Information and communications technologies have become somewhat pervasive in Latin America’s educational institutions. I came to this conclusion during a parents meeting in my 12-year-old son’s new school. “Please don’t call your kids during class hours,” we were told. “It makes them anxious about what might have happened and they want to answer the phone during a lesson.” Clearly, this is a prime example of how technology could potentially have adverse negative effects on our children’s’ education.
Of course, while schools should always enforce a simple set of rules for the use of technology in classrooms, they also harbor the potential to turn that technology into tools for teaching. Technology giants like Cisco, IBM and Intel are already focusing strong efforts on this synergy, alongside governments that are heavily investing in its development.
In Argentina, there are myriad examples of technology in the classroom. Every kid in my son’s school has a netbook and they work with a virtual campus, which provides digital access to content, assignments and tools for interacting with teachers. Additionally, the university in which I teach Sociology and Technology has been using technology for teaching purposes for more than 20 years–this technology was originally only represented by email lists and digital content, but we too have evolved over the years, also now utilizing a virtual campus.
Another case that highlights this evolution is Citep (Center for Innovation in Technology and Education) at the University of Buenos Aires. Established in 2008, Citep works with teachers to help them integrate technology in their classes, using virtual rooms, 3D and many other tools. More broadly, Argentina and some of its regional neighbors have developed an ambitious government program called Conectar Igualdad (Connect Equality), which aims to provide netbooks to 5 million high school students and teachers. Although the impact of such initiatives is still subject to evaluation, I find it remarkable that governments took such a bold approach towards combining education and technology.
In any case, there are a few key lessons when it comes to technology and education. The approach must be one that involves hardware or software solutions, not just products, since the complexities of educational institutions demand complex approaches. Collaboration between teachers and students must be at the center of such solutions, as this will ensure all stakeholders begin to forget about the technology aspect, focusing instead on the process of knowledge creation. Ultimately, this is primary goal, and the key to utilizing modern innovations to develop a stronger educational system in the region.