Seven students from Carnegie Mellon University’s campuses in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Doha, Qatar, are working with government education officials in Montevideo, Uruguay, this summer to develop new technological tools for teaching English in Uruguay high schools.
In cooperation with Uruguay’s National Administration of Public Education (ANEP), the students are developing applications for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptop computer and for Facebook. Both the OLPC and the Facebook tools will encourage students to practice their English skills during their free time and make it easier for teachers to distribute practice material. The students also are developing a Content Authoring Tool, which allows teachers to customize the content of the OLPC and Facebook tools.
The students are part of a unique internship program, the innovative Student Technology Experience (iSTEP), organized by the TechBridgeWorld research group in Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. TechBridgeWorld develops and field tests technological solutions that are customized to meet a community’s needs. iSTEP provides students with the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to real-world challenges in developing communities.
“Each child will need access to technology to compete in the 21st century,” said Roberto Ponce Lopez, a graduate student in Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College and one of this summer’s iSTEP interns. “Through iSTEP, we hope to assist in this endeavor by developing relevant technology tools for students and teachers to improve their English, making them more competitive in the globalized world.”
Since May, a group of iSTEP interns have been in Montevideo, conducting focus groups and interviews with administrators, teachers and students at Liceo 39, a public high school. They also have been working with other education experts and student-teachers affiliated with ANEP. You can follow the 2011 iSTEP team’s journey through their website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr pages.
The work is near and dear to Silvia Pessoa, a graduate of Liceo 39 who is now an assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon Qatar and an adviser to the 2011 iSTEP interns.
“I am impressed by the team's commitment to improving education through technology,” Pessoa said. “The team has gathered great knowledge of what technology solutions would work best to make a positive contribution on English teaching in high schools in Uruguay.”
Though this summer’s fieldwork in Uruguay will end on July 29, ANEP and TechBridgeWorld are discussing ways to test the new tools and to continue to develop them for the long term.