ORT Argentina leads the way in technological innovation


It is winter vacation time in Argentina but you would not know it from the packed rooms at CREA, ORT Argentina’s Teaching and Learning Resources Centre, where some 150 teachers are voluntarily spending their free days learning how to use the new technology which they will soon be using in their classes. Jimena Castellion, Head of Teacher Training at CREA, said the enthusiasm with which they were embracing the new equipment and the new pedagogical methods that go with it had been “amazing”?.

“These changes are not easy; they actually mean more work for the teachers, at least to begin with. Some of them barely know how to switch on a computer but they’re here from 9am to 5pm learning how to make a virtual poster or an interactive timeline. From one month to the next we see how they’re designing things with great creativity and innovation. And they have a good time because they’re learning new things; they’re motivated by the challenge. So we tell them, if this is how enthusiastic you are then imagine how your kids will feel about it,”? Ms Castellion said.

The training is in preparation for the extension of the school’s one-Netbook-per-student programme to Year 3 classes, the next step in turning over all ORT Argentina’s 5,500 students and 800 teachers to what has been named the Pedagogical Model 2.0.

The goal is to enhance the development of e-competencies such as critical and inventive thinking, information and communication skills, and problem-solving skills. Teachers develop their own virtual educational material which is published on ORT Argentina’s Virtual Campus that students (and their parents) can access at school and home “モ even abroad.

Each class has its own on-line social space so students can discuss what they are learning and share material with each other and their teachers. Lesson and homework schedules are also accessible which makes it easier for students to plan ahead “モ and means that parents can be aware of what their children have been, or should have been, doing.

“We already have 50 classes in years one and two “モ about 30 students in each class “モ in which each student has a Netbook for every subject every day. Next academic year we will extend it to the third year and the goal is to add a new year each year,”? said Ms Castellion. “We’re doing it gradually and providing the teachers with the training they need to do it well “モ it’s not that one day we throw out books and pens and become totally electronic. This is a cultural change and we want to do it so everyone can keep up.”?

This is in stark contrast to other, similar sounding schemes.

“I’m not aware of any other school in Argentina which is doing what we’re doing,”? said Director of Studies Alejandro Ferrari. “There is a national programme in which the government is handing out three million netbooks “モ but the schools don’t have the infrastructure that we have of internet connectivity and wi-fi, and the teachers don’t receive any training.”?

CREA staff members are helping to fill the glaring gaps in the national programme by working with primary schools in the capital and regional secondary schools, by sharing their experience and training teachers in the design and development of virtual learning materials.

ORT Argentina’s skilled, forward-looking programmes have attracted valuable support from Hewlett Packard, which has provided tablet PCs, equipped five laboratories and two classrooms and, following an agreement signed in October last year, dozens of Netbooks and Notebooks with touch screens.

And the Pedagogical Model 2.0 won ORT Argentina the HP EduInnovator People’s Choice Award at last year’s International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) world conference in Philadelphia. That victory resulted in an invitation to Mr Ferrari to present progress in the project at last month ISTE conference in San Diego.

ORT Argentina is a member of the Pedagogy 3.0 consortium of HP’s Catalyst Initiative, an international network of leading educators and educational institutions to explore innovative approaches to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education.

Mr Ferrari: “Pedagogy 3.0 is a new paradigm, what’s been called the “リsemantic web’, an environment characterized by personalised learning in which students search for answers to problems; it’s being designed as we talk so it’s difficult to describe. But while it’s easy for students to find information what’s not easy is to use that information in the context that the teacher proposes. Also, the role of teachers will evolve so that they become “リfacilitators’ and mentors rather than the “リowners’ of all knowledge.”?

World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said ORT Argentina was in the vanguard of using technology in education.

“Its presence among the global elite in using and developing the effective use of technology in the classroom is a source of tremendous pride and inspiration for the whole ORT family as well as a tremendous reservoir of expertise which enriches our whole network,”? Mr Singer said.

ORT Argentina’s achievements were all the more impressive, he added, given this year’s Global Information Technology Report produced by the World Economic Forum and the INSEAD business school, which placed Argentina 92nd in its network readiness ranking of 142 countries.