Faculty Research Grant: Kaiser in Uruguay

Aug. 5, 2015

Faculty Research Grant: Kaiser in Uruguay
Kaiser in Montevideo, Uruguay

DJ Kaiser, associate professor and coordinator of Teaching English as a Second Language in the School of Education, is currently in South America on a Faculty Research Grant conducting preliminary research for a U.S. Fulbright Scholars Grant, which will begin March 2016 in Uruguay. During this trip, Kaiser has been focusing on getting a clearer picture of Ceibal en Inglés and English language teacher and teacher preparation in Uruguay.

Ceibal en Inglés is a unique program that is being used to deliver English language classes to 4th through 6th grade elementary school classrooms throughout Uruguay. Started as a pilot in 2012, the program is now reaching 3,300 groups of students. In 2014, they began to pilot a similar program with secondary school students, and the program now in its first official year (beginning March 2015) is reaching 344 groups of students across the country.

Within days of arriving, Kaiser traveled to cities in the departments of Maldonado and Canalones (Uruguay is divided into 19 departments) to observe a remote English teacher conducting an English conversation class via teleconference to secondary students. He also had the opportunity to sit in a “Teaching Point” in Montevideo with an Argentine woman who moved to Uruguay to teach English in the program. Kaiser was able to watch her teach two different English classes to students in the northern department of Durazno. Remote teachers are only responsible for one hour of English instruction a week, while two more classes are taught by their regular classroom teacher, many of whom are still learning English themselves as part of this program.

Kaiser observed two live English classes this week taught by classroom teachers still learning English themselves and returned the next day to see both class groups be taught a 45-minute lesson from an English instructor from the Philippines that teleconferenced into a room in their school. The remote teacher (for these classes in the Philippines) and the classroom teacher collaborated to teach the class facilitating group work and student participation. “This is the most complex and fascinating system for delivering English language instruction that I have ever seen--and it works!” said Kaiser.

Kaiser has been using the Plan Ceibal offices as his home base for the visit. Plan Ceibal is a national project providing free laptops to schools children and teachers across the country, in addition to free internet connections in their schools and many public plazas. Plan Ceibal also delivers other instructional content through CREA 2, their learning management system. Plan Ceibal is housed in the LATU (Laboratorio Tecnológico del Uruguay) complex, which also houses the British Council and many other new technology-based organizations.

The British Council is a principal partner in Ceibal en Inglés, responsible for the coordination of the remote teachers and curriculum for the primary school portion of the program. Kaiser had the opportunity to sit in on a teleconference meeting with the administrators for the remote teaching center in the Philippines to discuss how operations have been going. Kaiser has also had the opportunity to meet with several people from the British Council and later this week will travel to Buenos Aires to meet with people from the Ministry of Education who are also involved with the British Council and worked to write the curricular material for the program.

Kaiser has been very excited about this experience. “I’ve spent more than a year reading about this project, but you don’t really begin to understand it until you begin meeting with all the different people involved in the project and you hear about the challenges they face and the successes they can celebrate," said Kaiser. "Having an opportunity to see English lessons taught from both perspectives--in the classroom with the students and their teacher and then at a teaching point with the remote teacher--really helps you see how technology can be used to bring quality English language instruction to more people.”

In addition to classroom observations, he had the opportunity to visit the IPA, which is the four-year teachers’ college in Montevideo, and to meet with the new director of language programs for ANEP, Uruguay’s Ministry of Education. Kaiser plans to work with the Ceibal en Inglés team to determine his research schedule for 2016.


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