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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Cristian Cox

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

The vision of Enlaces was to create a national learning network of Chilean schools to improve education and meet the future needs of society. Enlaces’ focus on modernizing education and its visible achievements have enabled the program to generate broad public and government support. The high level of support from schools, parents, businesses, and politicians makes it easier for the program to obtain practical assistance from all sectors of society, achieve objectives, and solve problems.

Enlaces enabled teachers and students to communicate easily with others within the network and with people around the world via the Internet. Teachers and students frequently attend meetings, events, and exhibits of locally-produced software applications and computer-assisted educational projects. Simple and creative school projects, such as “Wordarium,”“Guessing the Character,” and the “Poetic Dictionary,” were used to increase and enrich collaboration among participants, enhance creativity, and build vocabulary and information processing skills. The network also enabled teachers to share their experiences and engage in collaborative problem solving and learning. Studies carried out by Enlaces researchers and UNESCO consultants showed a positive change in teachers’ attitudes toward teaching, computers, and the benefits of the network after being involved in Enlaces. These studies found that student dropout rates had fallen and achievement among slow learners had increased in Enlaces schools. Interviews with teachers and students also showed an increase in student motivation and creativity. The World Bank, SRI International, the Universidad de La Frontera, and Fundación Omar Dengo (Costa Rica) conducted a major qualitative study of computers in schools serving middle- to low-income students. Six successful Enlaces schools in Chile were selected for an in-depth study from June to November 1996. Researchers found that student-teacher relationships within computer labs were more personal than in traditional classrooms and that students showed greater ability to work and learn independently. Computers also have increased the likelihood of cooperative learning situations. Positive impacts on behavior and selfesteem were also reported among slow learners and special education students. Teachers were positive about the impacts on their own behaviors and self-esteem and believed that computers increased collaboration and strengthened relationships among teachers in the network. Parent and community involvement and interest in computers in schools increased as well.

Although the World Bank/SRI report did not draw specific conclusions about student learning, interviews with teachers reflected their belief that computers did enhance thinking skills and the quality of work of their students. The changes in behaviors and relationships among students and teachers may indicate improved learning. However, more focused research on the effect that computers and learning networks is needed to verify and quantify this effect. The Enlaces program, then and now, is an excellent example of a successful education and technology project in the developing world. Chile’s experience represents one possible approach to bringing computers into schools to enhance education. It provides useful lessons and information for understanding the risks and potential benefits of experimental pilot projects that eventually become national programs.

Please see: learnlink.aed.org/Publications/Sourcebook/chapter4/chile_casestudy.pdf

Brief Biography

Dr. Cox is the Director of the Chilean Ministry of Education: http://www.mineduc.cl/