A Web 2.0 Journal and Disadvantaged Brazilian Youth
This project uses digital technologies, and in particular web2.0 technologies, to improve communicative and methodological skills of kids living in disadvantaged areas of Brasilia. The project was carried out in a support centre, Centro Formativo Educativo (CEFE), based in Brasilia and helping around 100 children from 13 to 17 years old.
The project was financed by FRIDA – Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in the Latin America and Caribbean, an initiative offering financial support (small grants) to research projects in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
Historical & organizational context
CEFE - Centro Formativo Educativo (Brasilia) is an educational centre for youth living in disadvantaged conditions, aiming at supporting teens in their study path in order to enabling them to access higher education institutions or qualified job places. It is placed in the suburbs area of Brasilia, in a town called Nucleo Bandeirante.
CEFE has been funded by a group of teachers working in public schools in Brasilia that noticed three needs in their students:
- the need of being supported in the effort to study for passing the entrance exam to university;
- the need of being helped in deciding of their future at the end of high school;
- the need of being supported during the transition phase towards the job market.
CEFE is currently supporting 100 students, through classes in the following subjects: Portuguese, Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and English, individual tutoring, career orientation; and educational activities in general.
CEFE participates to a Digital Inclusion Program, funded by the Brazilian Federal Government. Within this program CEFE gained the infrastructure to set up a Digital Lab to be used by CEFE students and educators.
CEFE teachers highlighted three main gaps within students attending public schools in the Nucleo Bandeirante and in the surrounding neighborhoods (Candangolandia, Samambaia, Riacho Fundo, Cruzeiro, and Ceilandia) and hindering opportunities of a better future.
- Lack of methodological skills: students do not acquire necessary methodological skills to face the study effort required at university, they are not enough able to self-organize they study agenda and to work in teams to achieve given objectives;
- Lack of communicative skills: students do not gain a good level of knowledge of Portuguese, to be able to work in offices and to study at university. Furthermore, they do not have sufficient knowledge of means of expressions such as photography or multimedia;
- Lack of digital skills: students do not have enough digital competences to fruitfully use them in their study tasks at high school, nor to be able to work in the knowledge society in the future.
In the framework of these skill gaps, this pilot project aimed at offering local youth the possibility to learn new work and study methods and to improve their expression skills through the use of ICTs and, in particular, of web 2.0 tools.
The project wanted to investigate how the new generation of web technologies can be used, not only as subjects to be taught within a digital literacy training program, but also as tools to foster the acquisition of communicative and methodological skills.
The project aimed to develop a web 2.0 journal, through which students, while being involved in a playful and challenging activity, were be able to:
- approach digital technologies (digital literacy gap);
- learn how to edit written and depicted communication formats (communicative skills gap);
- acquire self-organization and group work skills (methodological skills gap).
For a web 2.0 magazine to be active, the first and fundamental requirement is that the tool with which it is produce has to be simple and quick to update; this task also has to be achievable by several identifiable people, with no special technical skills.
Besides the choice of contents, the second requirement is the possibility to organise them in the best possible way; to make them easily retrievable, and to provide them with a logical structure. Also such organisational task has to be simple for the person in charge of contents’ update.
After having uploaded and organised contents in the best possible way, it is necessary, for the project to be complete, to give the opportunity to start debates about relevant topics. This tool, too, needs to be highly usable, in order to allow anyone to use it.
We lastly highlight, even if it is the most relevant requirement for the final decision, the importance of a tool, which enables the implementation of all the previous requisites at a low price, exploiting open-source devices, as far as possible.
The project took place from March 2009 to February 2010.
This projects aimed at using web 2.0 technologies to develop a collaborative online journal and to test the impact that such an educational activity has in the improvement of three key life competences: communicative, methodological, and digital skills.
Dynamics involved in the development of a web 2.0 journal are manifolds. The journal allowed students to study in depth relevant contents related to their school program, such as science, literature or history topics, and stimulated the debates among teenagers, focusing on news, social events and job-related facts. Journal contents touched different life dimensions: from work, to university, from school to spare time.
