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Carnegie Mellon Qatar students work on literacy project for Uruguay

Intern programme develops tools to build English language skills in Uruguay

Carnegie Mellon Qatar students work on literacy project for Uruguay
Afnan Fahim with students testing the literacy tools on XO One-Laptop-Per-Child devices.

Two ICT students from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar have taken part in an internship programme to help educational development in Uruguay.

The students participated in the Innovative Student Technology ExPerience (iSTEP) programme, along with students from Carnegie Mellon's US campus, to develop IT tools to help with English literacy for schools in Montevideo.

The iSTEP programme worked with the government agency that is responsible for Uruguay's public schools, Administración Nacional de Educación Pública (National Administration of Public Education, ANEP), to identify areas where technology-based solutions could help deliver better education.

iSTEP used focus groups with pupils, teachers and administrators at the Liceo 39 public school in Montevideo, to develop three projects, a One-Laptop-Per-Child/Computer Tool (OCT), a Facebook Tool (FBT), and a Content Authoring Tool (CAT).

The OCT and FBT allow Uruguayan students to practice English literacy skills on an XO low cost laptop, or via Facebook respectively, while the CAT allows teachers to customize the literacy content delivered by the laptop and Facebook tools.

The two students from Qatar took different roles on the project, with Afnan Fahim, a sophomore computer science major, travelling to Uruguay to act as technical lead on the Facebook project, while Asma Hamid, a junior information systems major, provided floating technical support from Doha for all three projects.

Silvia Pessoa, PhD, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, who also happens to be Uruguayan and a graduate of Liceo 39, acted as an advisor on the project.

"I am impressed by the team's commitment to improving education through technology," Pessoa said. "The team has gathered great knowledge of what technology solutions would work best to make a positive contribution on English teaching in high schools in Uruguay."

Hamid commented: "iSTEP was the best internship I have ever had. I have always been interested in research and the technology research experience iSTEP provided us with is priceless. Carnegie Mellon Qatar gave me a strong foundation to pursue a career in research in the future and the iSTEP helped me get a feel of what it would be like. It's great."

"My time in Uruguay proved to be an excellent experience, professionally and more importantly, culturally. The internship provided me with a great experience in understanding how material learned in the classroom can be directly applied to improve literacy in any other part of the world, where people didn't even speak the same language as I did," Fahim added.

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