Drones, Fruit Pianos and Internet of Learning-Things in San Luis, Argentina

Argentina is recognized by the World Bank as one of the top 10 countries with big education laptop projects to learn from, and San Luis – a province in the heart of Argentina – is leading the way. San Luis is home to one of the most impactful education technology initiatives in Latin America, and I was fortunate to be invited to give the keynote for the education track at San Luis Digital 2013 – their annual festival of technology. The presentation was entitled ‘Technical Creativity’ – a whistle-stop tour of the Internet of Learning-Things.

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A key part of the presentation was a demo of the Parrott 2 Drone…

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This ARM powered drone connects to a mobile phone via a local Wi-Fi link and sends live video feeds back to the phone or to a USB stick, which allowed me to shoot this aerial view of the audience –

I was joined on stage by Alejandro Munizaga, Dean of Universidad de La Punta, who demonstrated his piano playing abilities on a banana keyboard using MaKey MaKey and Scratch.

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Slides from the event can be downloaded here –

English version

San Luis Keynote, Internet of Learning Things

Spanish version

San Luis Keynote, Internet Educativa – Spanish

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This, the 7th San Luis Digital, saw a crowd of 30,000 people attend a feast of events ranging from hackerthons and robotics competitions, to DJ sets. The event gave a 360 degree view of the social use of technology – health, security, environment, traffic management etc.

Education was very well represented there, and justifiably so. The province of San Luis is well into a One-to-One initiative as part of their investment in education, science and technology. All citizens have free WiFi internet access from anywhere – a right enshrined in law and delivered through WBS-2400 base stations across the entire region.

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The government aims to increase maths, reading, writing, science, and ICT skills to prepare future engineering and science professionals. Most children now have a Classmate laptop, and over the next 10 years, the government plans to purchase 10,000 laptops each year until all 104,000 school-age children have a device. According to an IDB evaluation, results have demonstrated notable improvements in language, math, and science achievement following the integration of One-to-One programs in San Luis classrooms.

A notable area of success on display at San Luis Digital 2013 is robotics. A project called “Robotics for All” which is run from the University of La Punta supplies the schools with robotics kits. Each kit has an Arduino board and custom software resembling Scratch runs on Classmates to allow the students to program their robots.

The results are highly impressive. Students from San Luis, represented Argentina and came in the top 5 at the recent Robotics World Cup in the Netherlands. Children as young as 7 explained how they made a model city with working traffic lights, whilst older students battled it out with Arduino based robots.

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The event was completely packed with children eager to learn about the latest in technology and robotics, and sessions lead by the wonderful Gonzalo Zabala –

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San Luis is a shining example of where a combination of clear vision, political will, government backing, organizational capability, and a socially integrated higher education sector come together for the good of all.

I was lucky to be able to visit some schools there including the Isaac Newton and Nelson Mandela schools. Schooling in San Luis certainly lives up to its reputation for being best in class for the creative use of technology.

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Thanks to all the children and teachers that I met in the San Luis Digital and Nelson Mandela schools; Alejandro Munizaga, Marcela Magallanes, Daniel Rivas, Cristian Moleker and the team at La Punta University; Marcelo Sosa, Minister of Education; Silvina Peralta; Gonzalo Zabala for inspiring presentations; Jimena Jacubovich, Hernan Muhafara, Mariana Maggio, Angel Dubon, and Miguel Ayerza from Microsoft; Axel Esteban Seleme for terrific photos; and Leticia Martinez and Elina Pascucci, Translation San Luis, for translation services.

Spotlight on Russia

Russia has a long and proud tradition of World-class Maths, Science, Engineering and Computing education. So it’s not surprising that Russia was one of original innovators in implementing Computers and Computer Science into schools. “Computational Mathematics & Programming”, for example, was certified at national level as far back as 1961. For an interesting perspective on the development of the curriculum in a Russian school, click here.

Under the 1985 National Computer Literacy Program, Computer Science was included in the school curricula as a compulsory subject, alongside Mathematics, Physics and other Scientific disciplines. Schools were also supplied with computer facilities. The Computers for rural school initiative (2002-2003) ensured that each rural school in the country had a minimum of three computers in the building. Taking this to the next level, Intel partnered with Volnoe Delo to further provide access to technology across all regions in Russia.

The Internet for every school (2006-2008) program further improved access to Information Technology across all of Russia, and today every school in the country has access to ICT devices and the Internet. ICT literacy is also now compulsory in all teaching training courses. To support this the World Bank implemented their largest free-standing ICT/education project – the eLearning Support Project. This enabling 60,ooo teachers to be trained through 42 different training programs; 1100 distance learning courses; and digital learning resources made availalbe in 14 subjects.

Schools now make good use of a range of software including Microsoft, Adobe, and also “home grown” software from firms like ABBYY and 1C. As part of the Digital Education Resources Program (2008-2010), a number of free digital education resources are made available for students on a variety of school subjects.  

Leading the way in the use of ICT in Russia are a number of Innovative Schools. Given Russia’s track record in computer science, we can expect to see plenty of innovation coming out of the country in years to come.