On March 22, Google and the Lemann Foundation, an education nonprofit in Brazil, announced plans for an initiative that will deliver, directly to the cellphones of elementary school teachers, lesson plans based on content set out in the National Common Curricular Base (the Brazilian equivalent to the Common Core standards in the United States). The NCCB aims to guide the skills and abilities that every Brazilian student should be taught in order to succeed in the 21st century.
The project, launched during the Google for Brazil event, will be funded through a $4.8 million investment from the online search giant and another $1.6 million from the Lemann Foundation, which will appoint the Associação Nova Escola (an Association responsible for Nova Escola magazine and website) to run the project. The goal is that by 2019 every teacher will have access to 6,000 lesson plans across all subject areas, from kindergarten to the 9th grade.
“This is a great opportunity to reduce learning discrepancies, as the indicators show that there is a lot of work to be done if all students are to reach their potential and have access to quality education. It is also an opportunity to expand scale and increase impact,” says Nick Cain, Program Manager of Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the company.
According to Cain, the initiative will capitalize on findings from research projects such as TIC Educação, a Brazilian IT survey, which has shown that despite problems with adequate internet infrastructure in schools, almost all Brazilian teachers use their cell phones to prepare classes; more than a third use such devices in activities with students. In addition, data that the Lemann Foundation provides via its QEdu platform will identify what subjects students struggle with—and require new strategies and content.
“The Prova Brasil [the standardized Brazilian national exam] data tell us which are the most problematic areas. Few students learn fractions, probably because we do not know how to teach them. With access to this data, users will be able to pick the content that is most problematic, develop material and apply tests,” says Denis Mizne, executive director of the Lemann Foundation.
To create the resources, the Lemann Foundation plans to create a “dream team” of teachers who will build the content and lessons. “Everything will be developed by experienced teachers connected to the reality of the classroom and reviewed by experts in each subject. Educators interested in collaborating with the project can sign up via the public enrollment processes that will take place in the coming months,” says Mizne.
The tool will be based on the LearnZillion platform, which is integrated with Google’s education products. In addition to lesson plans that can be accessed offline, teachers will have access to digital resources, quizzes and reports. According to Mizne, the impetus to create pocket-size lesson plans is fueled by the need for schools across the country to adopt to the new curricular standards.
At the same time, teachers can begin to request content that has not previously been taught. “In the United States, publishers took a long time to release books that aligned with the new standards. The same thing happened in Australia, where they tried to make digital materials available via a portal that would help the teacher,” says Mizne.
In a conversation with journalists following the Google for Brazil event, Mizne added that the creation of the new platform is part of a series of efforts involving both governments and the nonprofit sector to incorporate the NCCB learning standards in classrooms. “In the future, with an organized curriculum, teachers can use Google to find out how to teach the solar system in the third grade, a video from YouTube Edu, or lesson plans from the Nova Escola….[they] will have access to various digital resources,” says Mizne.
The National Common Curricular Base continues to be debated across different education stakeholders and other levels of society. To be fully implemented in 2019, it must be ratified by the Brazilian government later this year.