behind the butía project are also involved in these efforts! (more details)
- Mobile science: This pilot project will be focused on all kinds of sensors and their use in combination with the XOs in a broad variety of subjects and activities both inside and outside the classroom. The sensors distributed during this pilot phase will be able to measure voltage, light intensity, temperature, oxygen levels, pressure, magnet fields and a variety of other properties. What I really like about this track is that it specifically mentions the importance of providing support and training to teachers to integrate these new possibilities in the learning process. (more details)
- Online evaluation: The goal of this track is to allow for expansion of the various online evaluations which Plan Ceibal has been undertaking since 2009. There's mention of trying to obtain information about pupil's educational performance in key disciplines such as Mathematics, languages, and natural sciences. As this is the first time I'm hearing about these efforts and the announcement doesn't contain a lot of information either so at this point I'm not quite sure what this area will encompass. (more details)
- Kindergarten: In 2010 Plan Ceibal made some initial experiences with a very limited trial of introducing XOs in the country's kindergarten system. Now the plan for 2011 is to scale these effort to include more children and kindergartens in the process. Apart from the necessary connectivity and power infrastructure certain numbers of XOs will be made available to kindergarten groups via a lending scheme. It will be interesting to see how these efforts pan out. (more details)
- Plan Ceibal library: As the name implies the goal of this track is to make a digital library available to all schools. Similarly to OLE Nepal's effort this digital library will be made available via the servers installed at each school. Initially the library will contain approximately 100 books from both contemporary as well as classical authors. (more details)
- Mathematics Olympics: Another track which combines technical and non-technical efforts is the Mathematics Olympics. On the one hand the plan calls for the development of software to allow pupils to practice mathematics and basic logics. This will be complemented by a nationwide Mathematics contest. (more details)
- Teacher training: Slowly but surely Plan Ceibal also seems to hit its stride with regards to teacher training. For 2011 the plans are to build on the previous experiences and again focus on a mixture of online and offline trainings for educators working in the kindergartens, primary schools, and secondary schools. In secondary schools teachers will be trained per subject which seems like a very interesting move which I haven't seen in other olpc implementation so far. Additionally there are also plans to enhance learning outside of the formal school environment by specifically supporting families of pupils. (more details)
- XO exchange program: In what for me was the most surprising aspect of its 2011 agenda Plan Ceibal has started a program which allows all teachers to exchange their XOs for other laptops. It's unclear at this point whether these are XOs as the corresponding text talks about a 30x increase in hard-drive space which compared to XO-1's 1GB storage could only be achieved via an XO with a 32GB SD card. Additionally all students in secondary schools who have already received their XOs are eligible to exchange their current XOs for XO-1.5HS machines. While these exchanges definitely make sense for the users I can't help but wonder what they will do to Plan Ceibal's Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) figures. (more details)
- Updated repair system: As we had previously reported one enormous challenge for Plan Ceibal in 2010 was the high number of XOs which were broken with one study finding that almost one third weren't in a usable state. It therefore comes as no surprise that an improved repair system is an important item on the agenda for 2011. The key step seems to be to extend the in-school support via mobile repair teams as well as an expanding collaboration with certified tech-support companies. In combination with widely published schedules about these on-site visits Plan Ceibal clearly aims to lower what many perceived to be a very high barrier to entry into the repair system. (more details)
Last but not but not least a recent tweet by Plan Ceibal's head Miguel Brechner mentioned that Plan Ceibal is currently looking for volunteers to translate and subtitle videos from the much discussed Khan Academy.
All of these plans sound very interesting indeed and I can't wait to discuss their impacts with people on the ground when I'm back in Uruguay (for what will be the third time in 12 months!) later this month for the eduJAM! summit.