LEARNING WITH TECHNOLOGY IN BRAZIL: A STUDY IN CONTRASTS AND CONQUESTS

F.M. Litto

Keywords

Brazil, Education in Brazil, web-based digital multimedia reposito-ries for learning, learning objects, science capacity-building, opensource and open content policies for learning, digital inclusion,telecentres∗ “School of the Future of the University of Sao Paulo, 05508-900 Sao Paulo, Brazil; e-mail: frmlitto@usp.br

Abstract

One of the largest nations in the world, Brazil shares characteristics of both the first and third worlds and has found some interesting solutions for the difficult questions involved in the modernization of education. The “School of the Future, an interdisciplinary, self-sustaining, research laboratory of the University of Sao Paulo, has in the last 15 years developed a series of projects of research and development with the intention of exploring the potentiality of new information technologies to advance learning. The projects can be classified into five major segments: virtual learning communi- ties for primary and secondary schools; multimedia digital libraries on the web, principally for humanistic learning; the production of learning objects, and their appropriate repositories, for science education at all levels of study; the creation and development of public-access telecentres in low-income neighbourhoods, featuring web-based mini-courses, the furnishing of useful information on in- terfacing with government agencies to a sector of the population normally inexperienced with citizen’s rights, and weekly online sur- veys to determine the information needs and practices and opinions in general of this heretofore “excluded segment; and development of a community of chief information officers of Brazilian and Latin American institutions of higher learning so as to foster the exchange of experiences and the formation of regional partnerships, initiated with the publication in 2005 of the first Campus Computing Report. Br 2004. The projects demonstrated that online digital libraries represent a major solution for developing countries with minority languages to make the national culture available to schoolchildren, university students, and the general population without incurring the great expenses of printed editions; and that learning objects in any field of knowledge, made freely available on the web, represent a revolutionary strategy for encouraging self-conducted learning and the gradual elimination of the customary lock-step barriers of age group and grade level maintained by the educational establishment.

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