Students were editors and readers of the journal: everyone was able to read what written by mates on different topics, while improving her/his digital skills.
CEFE educators were a focal point of the project: they were in charge of the design and of the coordination of the web 2.0 journal. A specific technological and editorial training was offered to them, in order to provide them with all the necessary competences to lead the project.
The project was divided in the following modules:
- M1: Training on the design of a web 2.0 journal, editorial planning and tutoring [ 2 weeks (workshop) + 11 months (tutoring)]: the aim of the workshop was to define the thematic and stylistic trends of the journal, and to train CEFE educators on the technological aspects of the project. The workshop was structured on 4 main areas:
- Focus on Methodological and Pedagogical Issues: Focus on the education value of the journal, focus on the technological, methodological and communicative skills involved in the project, focus on the objectives to be achieved and roles definition.
- Choice of Columns and Topics to be Dealt with: Choice of the topics and n to be dealt in the web 2.0 journal. Columns can focus on some themes studied at school, such as, history, geography, Portuguese and English, and on orienteering students on job and university choices. In this phase, the training focuses also on organizational and teamwork issues, and on the planning of the journal.
- ICT Teacher Training: CEFE educators will be given needed technological skills to manage the project. An evaluation of CEFE educators technological competences will be performed before the training, in order to define the appropriate program. The training will focus on basic technological skills: text editors, email, web, web 2.0. During the workshop the technological training needs of the students will be also defined. Furthermore, the IT person participating to the workshop will be trained on photo and video editing and on web 2.0 tools.
- Editorial Skills: Designing with educators a work plan and defining the activities to be performed with students to improve communicative skills
Seed staff were in charge of the training for areas 1 and 3 and worked as facilitator for areas 2 and 4. Furthermore a distance tutoring for the whole duration of the project has been provided, through Skype and email.
- M2: Web 2.0 Journal Publication [1 school year]: CEFE educators lead CEFE students (30-40) in the development of the journal posts, while CEFE IT person trained the students on the use of web 2.0 and blogs.
- M3: Evaluation [1 month] The evaluation of the project, coordinated by seed was performed as a joint moment to reflect on the project with the participants: teens, educators, and administrators of CEFE.
In this session we report findings from the evaluation session that took place in February 2010 and involved the following instruments: focus group with CEFE teachers and director, focus group with CEFE pupils and questionnaire to CEFE teachers
Looking at the questionnaire results teachers positively consider the experience and their participation and would be keen to do once again the project. Teachers think that, in comparison to the previous year, students involved in the FRIDA project improved in working with adults and peers, furthermore they increased their knowledge on school-subjects and in general and learned to use the computer and Internet.
And they think that the FRIDA project allowed them to improved in working with colleagues and students, in designing activities collaboratively with students and using the computer and Internet and being creative
Furthermore, they consider Internet and computers useful tools to be used in teaching and learning practices, to work together, and, at the end of the project, they consider themselves good to use technologies:
Teachers think that the experience was useful and new, but they mentioned some difficulties, such as technological ones, organizational ones, and involvement ones. They considered the experience very important to start considering the computer and ICT in general as an educational tool. They discover a new tool that can be use to support their didactic activities day by day. Furthermore, they think that the past year and the FRIDA project helped them to start reflecting on how to face difficulties and on how to better plan and design their classes.
Teachers found very useful the possibility to have an in depth evaluation of the project not only focused on the developed activity but also aiming at finding ways of improvement and continuation.
If looking at aspects to improve they regret the lack of interest of pupils, also caused by a lack of planning and integration between moments in class and in the informatics lab and by the lack of a support from the informatics teacher, who is more a technician than a person interested in the teaching activity of the institution. Other aspects regards the not complete confidence in the informatics tool and the poverty of the equipment (computers are not up to date and Internet is slow).
