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Design Thinking with Instituto Educadigital | Priscila Gonsales

i-genius: What is Instituto Educadigital?
Priscila Gonsales: Instituto Educadigital (IED) was founded in 2010 in Brazil, by me and a group of researchers and project managers from Cenpec (the Center for Studies in Education, Research and Community Action) – a social institution that has been working for 25 years on behalf of the Brazilian public education. IED is a private non-profit organization that aims at the integration of digital culture into schools and all possible public spaces where education takes place. Our mission is to create new learning opportunities to foster the human development. IED works in partnership with social organizations, companies, and governmental institutions that are interested in contributing to the improvement of the Brazilian education quality. IED is a partner of Impact Hub, a co-working place in 29 countries for purpose-driven people to connect and build solutions for a better world.

I began Educadigital after 10 years of leading a program which developed Brazil’s largest online educational platform, Educarede, that was an international project sponsored by Telefonica Foundation that runs from 2001-2010 focused on improvement of education through digital technology. Over the past 14 years, I recognized that in order to liberate teachers and students from a dependence on centralized, largely static system providing instructional materials that failed to meet the needs of Brazil’s students and teachers, I would have to engage diverse coalitions in an effort to shift the thinking and practices of an extraordinarily diverse range of educational actors, from private publishers, to local, state and national education bodies, from teachers and trainers to textbook purchasing agents. Because of that our main cause are Open Educational Resources (OER), all of our projects have a open licence (Creative Commons) and they are available for copy, distribute and adaptation.

i-genius: How do you use Design Thinking in Education? And Why is it important?
Working in collaboration with these partners, I am aiming to transform two subsidiary systems within the educational establishment:  1) the training and engagement of teachers (and the institutions which support them) so that they enhance and expand their role as producers of educational content that is tailored to the needs of the diverse student population, and 2) shifting the policies, practices and procedures of the regional and national educational authorities and actors regarding the procurement and distribution of educational materials.  This latter system is comprised of a bewildering array of actors from publishing companies, elected representatives on key legislative committees, as well as multiple departments within the federal and state ministries of education and technology.

DT is a good opportunity for education because it brings a teacher and student centered philosophy. It is based on three basic values: empathy, collaboration and experimentation. Empathy in the context of Educadigital’s training is the exercise of putting oneself in the place of teachers to understand the challenges and opportunities of education in a digital culture. Collaboration is centered on the free exchange of ideas and experiences, and the collaborative potential posed by the internet. Finally, experimentation means letting the group plan their own objectives for the online course they will be starting. Through this process, educators imagine what they will learn, identify their main doubts and likely obstacles, and anticipate how they will likely resolve them. Once the course is over, participants meet to share what they have learned, their new ideas about education materials, and their accumulated knowledge, before spreading these ideas to others.

One of the most basic premises of my work relates to a teacher’s “digital literacy,” the proficiency and familiarity with the Web. This includes training teachers to conduct research on the internet, collaborate online, and once they start to produce materials, the responsibilities and rights due to them as authors of content. I believe that teachers and students need to learn broader, more comprehensive internet skills, which are essential to research and any content production, rather than solely learning certain specific subjects.

i-genius: What difficulties has Instituto Educadigital faced?
Priscila: To extend the depth and reach this shift in perspective and practice to teachers across Brazil, IED seeks to establish partnerships with public education agencies. I’ve been already working with the Centers for Technology and Education at the state and municipal levels. By inserting the concept of educators as producers not just consumers of content into existing Pedagogical Political Projects, I believe these educators will become agents of change to multiply its impacts.

It is difficult to get sponsorship for the projects we wanna do! One of the main forms of sustainability of an NGO in Brazil is run social projects for other organizations, government and companies. But a NGO needs to have their mission, needs to have their purpose. Our propose is to improve education in a digital culture, using collaborative process and open educational resources.

i-genius: What is the future of Digital Culture in Brazil and across the world?
Difficult to answer this question! As Manuel Castell, a Spanish sociologist, has said and written in his famous books, we are in the beginning of the changes that Digital Culture will result in the way that we live, communicate with each other and established relationships. Actually, is already to observe several changes, such as people around the word producing and sharing information, knowledge and regional culture. People can talk about their problems and looking for help (for example, the Arab Spring in 2010, the protests in Brazil in June, 2013). And for education, the ubiquity is increasingly each year, it is possible to learn and to teach anywhere and any time.

i-genius: How will your time in London contribute to Instituto Educadigital?
As an Ashoka’s fellow (https://www.ashoka.org/fellow/priscila-gonsales) it is a great opportunity to meet other social entrepreneurs in UK, to know innovative projects here, like People’s Supermarket, and looking for partnerships and awareness raising and come back to Brazil with new ideas!

i-genius: What makes a good Executive Director?
Priscila: A good executive director needs to engage his/her team, to think about how to plan the strategies and articulate a lot of networks. It is important to be in the most popular digital social networks and interacting with people. It is also important to attend events, conferences and travel to network with other professionals.

i-genius: What is you advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs within the same industry?
Priscila Gonsales:
That’s another difficult question. I would say to them to believe in themselves, if you do what you really want to do, your chances of success will increase!

Visit Instituto Educadigital: http://www.educadigital.org.br


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