Penn State Intercom......September 6, 2001

Program brings Chilean teachers to
University for technology training

By Celena Kusch
Outreach Communications

Media reports have exposed the persistent gap between the technology expertise of teachers and the technology resources of U.S. schools. In many other countries, that gap is a canyon.

Armando Villarroel, executive director of the Inter-American Distance Education Consortium (CREAD), points to Chile as an example of a nation with serious obstacles to using technology in education and an equally serious commitment to overcoming those barriers.

"Chile, because of its southern geographical location, is as isolated as Australia, but it has an aggressive program to outfit all the schools with Internet technology. For the last six years, the Chilean minister of education has encouraged educators to engage with other countries in order to break the natural isolation and to experience what other countries are doing with technology and other aspects of education," he said.

This year, CREAD was awarded a grant from the minister of education to provide that experience through a technology education program for Chilean teachers. One of just eight such projects throughout the world, the program is intended to further CREAD's mission to develop educational projects and to assist in the improvement of distance education in the Americas.

CREAD, a 10-year-old nonprofit organization based at the University, in cooperation with the College of Education, will offer the six-week Technology Enhanced Teaching and Learning Institute for 20 Chilean primary teachers beginning Monday, Oct. 1, in State College. Designed for teachers of grades one to eight with little to moderate experience using technology, the program will offer the opportunity to explore the need to develop technology skills in today's world.

All activities and events will be delivered in Spanish, with translation assistance provided by bilingual lecturers and graduate assistants. This, Villarroel explained, is the most exciting challenge of the program.

"We are very excited about this opportunity to offer a Spanish-language learning institute," he said. "In the recent history of outreach programs, we have not made such a commitment to teach so many students in their own language for so many weeks. This program underscores Penn State's commitment to international outreach and marks the beginning of a series of Spanish-language projects CREAD is working with Penn State to deliver in the future."

As part of the program, each participant will have a mentor teacher from a local, public school. Using a variety of interactive strategies, including hands-on individualized technology training, group discussion techniques and a course of study in a public school, they will learn how to develop a Web-based teaching unit. The program also will prepare the teachers to develop and teach Web-based curriculum units in science, social studies, and the arts and humanities. Participants will gain hands-on experience in the college's Technology Education Center.

Travel study seminars also are part of the program curriculum. They include a visit to New York City, where participants will tour public schools; and a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with officials from the Department of Education and the National Education Association.

Celena Kusch can be reached at