Learning all the Time – Lessons from Guatemala
Hello from Guatemala!
I am in Guatemala this week, and Nicaragua next week, to see firsthand how our investments in education in remote, largely indigenous, communities have impacted children’s learning.
We know that just sitting in a classroom is not enough: learning requires more and better access to quality educational materials, and teachers who understand the best way to engage their students. With this in mind, we’ll also be talking to local organizations about their experiences. We want to learn about what they are doing to improve the quality of education in their communities.
In an upcoming series of blogs we’ll tell you all about what we are doing on this trip – and what we’ve learned. Please follow along on our website, and on 60 million girls’ Facebook and Twitter accounts and let us know what you think and what you’d like to learn. We’ll do our best to answer all your questions.
And, here’s a shout out to 60 million girls’ volunteer photographer, Josiane Farand, for some amazing shots!
And we’re off!
Following a flight into Guatemala City, and an overnight in Antigua, we were on the road at 7 am for our first full day in Guatemala. We visited two schools piloting technology designed by World Possible’s Guatemala chapter, Mundo Posible. The pilot project – funded by the Gates Foundation – tests an innovative way to improve the quality education for children in the developing world.
We have worked with World Possible extensively over the years as they developed the RACHEL – a Remote Area Community Hot spot for Education and Learning – which is also the basis for our Mobile Learning Lab (read about it HERE).
Romeo Rodriguez and Juan Reanda Pecach of Mundo Posible were our guides, driving us along the impossible curves up and down the mountains to the communities in Panajachel (see maps, below).
We enjoyed stunning views of the lush green countryside: a volcano, fruit trees, corn, beans, flowers and coffee grown on the steep mountainside. But while beautiful, the steep turns and rolling hills had us gripping our seats. Sometimes paved, sometimes not, the two-way roads were often designed for one vehicle – going in one direction. Romeo handled a few hair-raising encounters calmly, and with excellent driving skills.
Josiane, Lorraine and I owe him a beer for his stamina and fortitude!
Teacher training improved student engagement
The pilot project, run and designed by Mundo Posible, tackles teacher training because we all know that great teachers are crucial to students’ success. At its heart is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). All content is in Spanish and is available offline, using the RACHEL as a server.
This innovative MOOC lays out new ideas in pedagogy and aims to develop teachers’ critical thinking, creativity, peer/group collaborative learning and interactive activities. All are intended to enhance classroom outcomes. Mundo Posible rolled out the first MOOC in February 2019.
Here’s how it worked: Mundo Posible gave teachers in 10 schools access to the MOOC’s offline content of videos, reading materials and tests. In five schools, teachers had face-to-face guidance on how to implement the content of the course. In another five schools, Mundo Posible used videos to support teacher learning – and to assess the scalability of the project around the country. This would include remote communities where it would be impossible to provide in-person guidance.
As a part of the training, the teachers learned how to integrate RACHEL content into the classroom by engaging children in an interactive way to make learning fun.
So, for example, in class, the teacher might show students an image or theme and then ask them to share what they already know about the topic. Next, they would encourage students to discuss what they want to learn about the topic. The students could then use digital content from the RACHEL for research. In the final step, the students would share what they have learned.
The duration of the MOOC was about five hours and teachers received a certificate when completed successfully.
The schools where they teach then received a RACHEL and 5-10 Chromebooks (depending on the number of students). The schools and communities had to commit to ensuring the equipment would be handled responsibly. They also agreed that all primary students – from kindergarten to grade 6 – would have access each week.
The teachers and children loved it!
The enthusiasm of the teachers and their passion for this new approach was evident, as was their determination to guide their students in the best way possible.
And, as we’ve seen with every Mobile Learning Lab we’ve launched, when the teachers brought their new skills to the classroom the children loved it! They wanted to spend more time on the computer learning about things they care about.
With these new teaching methods, classroom attendance improved and parents also became more engaged in the program. Students would even skip recess to get on the computers, staying until the last teacher closed the school.
We love the collaborative nature of this type of learning as the older students help the younger ones. And as we all know, when it comes to technology, children like to give the adults pointers as well.
The teachers told us how they learn along with the students – not only about the content but also about the kids. They discovered the children’s talents, abilities and interests that they hadn’t seen before.
Thoughtful, well-designed innovative approaches like Mundo Posible’s MOOC give me hope that with dedication and thoughtfulness all children will be able to get the quality education that is their right.
Wanda Bedard, President and Founder, 60 million girls Foundation