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Sun Aug 2, 2015, 03:40 PM

Digital Era Here to Stay in Argentina’s Classrooms [View all]

By Fabiana Frayssinet - IPS

The showcases in the Colegio Nacional Rafael Hernández, a public high school in La Plata, Argentina, tell the story of the stern neoclassical building which dates back to 1884. But the classrooms reflect the digital era, thanks to the computers distributed to all public school students as part of a government social inclusion program Conectar Igualdad (Connecting Equality), run by the National Social Security Administration.

Since 2010, 5.1 million laptops – referred to here as notebooks – have been distributed, reaching all of the students and teachers in the country’s secondary and special education schools and government teacher training institutes. The computers, with Internet connection, are used in all of the courses, both in school and at home.

The program’s administrators see creative initiatives like La Plata high school teacher Fernández Troiano’s combination of diverse disciplines as a reflection of how universal access to a computer is a powerful educational tool.

Silvina Gvirtz, executive director of Conectar Igualdad, explained to IPS that the program emerged from a decision by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as part of an integral educational policy that in 2006 made secondary education compulsory until the age of 18.

Conectar Igualdad has also given a major boost to the national computer industry. Ten computer factories have opened, and in each public tender, more domestically produced parts have been required, as well as more and more advanced technologies, such as greater memory and better video definition, Gvirtz said. Along with Windows, the notebooks use Huayra, a Linux-based open source operating system developed locally for the programme, which unlike proprietary systems can be modified and improved, she noted.

When they started saying that every student would have a notebook, nobody believed it – people said that would be the day when cows fly,” said a student, María Elena Davel. But the cow, which today is the Huayra symbol, is now flying and plans to go even higher. The next step is to add a computer programming course in schools. “This is key because we want to move towards technological sovereignty,” said Gvirtz. “We want to form both producers and intelligent consumers of technology.”

The laptops are distributed to the students under a loan-for-use agreement with the parents. The youngsters can then keep them if they graduate. One challenge is training the teachers, who must adapt to the new e-learning and digital culture in this country of 42 million people, where there are nearly 12 million students in the educational system (pre-school to graduate school).

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/digital-era-here-to-stay-in-argentinas-classrooms/

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