Tech-savvy instructional designers continue to thrive on an expanding landscape of learning technologies and new knowledge demanded by industry and academia. But for the best examples of technical expertise and creativity devoted to higher impact, sparsely-funded teams at education agencies across Latin American cities can prove as places ripe with inspiration.
Meet Sill Pontes, long-time Brazilian Moodler (with a 6-year MoodleMoot participant record), Senior Instructional Designer and Project Manager for FIEP, an industrial federation in Brazil’s Paraná state. For six decades, FIEP has promoted industrial development in Paraná and the country through education and sustainable growth initiatives to improve people’s livelihoods.
For Pontes, Moodle was an eye-opener, and now with H5P, she is a fiercer advocate of open source technology to empower a generation of educators tasked with providing citizens with the new skills, professions, and mindsets required by the “Industry 4.0.” Senai, Brazil’s National Service for Industrial Training, and one of FIEP’s partners, produced a prospect for some 30 new fields the country should turn into professions: “Vehicular informatics,” “IT and IoT applications for food traceability,” “Automation maintenance” and “Polymer development and repurposing-recycling” are examples of an expectedly larger integration between industry and informatics.
What people in Brazil and the region really need, Pontes steadfastly says, “are professionals who know how to do this work, the pedagogical and didactic field, with knowledge of the psychological and cognitive processes” that underlie it. As she readies to offer an H5P and Moodle workshop for 200 teachers, her team is polishing a site that should be the envy of the best LMS designers around. The actual challenge, however, is to turn teachers into creators of such bountiful interactivity. “Intuitiveness is a way to reduce school dropouts,” she says, voicing the views of many of her colleagues. The training is a starting ground for a digital teaching skills model that, if successful (and funded), will be deployed to inner cities over the coming months.
“Teachers have a lot of resistance. But I am going to show them that it is easy.”
Training the Trainers: Moodle, H5P, and a taste of Cognitive Development.
One of the early discoveries is that an engaging Moodle site should start at the home page. And if H5P is the tool for the job, there is no reason why H5P should not be waving to users at the first opportunity. The Moodle sites Pontes showcased along with Moodle consultant Gisele Brugger at MoodleMoot Brazil last April –including one for Senai– offer examples of “efficient and likable virtual learning environments.” They were explicitly developed to “give life to ‘pedagogical dreams’, possible and impossible methodologies in virtual environments,” all in service of distance education. In the video, H5P is knit within the Moodle sites, offering additional guidance, serving as a virtual lobby, and providing extra help and mentoring resources. In technical education, which covers many adults, there is never enough interactivity.
The “sandboxes,” are the joint work of Pontes and colleagues Alcione Mazur and Hilde Silvana Pontes. Partial credit of the site goes to prominent citizen of the Moodleverse William Mano Araujo, author of the “Moove” theme. Other plugins (the Grid course format comes to mind) and tools were used, always open source.
“Do you understand that everything is in our hands?”
Learning as the sum of interactivity, engagement, and beauty. For a given subject, teacher attitude is a strong predictor of student interest. The opposite is also true. For those invested in education in the region, this is not really insightful, more a poignant reality, and one where burdened teachers cannot be to blame. In an ideal world, a teacher would be able to count on a support system, with places where complex social issues affecting learners can be discussed, if not addressed on an institutional level. Reality offers a harsher picture. Pontes’ team divvies up the time between securing funding and strategizing training materials that reignite teacher engagement as the root source of student engagement, a mission taken upon themselves as seemingly no one else was willing to. Characteristically Brazilian, Pontes has a natural resource, also available for their teachers. “Imagination,” she affirms, “takes care. Software, themes, formats and plugins are ready to be used.”
Good Moodle themes (“Moove” is her personal favorite) allow trainers to set Moodle to any color, but it’s up to them to make sites colorful. “Human development conditions are aspects of teaching and learning that give color and life to software” according to Pontes. For the coming training sessions, FIEP’s workshops will first introduce trainers to the technical aspects of Moodle and H5P. Then, she is confident teachers will be able to make Moodle their own and build engaging H5P activities, in a matter of minutes. “I’m sure tutors and teachers will create beautiful things and improve a lot with the students’ experiences!”
Distance education “without distance”
Perhaps the most encouraging part of this story is its resolution, because it highlights the increasing interest in learning technologies, among which Moodle has a clear emphasis in the strategy of several private organizations and public policy as well, especially in distance education, Pontes’ main field of study. Distance Education – Education without Distance, a live intervention with Pontes and Armando Pastore Mendes —director of top Professional Development consultancy ICTUS in Curitiba— went viral and continues to rack up thousands of views. Due to geographical characteristics, distance education has been a policy priority. For years, millions have accessed distance education at every stage.
“Latin America, and Brazil in question, are full of people with behaviors that are the result of neglect and disrespect towards workers and their dreams (…) And if each professional uses their skills to improve it, we will have a legacy of hope for the next generations.”