Thursday, October 17, 2013

Digital Learning Apps in Guatemala

In between the talks and workshops that I gave at FIT this week, I also got the chance to talk to many people that are involved in digital and online learning in Guatemala, and was surprised to find out the many ways they're experimenting in the space. I want to highlight two projects here:


This is Galileo University's take on the MOOC format, and is led by GES director Rocael Hernandez. They developed the web app in house, culling together open source projects and APIs into a platform that supports lectures, quizzes, discussions, and peer assessments. They started it off with an iPhone courseand based off the Stanford iPhone course curriculum, and now have 6 engineering courses on it, with 2-5,000 spanish speaking students enrolled in each. They've experimented with various aspects of the platform, like using the Google Docs API to track changes to a document, and have published a few papers in the space: MOOC in Latin America, Implementation of Online course with Accessibility features, MOOCs Concept and Design using Cloud-based Tools.


This project was initiated by their Education Innovation director Ali Lemus, and is an experiment in finding a new way to teach math and reasoning to young kids. Cerebrex is a game made for Android, iOS, and the web that presents challenges in a Maya-themed setting, translated into the Mayan language of the user (there are something like 30 spoken Maya languages in Guatemala). They trialed it in several classrooms, and saw great results with increased intelligence measurements after the test. Ali told me the story of one student that was young for their grade and bullied for that, but once that student was at the top of the game leaderboard, their classmates suddenly respected them. That's an anecdote, of course, but its promising, especially in a country where students have low confidence about their place in the world to start with (or so I'm told). Ali shared his slides about Cerebrex here.

It's easy to think that it's only Silicon Valley where innovation happens, but really, whenever I visit another country or talk to a foreigner, I find out about the amazing projects that they're working on in the education space, and realize that of course, we're not the only ones. It sounds obvious, typing that now, but it's nice to venture outside and get a reminder of this every so often.

I look forward to seeing what Guatemala does in the education space in the future!

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