Though I walk into the Taltimiche school classroom brandishing my own zoom lens and manual camera in addition to the smartphone in my pocket, it is I who ends up being the one timidly smiling back at tablet-wielding secondary students. It seems, in addition to having recently learned how to use tablets for accessing the pre-loaded content on their school’s hotspot for education as part of our Technology for Improved Education project, students here have also located the camera function.
To be fair, this photo shoot of sorts—inadvertently disrupting Profe Delmi’s classroom by posing for her would-be paparazzi pupils—came only after observing the math class that was in progress. Students congregated in small groups around tables. Those holding a tablet for only the first or second time clumsily locating the power button and navigating the nuances of a touch screen being helped by those students more comfortable with the new technology.
This partnership approach, this emergence of students leading from within, this by-product of integrating a new technology with curious students surfaced as a common theme in many classrooms visited. Students take on the role of peer mentors, keen to share new online discoveries (which are actually offline!). Because internet is largely unavailable, unreliable, or unaffordable for most schools and families, the remote hotspot for education and pre-loaded content is playing a role in teaching students to not only read and write and repeat, but to visualize and to experienceand to do.
As with all things new, establishing learning strategies that incorporate the wealth of information now at fingertips will be a learning process, for students and teachers alike. From the time we are born, we watch the world and we learn, and it is obvious that there is a role for technology in providing a visual learning experience in the highlands of Guatemala.
In Taltimiche, the tablets and the remote hotspot for education bring with them the ability for the future scientist to see the structure of the human body in an environment where there are no physical science textbooks. They bring with them the opportunity for the girl who laments that airplanes only exist in her imagination to not only locate her own surroundings, but to navigate the entire globe through an interactive map. They bring with them the desire of a generation of students to overcome barriers to education in the region.
As we leave, the last clicks of tablet cameras subside, the hum of algebra videos resume, and the potential of this project to improve quality of education resonates. Loud and clear.