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Celebration of Service

Volunteers help preschool students and teachers become KidSmart

IBM employees in Uruguay take action, bringing expertise and technology to school in need

Raising the bar on student achievement is an important goal of educators around the world. But when the technology they use is out of date or non-existent, their efforts suffer and our children face the consequence of not learning vital skills they will need throughout their lives.

Adriana Arcidiaco and a team of IBM employees in Uruguay learned about the technology challenges facing the preschool students and teachers at the Centro de Educación Inicial (CEI) in Montevideo. As volunteers we saw the opportunity to present the KidSmart solution to the teaching staff at CEI so they in turn could enhance and develop the cognitive activities of their young students, but the Center lacked the technology and training to manage the program. We took this as another opportunity to help,” said Arcidiaco.

Technology first, then the skills to excel

Arcidiaco and a team of IBM volunteers, which included Marjorie Gallipoli, Oscar Pereira, Pablo Martínez, and Carlos Alonso, decided to help CEI in two phases. However, before they could focus on enhancing the teaching curriculum through technology the team needed to get updated computers for the school. They applied for a contribution from the IBM Grant program, and succeeded in the getting new computers donated to CEI.

With the new equipment in place, the volunteers first trained the preschool teachers in the use of the KidSmart Early Learning program. The training is important to help overcome the hurdle some teachers face when technology is brought into their classrooms. Arcidiaco said, “The interest to acquire basic computer skills also appeared from the teachers. They understood that to give a high quality experience to their students they needed to be smart in the use of the technology.”

The second phase of the volunteer project was to give the teachers additional training in other programs that would assist them in integrating the technology into their curriculum. Working in teams of two and three, the IBM volunteers provided training to each teacher in topics such as spreadsheet management, searching the web for information, and text formats.

Veronica Dentone, the head mistress at CEI, said “It was a very positive experience that motivated me and awakened greater interest about working with computers. Our faculty must be as proficient as possible since we know it’s important for our children to get this experience as early in their education as possible. Now with IBM’s help we’re more prepared to give our students this learning.”

A proud moment for students, teachers and volunteers

The teachers at CEI held an event at the end of the school year to give their students an opportunity to show all they had learned using KidSmart Early Learning software on the new computers. The volunteers, along with IBM Uruguay general manager Gonzalo de Azpitarte, attended the event.

The KidSmart software program is available in multiple languages, and while giving kindergarten age children early experience with computers, the software also teaches them topics such as science, math and music through fun activities. Several of the children described what the different characters in the KidSmart programs had taught them.
“We were so pleased and emotional seeing how proud these young students were of their accomplishments,” said Arcidiaco.

While the children at CEI will benefit for years from the expertise and technology from IBM, the volunteers also gained something valuable. Arcidiaco said, “The experience of working in teams with your colleagues outside of the office, in our community, is terrific. It’s a very good feeling to offer a solution that will help young children.”

She added, “From our point of view, the difference we made was being able to identify a challenge that our skills could solve. Donating equipment is important, but the whole solution is about being able to expand the knowledge of the teachers so they can enhance the cognitive development of the kids using KidSmart.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.