On a recent morning in Vidigueira, Portugal, students at the Vidigueira Elementary School, sang Cante Alentejano, a treasured Portuguese song and intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, to a classroom full of Korean students some eight time zones away. Using in-classroom video conference, the students at the Daeyanam Elementary School in Gunsan, Korea then returned the favor with a high-flying demonstration of Taekwondo during the same session.
This exchange is just one of many thanks to the Samsung Smart School program which is successfully invigorating and improving education for the most disadvantaged of students by helping to bridge the IT accessibility gap in classrooms.
A Team Effort to Provide Opportunity for the Next Generation
Launched in Portugal in 2013, the Samsung Smart School program has quickly expanded to 13 smart classrooms including eight in schools or institutes and five in pediatric hospitals. Vidigueira Elementary School, which participated in the video conferencing class, was one of seven Smart Schools introduced in 2014.
The school is located in Alentejo, one of the most underprivileged regions in Portugal. For Vidigueira students, the opportunity to connect with fellow students a world away was a meaningful, eye-opening experience. Before the first video conference, one student, Rodrigo even confessed, “I am very nervous, because we have never spoken to anyone from a different country before.”
At the Daeyanam Elementary School, located in the remote southern port city of Gunsan, where digital education tools are limited, the students shared the same nervous excitement, practicing English in preparation for their initial introductions.
In Alentejo, Portugal, the program, run in close partnership with the Gulbenkian Foundation and the University of Évora, has seen tremendous success rates in a region normally plagued by high dropouts. In fact, across the Alentejo region’s seven smart classrooms, the program has achieved a 100 percent success rate with all students advancing to the next grade. At Daeyanam Elementary in Korea, which faces constant challenges involving small school enrollment sizes, introduction of the program last year helped increase the number of students from six to 26.
Great Fun and Learning through Technology
After a few checks, and technology tools, including video conferencing and tablets, turned on at the Vidigueira and Daeyanam elementary schools, the class kicked off with the students greeting each other enthusiastically. The Gear 360 virtual reality camera was also used to capture the day’s fun.
The session was a time to learn new words like ‘hello’ (annyeong-haseyo, Korean) / (Olá, Portuguese) and ‘thank you’ (gamsahamnida, Korean) / (obrigado, Portuguese), as well as other Portuguese and Korean traditions. The students also spent time discussing how they are going to spend their summer vacations in their respective countries.
Korean student, Eunchan Jeong, who led the Taekwondo session, said, “I really enjoyed making friends in Portugal and hope to have more opportunities like that in the future.”
Teachers at both schools, who led preparation for the video conference class, also spoke highly of the session and praised the effectiveness of the Smart School program, overall. Fátima Ralha, the project coordinator at Vidigueira, said, “As the project has evolved, the tablets have proven to be a fundamental resource for the students, helping translate to the 100% success rate.”
Daeyanam teacher, Eunkyung Jeong, said the introduction of Samsung Smart School has made the learning experience more interesting and creative for students and teachers alike, “encouraging the students to be more proactive and enabling teachers to provide feedback instantly.”
As the session came to a close, students and teachers on both sides of the video conference expressed how much they had enjoyed the experience, and their excitement for more high-tech opportunities to come.