OLPC: Uruguay´s Plan Ceibal

In 2006, the government of Uruguay embarked on a highly ambitious project: giving each primary school child an XO laptop and providing internet connectivity across the country as a lever to achieve social inclusion and justice. The project, Plan Ceibal, was named after Uruguay’s national flower, Ceibo. Here’s an amazing introduction to the project by its Director, Miguel Brechner. The video is in Spanish, with the English translation below. Miguel will be one of the keynote speakers at ALT-C 2011 in Manchester.

Ceibo, national flower of Uruguay

Ceibo, national flower of Uruguay

The key figures today are:

  • 3.2 million is roughly the country’s population; 1.5 million live in the capital, Montevideo
  • 362,000 state school pupils and 18,000 teachers have their XO laptops
  • 220,000 homes now have a computer – 110,000 of them within the poorest quintile of the population
  • 140,000 children need to walk less than 300 metres to have free, wireless internet access
  • 250 public spaces have wireless internet access for Ceibal children
  • 2,068 state schools are connected to the Ceibal network
  • 18,000 teachers have had relevant training and will continue to do so
  • 500 teachers support Plan ceibal in Montevideo alone
  • 1,500 volunteers work for the Ceibal network countrywide

On 29 & 30 November 2010, Ceibal had its annual Digital Citizenship conference in Montevideo. I was invited to speak at this event, which attracted teachers, researchers, policy makers and politicians from a range of nations. The President of Uruguay spoke at the closing plenary. Of course my contribution had nothing to do with OLPC, as that is not currently one of my areas of expertise. My presentation was on innovation for effective learning and included strategic as well as implementation elements, with a clear focus on the Leicester experience.

Ceibal has begun to expand into secondary school students and teachers. We might expect academic publications on the project in mainstream journals.  I encourage colleagues and readers of this blog to keep an eye on this flagship initiative, which is changing the landscape in many ways and is generating valuable lessons for all.

Dr A. Armellini
8 December 2010

ALT-C 2009: a great conference, a winning team and open-source laptops

Winning the ALT Learning Technologist team award of the year wasn’t the only reason why the ALT conference in Manchester was truly enjoyable. Inspiring keynotes, highly interactive seminars, effective networking and loads of fresh ideas made this event a success.

Martin Bean‘s keynote address was excellent. There was one point, however, that I would like to challenge. Martin said that he’s had many discussions with high-profile politicians such as Education ministers. Martin referred to them as “idiots” for even contemplating the idea of giving laptops to schoolchildren on a large scale. He cited some of the issues associated with programmes such as One Laptop per Child – challenges we have known for years and that are unlikely to go away, especially in the developing world. These include pedagogy, technical support, training for staff, logistics and designing for online environments. But more to the point, wearing his previous hat, maybe he didn’t like it that those devices do not contain Microsoft software?

We know that many politicians’ agendas may have little to do with benefiting children or enhancing education through appropriate uses of technology. We also know that with a few additional elements in place, the impact of projects like OLPC can be significantly amplified. David Cavallo’s keynote address in ALT-C 2008 may provide a few answers to Martin’s concerns.  

I was born and bred in Uruguay, where a version of OLPC is running and will be extended to other aspects of learning technology and connectivity. Despite my own initial doubts (in line with Martin’s), I can now see that the project has changed the lives of many children and families – forever. How the change has taken place and how it continues to take place has been extensively documented and is a matter for another blog post – suffice it to say that 4 years ago you never saw children sitting with their laptops outside their schools on a Saturday afternoon. Now there is something in the air that attracts them there: a wireless signal… and a range of skills that most of those kids will need in future but didn’t have before.

Sorry, Martin, much as I enjoyed your presentation, I cannot agree with you on this one. Giving a $100 laptop to each child does not make someone an idiot. In fact, it could be money very wisely spent.

A. Armellini
15 September 2009

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