Laval and J. Enrique Hinostroza
de Informática Educativa - Universidad de La Frontera, Chile
In the early 90's Chile began
an educational reform for its primary and secondary school system. Similar
processes took place in many countries around the world,1
adjusting education to the so-called "Knowledge Society" that was approaching
at the end of the millennium.
Many aspects of the Chilean
Educational Reform are similar to other reforms in the world: new curriculum,
better infrastructure, text books, more teacher training, more learning
time at school, etc. Nevertheless, there are some particular aspects of
the Chilean context in the 90's that offer a particular flavor:
All these factors allowed for
the design and implementation of long term and consistent programs articulated
around the Educational Reform. One of these programs was the Chilean initiative
for introducing ICT in primary and secondary schools: the Enlaces Network.
Chile was initiating a democratic
phase after a long period of military government. The three presidents
elected since 1990 came from the same political coalition, and gave a high
priority and continuity to the educational policies of the decade.
The country had a relatively
robust economy within the Latin American Region (GNP per capita of US$4860
in 1996). This situation offered a good framework for funding a large and
long-term effort in education.
The 90's were marked with high
political and social consensus on the priorities in education, which implied
a national relation between the political system and education.2
An important component of
Chilean Educational Reform was the incorporation of information and communication
technologies (ICT) into primary and secondary schools. At the beginning
of the 90's there were no clear answers about how to conduct such a process
in the whole country, but we knew that the solution was not merely the
massive provision of hardware. New technologies were seen as powerful artifacts
that could act as new tools for improving and enhancing teacher practice
within the school. Hardware provision needed to be part of a larger educational
vision that included clear means for supporting teachers in the use of
The initial vision was built
around the construction of a National Educational Network, through which
teachers and students could develop professional and pedagogical communities.
This network was called Enlaces, which means 'links' in Spanish.
Teachers were expected to
use technology to communicate with other colleagues, sharing problems and
solutions, students were expected to participate in collaborative projects
within their schools and with other schools, and computers were seen as
a potential pedagogical tool that could support the teaching and learning
process within the curriculum.3
In summary, technology was seen as playing several roles in education:
We were certain that it was
important to have a clear vision of the roles of technology in education,
but we were also certain that many change processes in education don't
succeed if they don't get to an implementation stage: making it happen
inside the school. This implementation stage implies dealing with many
variables that are hard to consider - or even be aware of - from a design
desk. Some of the most challenging aspects of the implementation stage
were: an appropriate relation with the school principal, a respectful approach
to teachers, an appropriate professional development process, a good understanding
of the power relation between schools and local authorities, etc.
role: Technology can support learning at school from a perspective
of 'how' students learn (facilitating certain learning situations that
would be more difficult without technology), but also from a perspective
of 'what' students learn (learning some concepts or contents that are easier
to understand through digital and interactive representations).
social and professional role: Computer networks can enable the
formation of new communities of practice.
administrative role: Computers can be a powerful tool for facilitating
management and data handling procedures within the school.
Since we did not have the
experience of implementing an ICT initiative in schools, the decision was
to have an initial pilot stage working with a small number of schools (100
schools) during an extended period of time (5 years) before scaling up
nationally. This is not an easy decision for a Ministry of Education, since
working on a small scale in education is not popular and might not have
high political revenues in the short term. Looking backwards we may say
that it was a right decision for the long-term implementation of Enlaces.
Enlaces began its pilot
stage in 1992 working in educational and technical aspects of the implementation
with just 3 schools in Santiago (Chile's capital city). In 1993, the project
moved to a small city in the south of Chile - Temuco - in one of the poorest
regions of the country. We took the decision of doing a pilot project in
'difficult' conditions, since if we could succeed there, then it would
be possible to scale up to a national level. The team that coordinated
the pilot project, and designed the later expansion, was based at the University
of La Frontera, a small University in the city of Temuco, which became
a key partner of the Ministry of Education in this national ICT program.
After 3 years we were able
to build a network of over 100 primary schools that received hardware (computers,
printers, modems), educational software, Internet connection and most important,
a teacher training program that allowed teachers to use technology. The
decision then was to expand at a national level, building on the experience
gained in the past three years. The main lessons from this period were:
it simple for the users
Teachers were not coming
from an ICT culture. Computers, operating systems, software modems and
even keyboards could be powerful tools, but they could also be huge barriers
for the adoption of technology. From the beginning, Enlaces tried to focus
the tasks that teachers could achieve with computers, and not the mastery
of the computer as and end.
