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Four Educational Technology Insights from Plan Ceibal in Uruguay

By Guest Writer on March 13, 2024

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Inspired by the One Laptop Per Child international initiative, Uruguay was the first country to implement a national-scale plan to distribute personal computers to all students and teachers in public education. The idea that every student has the right to internet access is the fundamental principle behind this initiative.

For more than a decade Plan Ceibal has installed, maintained and expanded educational computer infrastructure that reaches all elementary and middle public schools, and ensures access to laptops, digital contents and resources, platforms, educational programs, training and support for both students and teachers, as well as internet connectivity for all classrooms countrywide

Plan Ceibal has significantly evolved and consolidated since its creation in 2007. It has implemented, over a decade, different strategies to promote and achieve the four goals of this policy:

  1. improve educational quality,
  2. promote equality of opportunities,
  3. develop a collaborative culture, and
  4. promote digital and critical literacy within the educational system.

In short, Plan Ceibal is the result of continuous monitoring, negotiating and improving technology to enhance educators’ and students’ experiences.

In addition to permanent coordination with different institutions and actors, other factors that have been identified as critical are consistency and coherence in the implementation of public education policies. This means that it is important not to deviate from the original goals while understanding that digital inclusion is a moving target, and permanent revisions of the plan are needed.

Four EduTech Insights from Plan Ceibal

Time-wise, technological deployment can be less demanding than the generation of the cultural transformations (including different dynamics, diverse pedagogies, language changes, and redefinition of authority) that appropriate implementation of digital technology can drive in the educational system.

It is important to consider that the technological transformations and institutional changes are unlikely to develop at the same speed. Their interdependence is evident, but it can take considerably more time to develop educators’ digital capacities and identify clear evidence of deeper transformation in the dynamics of teaching and learning.

With this in mind, these are among the most relevant challenges and opportunities that are considered critical for the future of Plan Ceibal from the Enhancing social inclusion through innovative mobile learning in Uruguay report.

1. Technology-enhanced learning

Access to digital technologies alone is not an essential condition in achieving better learning outcomes. However, when well implemented, edutech can be a powerful driver of specific forms of social learning such as:

  • project (or problem)-based learning,
  • do-it-yourself learning,
  • collaborative problem-solving,
  • positive feedback and
  • development of social skills.

Second, ICT is helpful not just in the classroom but in other learning contexts. This represents an opportunity, but also a challenge for traditional education settings.

2. Digital citizenship

Four aspects of ‘digital citizenship’ are relevant here. First, the transformation of contexts (or hyper- connection) offers opportunities and benefits, but has also brought new problems. Second, the unclear distinction between online and offline contexts is posing new challenges. It is critical to understand the complex effect of digital technologies on classical distinctions such as formal and informal, individual and collective, private and public.

Third, emerging challenges include regulating screen time, online privacy and security, and the digital footprint. Fourth, it is important to develop users’ skills in handling cyberbullying, online security and promoting cyber wellness. What is needed is a new culture of civic, social and democratic participation, including face-to- face, virtual and blended environments.

3. Innovation at a scale

Four prominent aspects of implementation can be highlighted here.

First, the investment cannot be only in technology infrastructure. It is critical to design and to implement comprehensive digital education policies, to ensure efficient and clear division of labour with responsible teams for technical support, permanent updating of the devices, connectivity monitoring, teacher training, updated production of education contents and learning platforms, online and offline support, among other issues.

Second, new technologies define new boundaries, so implementing them will create tensions and a need for negotiation. To ensure smooth integration, all participants’ visions must be considered.

Third, it is important to continue developing and facilitating a culture of accountability, measurement and monitoring. Likewise, it is paramount to sustain efforts to identify the most effective strategies to support student learning.

And fourth, close coordination between all the member institutions is critical to ensure an appropriate balance between the integration of educational technologies and the embracing of new pedagogical models.

4. Educators in the digital era

Four points can also be made about teachers.

First, the unprecedented access to knowledge does not mean the role of the educator is redundant. Teachers’ contributions are even more critical, but different. Likewise, the relationship with knowledge is continuously evolving. Second, permanent teacher development is a key factor for success when integrating technology into learning environments. It is important to design and implement continuous training for in-service teachers, but a critical aspect is to ensure that high-quality pre-service training includes working with technology.

Third, technology can be used meaningfully throughout the learning process, but this does not mean digital devices suit all purposes. Clear rules, strategic guidelines or negotiated protocols need to be adopted when integrating technology. Fourth, learning how to use technology is not the same as learning how to teach with technology. A meaningful integration of technology requires teachers not just to understand how to use the technology but to redefine their pedagogical strategies.

Technological Change is Continuous

Finally, technological change is not limited to the world of education, and transforming education is not limited to technology. New forms of teaching, learning and evaluating will be the result of adopting flexible organizational dynamics.

There are a large number of aspects considered critical for the successful implementation of a national digital education policy. A socio-technical perspective is essential for understanding the interacting dynamics involved in large-scale changes, like those attempted in Uruguay.

Real change happens not when technology is introduced but when the actors transform their practices. The value of a digital educational policy does not lie in the introduction of novel gadgets but in its capacity to offer new possibilities and affordances for different forms of learning, which enable exploration, curiosity and creativity. The changing boundaries of education demand that we keep these redefinitions open and subject them to permanent revisions.

In the context of public policy for digital education, innovation is relevant only when it can be scaled
up to the whole education system. That is why after ten years Plan Ceibal has enabled an innovation ecosystem that brings equity and new opportunities for the current and coming generations of learners and educators.

A lightly edited synopsis of Enhancing social inclusion through innovative mobile learning in Uruguay

Filed Under: Education, Government, Reports
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One Comment to “Four Educational Technology Insights from Plan Ceibal in Uruguay”

  1. mario games says:

    Neither technical advancement nor the process of reshaping education are confined to the realm of formal education. Adopting flexible organizational dynamics will lead to new ways of teaching, learning, and evaluating.