Last week we followed a group of volunteer students and professors from the University of the Republic who traveled to Santa Lucía, Uruguay to show primary school teachers how to incorporate the EduBlog platform into their classroom activities. As was noted in the article, designing a laptop to meet the needs of young students in developing countries turned out to be less difficult than creating the necessary applications and content in order to make the laptops useful tools in the classroom environment. After investing tens of millions of dollars on this grand experiment of placing a laptop computer into the hands of every single Uruguayan primary school student, it would be a shame if teachers were restricted to merely the default applications that come installed on every XO laptop.
Fortunately for Uruguay's education system, a group of dedicated volunteer programmers, instructors, and technologists have formed the Ceibal Jam! movement to develop applications for XO laptops that meet the specific needs of Uruguayan primary school instructors and students. (Rezwan has written previously about the first Ceibal Jam gathering last year.) Gabriel Eirea, a professor of engineering at the University of the Republic and a coordinator of Ceibal Jam!, describes the mission of the community:
I was able to attend last week's Ceibal Jam! gathering at the University of Montevideo in which approximately 50 volunteers came together to present the applications they have been developing, to propose new applications, and to both improve and document existing applications like Ceibal-Chess, EduBlog, and PlayGo.
As Gabriel Eirea emphasizes in the above video, one of the current priorities for Ceibal Jam is to develop small applications which can be used by instructors to teach a single concept over a few days; for example, an application that helps students learn the multiplication table, or to better understand the concept of fractions. In fact, Eirea himself was involved in the development of Conozco Uruguay, a simple application to help students improve their knowledge of Uruguay's geography.
With this in mind, Ana Cichero proposed a game for the XO laptop to make learning basic mathematic principles fun and interactive. Within minutes of her proposal several participants of the session were already writing code to make the proposal a program. Other sessions throughout the day introduced the basics of the Python coding language, how to develop with high performance graphics, and a proposal to create a game that teaches human rights to children. You can learn more about Ceibal Jam, download their programs for the Sugar operating system, and stay tuned to new developments on their website.