Today was a busy day filled with meetings. First we visited the Ministry of Education for the Buenos Aires Government. We learned that the local governments supported the primary schools (K – 7th) and the federal government supported the secondary schools. About 50% of students attend public schools in the big cities. This is the first state that is providing netbooks to all primary students, about 160,000 so far. The name of their program is called Plan Sarmiento.
We heard from the Minister of Education in Buenos Aires, Esteban Bullrich.He was obviously a dynamic leader who believed in this plan to allow all students to participate in 21st century learning. They had studied what Uruguay had done, but needed a plan to fit their needs. They chose laptops for teachers and netbooks for students. We heard from several others about training, support and connections to the business community. One thing I notice about Argentina’s plan is that the parents and family are highly involved in this process too.
As in Uruguay, the laptops belong to the students. They have implemented a WiMax network to provide for Internet access at home. In order to make support easier, they put out a bid for connectivity and hardware to come from the same company. They have also placed an ICT Facilitator in every school to assist the teachers with instruction. They talk of this program as a education program, not a computer program. The minister saw that ICT needed to be at the core of society and that it was not enough to use comptuers once a week. They were worried about the gap that was being created for those who did not have access to technology and took this on as a social inclusion project to make sure that all students were included in the information age.
We left the ministry and went to the International Institute of Education Planning (IIPE – BA). This organization works with all countries that speak Spanish. After a brief meeting, we went to visit another primary school. We would have gone to another campus, but the teachers were on strike that day. There are over 20 teacher unions in Buenos Aires. At the school we were greeted by the principal and we began or tour. This primary school building was in much better shape than the ones we had seen earlier and seemed very organized. The teachers were prepared to show us a lesson and the students seemed willing to show us what they knew.
In a 7th grade science class, we watched the students explain how they programmed a traffic light to work. They had to explain their process to the entire class. Then the teacher asked them to design a traffic light for a blind person and what changes would they have to make in their programming. The techers were also using Web 2.0 tools such as EdModo to work with students.
We visited a 1st grade classroom where students were drawing animals with TUX Paint software. They had to explain parts of the animal and other traits about what they were creating. We ended the visit talking to the principal and other staff members about the program. Teachers are allowed to develop their own lessons so it left open to alot of creativity. They do not focus on testing as much as we do in the US and are focused more on problem-based learning and making sure that all students are included.