Did you know that 80% of the world’s classrooms are located in developing countries? While teachers are free to use the new technologies and have full access to the internet in the other 20%, the teachers and students in 80% of the world’s classrooms are left behind, leading to a further widening of the education gap that restricts the future potential of girls and boys in these countries.
Juan Manuel Lopera, CEO of TOMi, the educational startup, is very clear. They asked themselves “what if we can close that gap, even if the Internet hasn’t arrived?” And so they created TOMi, a small portable device that can create a Wi-Fi network in any classroom, no matter how remote or off the beaten track the geographical area is. Thus, students and teachers “can connect and start browsing through thousands and thousands of learning activities created on our platform by thousands of teachers, as if they were connected to the Internet”, explained Juan Manuel in an interview in which he told us how his device works, what his main motivations were when he created it and how he believes that digital education can substantially transform the reality and future of children learning in vulnerable contexts. In this video we can also find out what other features this device incorporates.
The teacher’s irreplaceable role
In the interview, Juan Manuel highlights the importance of incorporating digital education into the classroom. In the age of technology, it’s imperative that teachers and students become familiar with this expanding educational reality in which Internet-based training is vital for the adults of tomorrow. In this respect, he says, “Imagine children being educated in a disconnected classroom and then having to compete for their jobs and productivity in a fully-connected scenario; they’re bound to be at a disadvantage”.
However, Juan Manuel Lopera points out the need to accompany the use of the TOMi device with the irreplaceable role of teachers: “Technology cannot replace the ability of teachers to show empathy, to understand the real contexts in which each student is growing up and the problems they face, to find out what motivates them and guides them.”
The importance of partners
Lopera points out the need to find partners to narrow the educational and digital gap to be found in numerous Latin American regions and, in this regard, he remains very hopeful about a future partnership between the TOMi initiative and ProFuturo. Because “only by collaborating can we meet so many needs and close these huge gaps that exist in our countries”.