It was decided to
buy the easiest-to-use hardware and software at that time (graphic user
interfaces, easy to set up systems, etc.). This could seem to be an expensive
choice in terms of hardware cost, but turned out to be a cost-effective
solution in terms of usability. An easy to use graphic software environment
was also developed - La Plaza - which allowed users to engage in
meaningful tasks at the computer within a few hours, even if they had never
seen one before. (see Figure 1)
La Plaza (which means 'the
central square') was a graphic representation of a common place for Chilean
- and Latin American - culture. Most Chilean towns have a central square,
which is the place were important things happen in the town: people meet
at the Plaza, the Post Office is near the Plaza, important buildings are
close to the Plaza, etc. Our computer Plaza was a point and click image,
where users could go to a Post office (for sending emails), to a News Kiosk
(for reading news), to a Cultural Center (for participation in interest
groups), and to a Museum (for accessing software and information). (see
on Teacher Training
A key dimension of Enlaces
work was "training teachers". The University that was conducting the pilot
project established a teacher training team composed initially of university
staff, but later made up mainly of teachers coming from the first schools
in the project.
was organized around regular sessions conducted with teachers in their
own schools for a period of two years. The first year was oriented mainly
towards the use of the computer and software (electronic mail, word processor,
electronic spreadsheet, painting programs, educational software), and the
second year focused mainly on the pedagogical application of technology
(collaborative learning, curricular projects, etc.).
It was very important for
the development of the project to have a good organizational structure
that offered a balance between political decisions, design capacities,
national articulation, trust, implementation efficacy and funding. This
balance was achieved through the partnership established between the Ministry
of Education and the University.
National Expansion: 1995-2000
One of the most critical
moments in a project's implementation is when it has to grow from a small
- and controlled - pilot project to a massive, large scale, national program.
Enlaces faced this challenge in 1995, when it began a national expansion
to the primary education system and at the same time it started a national
implementation in the secondary school system.
A key issue for facing this
expansion was the creation of the 'Enlaces National Support Network' that
involves a partnership between the Ministry of Education and more than
24 Universities through the country. Following the scheme adopted for the
pilot stage, 6 universities constituted specialized groups of people that
would be in charge of providing professional development, technical support
and development of materials at the regional and local levels. Each of
these universities became a 'Zone Center', which was responsible for the
implementation of Enlaces in a geographical zone. Within each zone, the
Zone Center established, in turn, agreements with other universities and
institutions - 'Implementation Units' - in order to cover all the geographical
regions of the country with a local presence.
Along with the Enlaces National
Support Network, the Ministry maintained a partnership with the Institute
for Information Technology in Education at the University of La Frontera,
which had conducted the pilot stage. The National Coordination of the project
was established at the Institute (in coordination with a team at the Ministry),
as well as a Research and Development Center, which supported the Ministry
in the design of future steps of Enlaces.
This National Support Network
was central to the expansion due to some key factors:
ICT in small rural schools
The implementation of Enlaces
in the schools was the responsibility of institutions that knew the local
Institutions appropriated this
national initiative as a shared challenge. It was not just the implementation
of an official policy from the government, but the implementation of a
program felt as belonging to the whole country.
A network of specialized teams
thinking, reflecting and having direct experiences with technology in schools
The universities worked with
school teachers for training teachers in schools (peer tutoring). This
promoted the development of a national network of teacher trainers.
The early years of Enlaces,
and the later national expansion, was built on a design for large urban
schools: arrangement of computers within a special computer room, training
groups of 20 teachers in weekly sessions at their own school, Internet
connectivity through the telephone network, frequent technical support,
Almost 90% of Chilean students
go to these 'urban' primary or secondary schools. The other 10% of the
students attend small rural schools, with a very different context. Some
of the most salient characteristics of rural schools are as follows:
The Ministry of Education has
a special program for working with rural schools since 1992. This program
involves methodological and organizational approaches that are suitable
for mixed grade classes, and monthly meetings with teachers from nearby
schools constituting a community of teachers called Microcenter.4
Within this context of Rural Education, in 1999 Enlaces designed a special
ICT program: Rural Enlaces.5
This program involved a different organization of resources within the
school (computers arranged as learning corners inside the classroom), and
a different teacher-training program.
They have a small population
of students (an average of 27 students per school).
Several classes are taught by
the same teacher in one classroom (66% have just one teacher).
In spite of the fact that a
small proportion of the national population attend rural schools, the number
of these schools is relatively high (there are more than 3,300 rural schools,
more than one third of all the schools in the country).
Most rural schools are located
in places with difficult access (no public transportation).
About 10% of rural schools do
not have regular access to electricity.
About 80% of rural schools do
not have telephone communication.
Rural Enlaces constituted
a network of teams within the Zone Centers that were dealing specifically
with ICT introduction in rural schools. These teams work with rural teacher
trainers - called facilitators - that visit each school once a month
and work with the teacher and students inside the classroom, modeling different
approaches to the incorporation of technology in pedagogical activities.
Besides these 'in-classroom' sessions, the facilitator meets with all the
teachers from nearby schools once a month in their already established
Microcenter meeting. The first year, teachers also participate in special
intensive workshops at the closest University, learning basic skills related
to the use of computers and software. This professional development program
is seen as a progressive process that takes 3 years, after which they keep
a permanent basic support link with the Enlaces Support Network.
In terms of connectivity,
it was decided to begin Rural Enlaces with a focus of the pedagogical use
of technology inside the classroom even if the schools did not have Internet
access. In parallel, there is a task team designing a national solution
for providing sustainable Internet access to all the rural schools - and
communities - in the following years.
by the year 2002
By the year 2002 more than
7,300 primary and secondary schools have been incorporated to Enlaces.
