Paraguay Educa founder Cecilia Rodríguez Alcalá shares how edtech improved education access and quality in one city.
Cecilia Rodríguez Alcalá, an ISTE board member and founder of Paraguay Educa, faced many challenges in helping to bring technology to the students of Paraguay. The country’s public education system is short on resources and its list of challenges is long: Students go to school for only four hours a day, 50 percent of them drop out after the eighth grade, and many teachers aren’t qualified and gain their jobs through political patronage. To overcome those challenges, Alcalá helped launch a massive edtech initiative to bring modern digital tools to students and help the country “leap-frog” some of its challenges en route to 21st-century education. To launch the project in 2009, the city of Caacupe was designated a “digital city” and 20,000 students there were given laptops. Teachers underwent intensive training to learn to incorporate the laptops into lessons. There was robust ongoing support for teachers, including onsite mentors to guide them. The students took to the laptops immediately and sometimes instructed the teachers on how to use them. But the broader goal was to shift how learning took place. The project brought a more collaborative approach to learning with an emphasis on using technology to create, not just consume. The project is being used as a model as the country works on further education reforms.