The potential of edtech and its tools to level the playing field in education
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The latest version of the LATAM Edtech 100, the list that HolonIQ issues annually of the most innovative educational technology firms in Latin America, found that 10% of these initiatives are Chilean. The national innovative spirit and the fact that the sector has grown by more than 50% during the pandemic was very prominent in the first version of the Edutechnia Technology Innovation Fair for Education, which was held in Bogotá, where Chile was invited honorary.

In addition, Profuturo, a program of the Telefónica and La Caixa Foundations, pointed out that in 2021 more than 1,500 new edtechs have been created in Latin America and the Caribbean, of which 114 are Chilean.

This makes the innovators themselves reaffirm that their developments can be a fundamental tool to improve not only the quality of education in the country, but also to “level the playing field” in a sector where inequality between public and private education has increased. strongly noted. And this is also considered by the Innovation Center of the Ministry of Education, whose director, Martín Cáceres, recalls that this entity, a continuation of the Enlaces program, will celebrate 30 years of working with the objective of democratizing access and availability of digital resources, “training teachers and educational institutions in the pedagogical use of technology”.

For Cáceres, these innovations have a lot of potential, but it all depends on the use that is assigned to them. “They require vision and a lot of commitment on the part of the teachers, so that it makes sense for them to work with this technology.” This is because, he affirms, it often happens that large investments are made without having a clear objective, which in the end is overwhelming for the same professor. “For this reason, the advances that are adopted must be discussed and shared so that they really become a transformative potential.”

Regarding the use of technologies, he says that today each establishment acquires the ones it deems useful but anticipates that they are working “on a mechanism to make the different existing alternatives available to schools so that they can learn about them and take advantage of them.” To do this, he is carrying out a sample study at the national level of the use of devices in establishments, connectivity, the platforms they use and for what purposes. “It would be a digital school development index, the latest version of which was made in 2018. To this would be added the issue of culture of innovation, since we believe one is required.”

Above: Education Effect technologies support language, science, and math learning, as well as cognitive learning.

Cáceres acknowledges that during the pandemic the use of technologies increased, “but we don’t know which ones” and for this reason, they do not have edtech impact metrics on education. Yes, he acknowledges that they have heard of some positive experiences such as the use of the Pixarrón system during the pandemic at the Liceo Carmela Carvajal. This innovation makes it possible to diagnose students, detect knowledge gaps and establish personalized routes.

Cáceres points out that one of the characteristics that these tools must have is that they must promote “authentic learning, creativity in students, especially in the most important gaps, which occur in the area of ​​language and mathematics. This is because these competencies are enabling for all subjects and allow for a broad trajectory”, he maintains. Another desirable characteristic is that they consider the constant monitoring of teachers, “so that they are always aware of the progress of their students.” It is also important that innovations consider collaboration between students in the classroom and outside of it.

Advantages and barriers

The president of the Association of Educational Technologies in Chile, Agetech, Sebastián Miranda, says that educational technologies can make various transformations, such as autonomous learning, for example, in the case of a teacher who must teach at two levels in one living room. “This is very difficult to manage and edtech allow adaptive learning, at the pace of each child,” he explains, adding that Chile, historically, “we are used to moving forward together,” which slows down learning processes, with the constant levels that produce demotivation in those who achieved the objectives. “On the contrary, edtech makes those who are behind level up and those who are further ahead continue to motivate themselves.”

Another advantage of technological tools to level the playing field in education is that they “lead students to greater reflection in the field of scientific development, since they are subjected to learning experiences where they have to reflect and discuss aspects that go finding. “They are new pedagogical structures that break the sequential scheme. Content acquisition”, he says and maintains that a third advantage is that they allow anticipating content and skills in different subjects. “So, when it’s their turn to learn that subject, they already have experiences.”

For Miranda, the barrier that edtech must overcome to get started in educational institutions is the time they need for teachers to incorporate the innovation, transfer it to new teachers and institutionalize it. “This not only requires training, but also a corporate spirit of innovation. Sometimes there is an enthusiastic teacher who drives them, but that is a very fragile situation since it depends on his presence in the education entity”. Even so, Miranda says that Chile is advanced on the issue regarding the region, but “we use innovations to do things more or less in the same way. For example, we have interactive whiteboards to do the class as it has always been done. We are in that transit. The pandemic helped, but the percentage of innovative schools is also low”.

Lab4you transforms the cell phone into a laboratory for science experimentation.

classroom innovations

Chilean biochemist Komal Dadlani is one of the creators of Lab4U, an innovation that seeks to make science education entertaining, inspiring and egalitarian in a context where 88% of schools in Latin America do not have a laboratory and where they do , or is deprecated or out of date .

LAB4U uses the sensors of smartphones to turn them into tools for experimentation. For example, it integrates the power of the cell phone camera to determine color and concentration of chemical reactions, and allows microscopy to be explored using only a lens that can be adapted to the device. “We must democratize scientific careers since they are the ones with the best conditions in labor terms. Talent is universal but opportunities are not,” he says.

This innovation, Dadlani clarifies, faced difficulties in the beginning, such as precarious connectivity and the prohibition of the use of cell phones in classes. “In addition, the paradigm shift from a traditional class to one with experimentation through technology was challenging. There was a resistance that gave way a bit with the pandemic, ”she explains and assures that 95% of the schools with which she works belong to the public system.

The edtech Efecto Educativo developed an innovation focused on students, which provides solutions in mathematics, languages, science and cognitive and emotional development. For example, Mathika is a platform for children from 6 to 12 years old to learn mathematics through digital exploration and Loctopia supports the initiation of reading and writing. “Our concern is that everyone has access to quality learning, which also implies a methodological proposal. The idea is to “pedagogize” the technologies so that they are an effective tool at school,” says Alberto Mora, one of its founders, who points out that they work with public schools both in Chile and abroad.

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