Brief History of the Ceibal Plan Blogging Initiative

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.