The British Council-managed Plan Ceibal remote teaching programme provides more than 1,100 weekly English classes remotely from our teaching center in Buenos Aires via video conferencing to children in grades 4 to 6 (ages 9-11) in 568 Uruguayan state primary schools, as part of the Uruguayan project Ceibal en Inglés.  

The overall objectives of the Plan Ceibal programme are to take children from beginner level to A1/A2 level on the Common European Framework by the end of grade 6 and to improve the English of the classroom teachers through a guided online self-study programme.

PROJECT HISTORY

The Ceibal en Inglés Project started as a small pilot in July 2012, when we began to teach 50 remote classes per week in 20 urban schools in the outskirts of Montevideo, with teachers from Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. The classes are interactive and in real time, using video-conference technology.

In 2014 we signed a contract for 3 years with Plan Ceibal to progressively expand to 500 classes per week, by the middle of the year the number exceeded 1,000, including classes from the Philippines.

In 2017 we renewed the contract for 3 more years, with more than 3,000 hours of classes per week given by different institutes that work in association with the British Council. Our Remote Teaching Center is responsible for dictating more than 30% of those classes.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Class plans specially designed to guide the remote teacher and the classroom teacher in the content of the classes using games, songs, videos and other digital materials.

The innovative element of this project is the coordination work of the pedagogical couple formed by the remote teacher, who dictates a class of 45 minutes each week by videoconference, and the classroom teacher who does not need to have previous knowledge of English, who is responsible of the 2 classes of 45 minutes using the activity bank available on the CREA2 Platform.

Three 45 minute English lessons per week are delivered into classrooms with a class size average of 25 students. Lesson A is taught by the remote teacher via video conference and the follow-up practice lessons B & C are delivered face-to-face by the local Uruguayan classroom teachers, who have little knowledge of English, using handheld devices and technology to raise the standards of English learning. 

The local classroom teacher is present throughout remote lesson A, facilitating classroom management and learning the language points to be practised in lessons B & C. Team teaching is key to this project, with weekly coordination meetings between the remote teacher and classroom teacher in which the remote teacher helps the Uruguayan classroom teacher to prepare the lessons and practice the English to be covered. Detailed, step-by-step lesson plans are provided, in both English and Spanish. Often, the local teachers are only one step ahead of the students in terms of their level of English.

SCOPE AND SUCCESS OF THE PROJECT

One of the most important scopes is the systematic dictation of classes in all Uruguayan schools, both urban and rural, and the adaptation of the materials to the specific context of each group. More than 75,000 students motivated to learn a foreign language through the use of technology realize the true democratization of education.

Does remote teaching work?

Plan Ceibal assesses the children’s progress via an annual adaptive test, created in conjunction with the British Council and the Uruguayan National Board of Public Education (ANEP). The published results indicate that learners achieve as much as those taught directly via traditional face-to-face teaching methods.

The December 2014 evaluation (which evaluated children who had been studying on the Plan Ceibal programme for between 1 and 2 years and covered 2,128 groups of grade 4, 5, and 6 pupils in 383 schools) indicated that :

  • 56% of students obtained A1 and 43% A2 level
  • The results of remote teaching were comparable to the results of pupils with presential English teachers (i.e. face to face English teaching)
  • ANEP’s report noted that: “because of these results obtained in connection to English learning, Uruguayan children are leaving primary schools with a considerable level of English.”
  • Responses from stakeholders have been overwhelmingly positive:

“We loved your teaching style and were surprised by the technology. To be able to communicate like this is really quite special for us.” Mariela, Uruguayan classroom teacher

“We have found improvements in all grades and in all social contexts. There are also marked differences in the test results in July and December. All differences are statistically significant.” Claudia Brovetto, Plan Ceibal

  • One third of the local Uruguayan classroom teachers are currently actively learning English through a guided online self-study programme and are expected to reach A2 level.

The video conferencing hardware and dedicated internet lines provide reliable high-definition video, enabling the remote teacher to see each individual child’s face. Skilful use of the remote camera to zoom in and out and ‘move around the classroom’, together with the large screen, gives the remote teacher real presence in the classroom. Both remote teachers and students report effective interaction, with the remote teacher becoming an integral part of the school for the children. Several groups of students have insisted upon their remote teacher being included within their end of year class photos, and remote teacher Maria is still moved by the student with Down’s Syndrome who hugged the screen she was teaching from.

Remote teachers report feeling as if they are in the same room with the children. Remote teacher Araceli commented: “I am going to Montevideo to teach now". She was not leaving Buenos Aires, yet she was there.

A Learning Management System called CREA2 (supported by the Schoology platform) is used to exchange homework, written text, interactive activities and multimedia content. Through this platform, learners also have access to supplementary materials and picture dictionaries. Local Uruguayan classroom teachers also use it for discussion and to access the lesson plans.

The result is a complete communicative English course, with listening and video input, conversation practice, written practice (through the Learning Management System) and all the tools available in face-to-face classrooms.