Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A day at Pensamento Digital

5 July

Today, our plan was to spend some time at the Social Educational Center at Vila Cruzeiro and learn more about the centre, their plans and our project in more detail. We spent a good part of the previous day and the morning with Marta and getting all the background information.

We found out that the centre was created in response to the limited number of educational programs catered to youths between 13 and 17 years old in underserved communities. Before launching the program in 2010, FPD had noticed a considerable amount of after school programs for children ages 6 to 12 offered through local NGOS and community centers and a number of professional training centers catered to 18 years and older.  However, it was noticeable that the age group of 13-17 had limited educational options to supplement their school program. Youth in this age group were offered only 4 hour shifts in public school. As a result, they had a great amount of free time, which they spent in the streets. This situation was negatively impacting their school performance and leading to social vulnerability.

To address this concern, FPD established in 2010 a partnership with the Rio Grande do Sul State government to run a social educational center for 200 youth (ages 13 and 17) in the low income community of Vila Cruzeiro in Porto Alegre. All youth enrolled in this program commit to 20 hours per week (either morning or afternoon shifts) and are required to attend the “academic development” module which aims to support their educational curriculum in their regular public school program. Parallel to the academic development program, FPD offers activities with focus on 21st century skills development, of which the most popular activities are the ICT related classes (e.g. ICT for the job, social media, computer maintenance and assembly, etc). All educational activities are intertwined with an ICT component.While receiving academic support, for example, students are encouraged to embrace technology in their courses whenever possible. Therefore, the center functions as an incubator for youth to learn about basic ICT skills and to become interested in developing a career in the technology sector.

What is unique about FPD is that youth develop their own educational program and classes are generally more project oriented. Instead of asking them to follow a regular syllabus, they design their own according to their motivation and personal interests.

Initial results from this program have been impressive. The Social Educational Center, which in previous years was often empty, is now being used to its full capacity and is considered a symbol of pride for the community. Participating youth have become highly engaged in all the center’s activities and as a result, they have increased their maturity, independence, creativity, critical thinking, confidence, and self esteem.

The Social Educational Center is a 5 year program funded by Rio Grande do Sul state and FPD hopes this funding can be renewed to replicate its education model to other municipalities in Brazil. To accomplish this goal, FPD still has a long way to go and will need assistance in systematizing its educational services so that educators, other schools and public agencies can better understand and adopt the model in their communities.

From our talk with Marta, we understand that a common challenge facing FPD is that new educators working at its center often struggle to understand FPD’s teaching methodology, which focuses on letting the students to take the initiative to develop their own educational activities. Most new educators are still strongly influenced by a traditional education system, which provides students with a fixed school curriculum. Part of the problem has to do with FPD’s failure to adequately structure and systematize its educational services as a model that could be easily transported  to other communities and cities in Brazil.

A little later in the morning, we also sat in on a meeting with the IT educators to try get a view of the problems they have. It appears that biggest problems the educators are currently facing is the lack of consistent software in the classrooms (some computers run Linux, some run Windows), old software, some old computers and continuous disruption to the internet during the classes. We hope to be able to enlist the help of some local IBMers to help sort out some of the network/ internet issues the centre is having.

We were then invited to lunch with the children as some of them have their meals at the centre either before or after their sessions for the day. As part of the funding that FPD receives from the government, they provide a meal and snacks to the children. A nutritionist plans the menu for the week/ month to ensure that they are well catered for.
Lunch was a yummy menu of rice, grilled chicken, lentils, polenta and salad.

In the afternoon, we requested to be allowed to sit in on a Digital Education class. The topic for the day was "dangers of the internet". The teacher showed a number of videos to the children on spam, anti-virus software, trojans/ worms etc and at the end of each video asked them a list of questions to judge their attentiveness and comprehension of the subject. Unfortunately, our being in the classroom was more disruptive to them as they were more interested in listening to us talk in English (with our translator) and we left soon after.

 Our plan for the next few days to refine our scope of work based on the information we've collected so far, conduct more interviews with the educators and the administrative personnel and then start doing a deep dive from next week.

#ibmcsc #brazil #brazil10

1 comment:

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