Each of these schools received computers, local networks, educational and
productivity software and free and unlimited Internet access. Additionally,
the Ministry of Education, in a partnership with Enlaces National Support
Network, provided technical and pedagogical support to each school.6
In summary, the implementation
of the Enlaces educational network has involved the following:
A crucial step in the development
of Enlaces was the Agreement that the Ministry of Education negotiated
with one of the largest telephone companies in the country - Telefonica
CTC Chile. The company agreed to provide telephone lines, email accounts
and dialup Internet at no cost for a period of 10 years to all the schools
in the regions where the company had a telephone network (the majority
of the Chilean Schools).
Providing three years of training
to twenty teachers per school, for an approximate total of 80,000 teachers
(70% of all teachers).
Reaching 72% of the schools,
thus covering 97% of the student population attending state-subsidized
Supplying 51,000 computers to
schools, allocated according to the number of students in each school.
The equipment – chosen according to annually updated technical standards
– includes multimedia computers, printers, modems and a local area network.
Considering this equipment and the ones purchased by each school, the students/computer
ratio in the country is 42.
Equipping schools with educational
software to support their study programs. Annual bidding is held to supply
schools with this material. The software includes productivity applications
such as word processing, spreadsheets and graphics programs, along with
educational software on topics such as the human body, space, science,
math, geometry, scientific experimentation, Chilean history, world history,
geography, literature, music, art, drama, physics, chemistry, the environment,
Creating a Web site (www.educarchile.cl)
that offers a wide range of useful educational content and services for
teachers and students. This site was conceived as an educational portal
where teachers can find relevant and useful curriculum-oriented content
(digital educational resources), forums on relevant issues and up-to-date
education information (news, events, etc.).
Introducing ICT as a built-in
part of the new curriculum for secondary schools. The use of ICT was defined
as a transversal aim in the curriculum, indicating thereby that it should
be used in all the core subjects (Language, Math, Science, etc.) and not
as a subject by itself.
In general terms, the results
of the evaluations of the effects of Enlaces done at an early stage
of the project7
(between 1993 and 1997), coincide to show positive outcomes in learning
(students increased their reading capacity and their comprehension levels)
and psychological effects (students improved their creativity, self-esteem,
and concentration capacities). These results are congruous with results
of qualitative evaluation, indicating that technology produces a high level
of motivation among students, generates a more horizontal social organization
within the classroom, and enables students to feel proud of their participation
in projects, with a corresponding increase in self-esteem.
From the point of view of
teachers, the comparative evaluation made of programs introducing
computers into the educational systems in Costa Rica and Chile8
showed that Enlaces is a source of pride that opens doors for professional
development, especially among teachers. School officials also valued the
increase in equity that the project provides by outfitting schools with
equipment that they otherwise would not have been able to acquire. However,
a main concern among teachers is the heavy unpaid workload resulting from
their participation in the Program.
From a general perspective,
evaluations made by the World Bank,9
the U.S. Agency for International Development11
coincide to highlight the Enlaces project as one of the successful programs
in the Chilean Educational Reform. An important point in this positive
evaluation is that the project has expanded its coverage to the national
level without sacrificing quality or equity. Among the factors in this
success, they mention the program’s focus on teachers, the construction
of a social network of educators and pupils facilitated by user-friendly
technology and decentralized support, and respect for participating schools’
autonomy and their decisions in the use of the program’s technologies.
We recognize that the task
is far from being completed. We had provided just a basic seed that
allowed schools and teachers to recognize the potential benefits of ICT.
Technology has already been incorporated into the school culture, but it
has not really incorporated into teachers' regular teaching practice. If
ICT is to make a contribution to teaching and learning practices, we still
have a long road to follow. The next steps of Enlaces are directed towards
the effective Curricular Integration of ICT. Several task teams are working
on priority areas (particularly basic skills of Literacy and Numeracy in
primary education), not only trying to understand the potential benefits
of technology, but more importantly the key knots in teaching and learning
within the disciplines. That is, we are trying to answer the question:
where and how can technology help the teaching and learning process
within each discipline? The main idea is that we are not just providing
resources and training, but that we have to design 'modes of action' for
teaching with the use of technology, as mediators in the teaching process
in the domains were technology can have an impact.
We still have more questions
than answers for the next steps in Enlaces, but we do know that this is
not a neatly designed 'single shot' intervention, but a long term process
in which we will have to continue working with schools and the national
- and international - community to build new understandings and support
networks for incorporating ICT for the enhancement of our students’ learning.
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Hepp, P., Enlaces: Todo un mundo para los niños y jóvenes
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methodology considered a quasi-experimental design with chronological series
using successive pre and post tests. The sample consisted of 52 primary
schools (10,500 students) and 49 secondary schools (5,600 students).
Potashnik, M., Rawlings, L., Means, B., Alvarez, M. I., Roman, F., Dobles,
M. C., Umaña, J., Zúñiga, M., & García,
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in Education and Technology Series Special Issue. 1998, World Bank
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Rusten, E., Contreras-Budge, E., Tolentino, D., in Learnlink Case Study
Summary. "Enlaces: Building a National Learning Network". 1999,
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Development. Available in: http://www.aed.org/learnlink.