ITC based participatory learning for indigenous children in Chiapas, Mexico1

one of the winning projects of the Digital Media and Learning competition 2009 , an initiative of  HASTAC supported by the MacArthur Foundation 

Project summary 

Indigenous Chiapas population is one of poorest of Mexico. The government has created a parallel school system to attend the particular needs of indigenous children. The system is called CONAFE, for Educative Enhancement National Commission. Our project will produce pedagogical sequences, lesson plans and multimedia materials that enhance CONAFE's curriculum with constructionist activities that imply Problem-based and project-oriented participatory learning in which students produce and share materials and learning outcomes. We will choose two rural schools in which all the relevant actors (parents, children, instructors) would be willing to participate. The project will prepare instructors and students in the use of the technology and in constructionist participative learning strategies, so that they are able to use these activities in and out of the classroom to enhance student development. The learning materials will be used during the one year school cycle and the researchers will record both the learning process and learning outcomes. The computers will remain with the children; we expect that during and after the project, instructors and students will invent new ways of using the technology. These new uses will also be recorded as part of the project. 

Technological artifacts. This will be a research experiment in "one to one laptop" use of ICT for development (ICT4D). Initially we considered the XO1 from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) MIT project, but finally choose  the Intel Classmate Convertible running Sugar, the child-friendly GUI and constructionist activities developed initially by the OLPC foundation and now by Sugar Labs. ...more ...

Main challenges. Most of the CONAFE schools have no electricity or internet access (we plan to set up a wind turbine+manual power to charge the power-efficient laptops); the children can read Spanish but mostly talk and often write in the Tzotzil language (we have localized a translator); no knowledge of even the existence of computers for most of the children and their families ... more...

Main facilitating factors. The CONAFE curriculum already is constructivist and each child is given a paper exercise book with plenty of constructivist and constructionist, collaborative and reflective activities --however, some facilitators do not follow the book and have a tendency towards instructionism. CONAFE facilitators are indigenous, young, high school students eager to use technology... more...

For more detail on the project please see the full project proposal to.  the Digital Media and Learning Competition.; or a 3-page version of the proposal in Spanish

Background on the OLPC project - "It is not a laptop project. It is a learning project", insists its founder, Nicholas Negroponte of MIT's Media Lab. The learning that should happen comes from the learning methodology, the software and the deployment strategy in thousands of schools... more... 


The Tzotziles people - a pdf book (in Spanish) published  by the United Nations Program for Development. 

Project planning and development - most of it is in the "Sofware and learnning activities development" page, in Spanish. Summaries will be provided as news in English, and some other documents in English later on in this space. 

Lesson plans and new Sugar software activities - in Spanish - click here. Feel free to share.

Project final results - presented at the Washington D.C. meeting organized by HASTAC in May 2010. 

Note: the results reported above cover one school year. The project was later extended until September 2010 when we trained the new instructors and instructor's tutors for the next school year. See the project blog.

Cascadas de Agua Azul (Blue Water Waterfals), Chiapas

1 - The material on this web site is based on work supported by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation under prime grant no. 08-91858-000-HCD and the Regents of the University of California.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation or The Regents of the University of California.

We also gratefully acknowledge the support of Intel Corporaton in giving us quick access to the Classmate machines with a special discount, and for donating cellular modems and internet access for the schools. 



Part of this web site is in Spanish. Google-Translate the whole site to English
Parte de este portal está en Inglés. Traduzca todo el portal  al Español con Google Translator.

Location of schools

The gadget spec URL could not be found

See-> Flickr photo stream

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Project Blog

  • test test
    Posted Aug 30, 2010, 2:40 PM by Jose I. Icaza
  • Letting go... ... is sometimes applied to children that grow up. But in technology and other endeavors we have many kinds of children -most notably computer programs that start life with many limitations ...
    Posted May 12, 2010, 5:04 AM by Jose I. Icaza
  • Plan to be surprised... That certailnly applies to us, as we always arrive to the community classrooms with eyes wide open, and have refrained taking the role of experts specifying what to do. Therefore ...
    Posted Feb 24, 2010, 4:12 PM by Jose I. Icaza
  • Three steps forward, one back... Hi - this reports on our fourth visit to the Chiapas communities, 2nd trough 4th of December.The weather was nice at San Cristobal this time, and actually we learn that ...
    Posted Dec 26, 2009, 6:26 AM by Jose I. Icaza
  • Adapting plans and project to local circumstances Education involves interpersonal relationships, and in every such situation problems and solutions are unique to particular circumstances. We are re-learning that no single pedagogical model can fit all kinds ...
    Posted Nov 19, 2009, 5:39 PM by Jose I. Icaza
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 11. View more »

Principal Investigators

Yolanda Heredia (P.I.) - Director, Graduate School of Education, Virtual University, Tecnológico de Monterrey, México  (project leader). Contact: yheredia **at**

Jose I. Icaza (co-P.I.) - Professor at the Center for intelligent computing, Monterrey Campus, Tecnológico de Monterrey. 
Contact: josei09 **at**

Project collaborators

Marcela Gómez - Coordinator of research center on education, Graduate School of Education, Virtual University, Tecnológico de Monterrey

David Jiménez, Lucero Quilla, Miguel Angel Salazar and Jorge Garza-Riaño. Engineering in Computational Technology undergrad students.

Ramiro Espinoza, Alejandra Fontanes and Ramón Morales. Master's in Education students

This site license: (cite the homepage URL). Includes linked-in Google Docs documents and spreadsheets.

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