Virtual worlds are considered
a pleasure of the developed world. After all, they require broadband
internet connections, powerful computers, and the luxury of free time. One
education company is working to change that by bringing stripped-down
mobile classrooms to the rural backroads of Latin America.
ClaseMovil hopes to do in Latin America what many forward-thinking distance-learning companies are doing in the run-down inner cities of the United States. By lowering costs and increasing access to education through virtual classrooms and telecommuting teachers, virtual classrooms offer the promise of quality learning regardless of geographic or economic handicap.
By taking its cue from initiatives already underway in America, Clasemovil showcases a very interesting trend – across land masses and ideologies, languages and cultures, virtual education is gaining steam.
From the article:
ClaseMovil virtual world is presented as a place for children to play.
Within the world, they’ll find educational videos and games. Teachers
can then see the results of the activities to gauge how each student is
As the article mentions,
ClaseMovil is far from the first tech company to see the profit
incentive in expanding education to those previously beyond the reach
of the school system. The Open University implemented Second Life as a means to extend its adult distance learning programs while lowering tuition costs.
But no one has done it quite like
ClaseMovil, and none have made it a specific goal to provide education
to students disadvantaged by finance as well as distance. Using just a
half million dollars of start-up money, ClaseMovil developed a viable
program for reaching into a region beset by an aging electric grid, a
lack of broadband technology and highly variable, crop-dependent
Worldfund decried the poor state of education throughout Latin America,
owing to the distance between rural communities and schools, as well as
the inability of young people to leave farms or households where their
presence may be necessary for chores and land work. ClaseMovil's
solution is simple: make it possible for teachers and students to be in
Much of the cost of schooling in Latin America comes from
construction fees and teacher salaries, so students priced out of
education are the prime target for something like virtual world
teaching. Virtual distance education brings with it low overhead costs and the ability to participate in a classroom social environment without travel.
education is the first step towards building modern, stable economies
in Latin America – Argentina and Brazil rose from regional basket cases
to continental powers on the backs of ambitious expansions of public
education. Brazil is poised to become a virtual world development hub as previously undereducated rural workers learn trades and move into cities.
ClaseMovil is certainly tackling a complicated issue, but the
benefits are real. In Latin America, a lack of education can mean the
difference between subsistence farming and productive citizenship.
Virtual worlds could provide the bridge between farming and financial
security in Latin America.
Moving on Up to the Inner City
Poor learning spaces are not just the problem of Latin America. Disruptive and dangerous learning spaces continue to plague the inner city school systems of America's largest cities due to bare-bones state and federal funding. With virtual technology, students need not be bound by the quality of their classroom any longer – technology exists today capable of supporting a digital classroom
environment, and innovation into the utility of virtual classrooms is ongoing.
Funding shouldn't be used as a crutch for stalling the implementation of virtual worlds. As a nation, we spend nearly $10,000 per student per school year for ineffective teaching methods when large-scale studies of virtual education's feasibility could be carried out on an entire school for a fraction of the cost.
Virtual schooling also allows for closer tracking of performance. As the forward-minded education firm Synaptic Mash is proving, assignments given through computers can be tracked more effectively than paper assignments.
A virtual exam can adjust its questions to focus on problem areas for
individual students instead of tired one-size-fits-all standardized
examination. Virtual classrooms allow an individual instructor to adapt a lesson to every student's learning curve.
is no certainty that sending inner-city students to virtual classrooms
instead of the distraction-laden cells of dilapidated brick-and-mortar
schools will make a difference. But it's inexcusable that major pilot
studies haven't been carried out given the cost-effectiveness of
virtual education and the unmitigated failure of previous progressive
In both the developed American north and the developing Latin south, companies are taking unique approaches to expanding education by harnessing the power of currently available virtual tools. No two solutions will be alike, but that's part of the promise. By rejecting the idea that diverse educational problems can be fixed with a one-size-fits-all approach, advocates of the virtual classroom may actually, finally, be moving forward in developing our most precious of assets: children.