Brief History of the Ceibal Plan Blogging Initiative

June 8th, 2010 by Eddie Avila

By Pablo Flores

Bloggers Since Infancy is an idea that arose at a particular moment in Uruguay’s history in 2007, when the Ceibal Plan started to change our educational vision of children and the role that we must take as a society. At that time, the first stage of the plan was the distribution of laptop computers (OLPC XOs) with access to the internet for all of the children and teachers of the only school of the small interior village called Cardal.

There has been talk since the 1960s about the importance of technology for education, and Cardal’s experience stated to demonstrate other aspects that these technologies can provide in the times of web 2.0. Soon after the start of the Plan, a teacher came up with the idea of using the computers to what they traditionally made on cardboard and placed in the school’s patio: A bulletin board, where the students shared their classwork based on research topics assigned by the teachers. Harnessing the potential of computers, an experimental school blog was created, which included photographs, texts, and schoolwork made with the computers and internet in class.

This idea evolved with the simple attempts to upload photos and small stories to the creation of full works and collaborative educational proposals. Due to this interest promoted by Ceibal, the blogs became popular when they started to receive a significant number of comments, which was not limited to words of encouragement, but they also included interesting contributions that helped the teachers to propose new classwork, with a renewed motivation from the students.

At the same time, this way of using the computers in school took many people by surprise in the field of education, who were not yet familiar with the way that the classroom frontiers were blurred in cyberspace.

The microgrant provided by Rising Voices in 2008 proposed to provide blogging workshops in various parts of the country, as a contest of featured blogs, as a way to provide incentives to blogging. It was a simple idea, but with a complex implementation because it meant to be proactive in new places and bringing it to the school and society, after a long distance relationship. For that reason, the project took on different characteristics, posing a constant debate about social participation in education and in particular, Ceibal Plan. In a way, the Rising Voices microgrant was the engine for this discussion and for various actions that took place later.

The project Ceibo Flower, for example, was provided an incentive by this proposal. The project was formalized in the second half of 2008 and established a relationship with the Republic University with Ceibal Plan, where multi-disciplinary groups of professors and university students took part in support activities to the schools and their respective communities around the country. Many workshops took place within this framework about the use of blogs as an educational tool and social dialogue, as well as diverse academic debates about the new cohesion between schools and rest of society.

In May 2008, ceibalJAM was created, which is an independent community seeking to learn more about Plan Ceibal’s technologies and to help develop software. This online teamwork along with work meetings, which have been developing a collective intelligence that thinks about and creates solutions to obtain the maximum amount of potential from the classroom and home computers. Among the first tasks proposed is the need to develop tools to facilitate blogging from the children’s computers, particularly those without e-mail addresses, a common situation today.

These initiatives are part of an alternative move, independent of official governmental projects, but which complement them, that began in 2007 with the formation of the Ceibal Plan Support Network (RAP for its initials in Spanish), a symptom of a society that begins to understand the true potential of the Internet as a multidirectional communicational means, its potential for education and the need to seize the opportunity that the computerization that the schools offer.

Finally in 2009, thanks to the push provided by another social organization, Tus Ideas Valen (Your Ideas are Valuable), which implemented the First National Blog Contest, where 10 featured blogs written from the Ceibal Plan computers were given prizes. First prize was a digital camera and all of the winners received a prize that will benefit more people in 2010: The implementation of blogging workshops in their respective schools. This video shows some of the scenes from the first workshop.

Now all of the schoolchildren and primary teachers in the country have their own laptop. In the next entry, we will provide more information about the actual state of the blogosphere generated up until now and the following steps.

Laptops in the most disadvantaged areas of Uruguay

June 7th, 2008 by David Sasaki

The following is a translation of a post by Rising Voices grantee and Plan Ceibal coordinator Pablo Flores, who details some of the upcoming challenges and opportunities as the OLPC project in Uruguay spreads to the capital city, Montevideo.

If we look at how the next phases of expansion of Plan Ceibal (OLPC in Uruguay), it is apparent that we are about to face some new challenges. The arrival of the plan to the capital, Montevideo, next year will bring a new unprecedented dimension to the project which involves the most marginalized communities in the country. For the first time, the poorest sectors will have a tool in their hands to connect to the information society. The children will bring the computers to their homes, the family will access the internet, and a new segment of the population will be online.

For the first time, those with little voice will have a medium of communication with which to describe their experiences, dreams, and needs from their own perspective, unlike the traditional means of researchers from other sectors of society speaking for them. Blogs, videos and e-mails are just some examples of ways in which this sector of society will be able to express themselves more strongly than ever before in order to show their culture, their way of thinking, their reality.

The same tool will be in the hands of both rich and poor in the country. Children, senior citizens, and the whole spectrum of society will be able to exchange mails, chats and favorite sites, in a Facebook-like manner.

Like never before, the most marginalized communities will have a powerful tool to make transactions and queries with public institutions. They may claim their rights from the government. If they are given the support, they may also use it for training, acquiring positions, and working remotely.

There will also be new means with which to communicate, to convey information of interest, culture, and new forms of entertainment.

Bringing technology to the most excluded classes is already starting in the provinces of Uruguay. Salto, the largest city in Uruguay after Montevideo, is one example. A belt of marginalized communities surround this city, which is currently being flooded by XO laptops in the hands of its children.

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Residents of Salto also want to make themselves heard.

There is a new form of communication, which brings us enormous challenges. We could think of it as something dangerous. We could see it as a new opportunity. But we must address the issue seriously, because the parameters which govern public opinion could change. Ceibal is giving growth to the internet for children … and now for the poor. It is an opportunity for social inclusion that, without the attention it thoroughly deserves, could become a new circumstance of exclusion.

Analyzing the use of laptops in the first month of class

May 3rd, 2008 by David Sasaki

This is a translation of a post originally published in Spanish on the sixth grade blog of school #37, Canadá, in Uruguay. It discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the XO laptop one month after its implementation at the Canadá school in rural Uruguay.

Use of Laptop:

Weaknesses:

They freeze up and it is slow to fix them
I lose my work every time they freeze up
They are very slow
The keyboards have different layouts
The battery life finishes quickly
It continuously disconnects from the internet and I lose the connection to the web page I am reading
You can only connect at school because the wi-fi antennas don’t have much range
It lacks a Flash plug-in and so there are websites and activities that we can not see
We can not upload images to make slideshows.
It takes a long time to load images.
We are not able to see the videos on the Internet
We lose the desire to work
I see warnings online that say “these seem to take longer than usual,” which doesn’t allow us to work continuously.
We are losing a lot of time in class because of the delay.

Strengths:

Free access to the internet
We can write, take pictures, record audio, film, paint, and edit images.
The text and images from the web can copied and pasted in some cases
Easy to carry.
We can work collaboratively.