Teachers think that the difficult part was to create, to plan activities more then put them in practice.
- the possibility they had to open a new range of possibility, of acquiring new knowledge and skills, to be spent with their students
- the final results: posts and comments, they are sort of brave of the developed work
- the creativity of their students, and their interaction to work in groups
- the visibility given to the institution by the blog
Teachers suggested to spend more time in the planning of the activities and on managing the integration of the blog in the class activities. Furthermore, they would like to have a better access to Internet, and to have refreshing courses on technological matters, also via video-conference.
When they were asked to mention positive things happened during the activity, they mentioned the relationship built among students and between students and themselves, the happiness of the kids in seeing their work on the Internet and their excitement in discovering new things, and the interest showed in the project from less motivated teens.
About things to improved, they stated that students are distracted by the Internet, lack of adequate infrastructure (computers out of date and slow Internet connection) and technical problems
Teachers agreed to go on with the development of the blog also for 2010, they focus on the need of more technical and instructional support, in order to fully integrate the blog in the institution activities, and working on it in groups of teachers.
Teachers started to be aware of the need of planning their classes and of managing the time of each activity; furthermore, some of them, started using the blog as an instrument also in other schools where they work. Other two aspects mentioned are the work in equipe, to be able to plan blog activities and the use of creativity to design classes. They also mentioned that they were able to get to know better their students as individual.
Everyone agreed that it is an activity to carry on also in 2010. Teachers think that the experience gained during the last year now can be used and exploited during the next year.
The project is evaluated as an excellent experience, both from a professional and a personal point of view; however teachers still perceive some technological difficulties and did not perceived an effective support from the responsible at CEFE of the informatics lab, who works as a technician more than a person involved in the didactic offer of the institution.
Teachers perceived that the informatics lab is not adequate to implement activities with students: computers are out of date and Internet is slow, this also hinder the interest of the students.
Lack of time was another perceived problem, and also the need of learn better how to organize time and classroom activities.
Students like the blog experience, they considered to have learnt new things, such as the use of the computer, the awareness of having writing difficulties, and the expression of ideas and opinions.
They stated that they would like to go on using the blog as educational tool, since it is a support to improve their knowledge and skills. They were happy to have learnt about specific topics, such as ornithorhynchus, and that in another activity “Desafio” the ones who thought to be more in trouble won the competition at the end.
Finally, the blog has been an occasion to pay more attention to CEFE as an institution.
Finally, we would like to sum up stressing some of the elements emerged from the evaluation that we think are very important:
- Teachers, especially at CEFE, and the direction understood the importance to plan instructional activities: this is very important for offering high quality curriculum to students. The FRIDA project has been the occasion to discover this crucial factor.
- The need of a better informatics lab, especially at CEFE. This problem has already been solved, the company viaggiare.it donates around 10.000 euro to Brasilia CEFE to refurnish their informatics lab
- The need for a person in loco, not only able to maintain the informatics lab, but interested in educational activities and in the institution mission
- All the people involved in the project (teachers, students, direction) think that the experience was very positive and will continue to work with the blog, even after the end of FRIDA funding: the blog is actually being integrated in the educational offer of the institution
The project is still being carried on by teachers at CEFE, event though the FRIDA funds has ended. Furthermore, seed wants to replicate this experience in other study support centres in Brazil and Latin America in general, such as the Centro Educativo at Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.
The blog (www.projetofrida.com/cefe) reached a great results in term of visibility. In fact, over the 12 months of existence 492 visitors accessed the blog, for a total of 936 visits.
Visitors passed on average 5 minutes on the blog.
Of all the visits, 46,37% are direct traffics, while 44.02% come from search engine and 9,62% from reference websites.
Countries from where the blog has been accessed: Brazil, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Belarus, United States, United Kingdom, France and Senegal.
Within Brazil, the blog has been visited from many different places, such as Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Goiania, Fortaleza and Belem.