CONCLUSION

After spending a semester working on the translation, adaptation and localization of six virtual math manipulatives, plus five weeks of implementing two of them in a public school in Fortaleza, Brazil, there are several thoughts about this internship. I would consider my experience in both academic and personal aspects as invaluable.

In the academic aspect, I was part of an excellent team work, where I partook in a endeavor that (rendered its results) gave me the opportunity to put into practice the skills acquired throughout my Master in Instructional Technology. To be involved in a real life application project made me feel excited and in a certain way nervous about being able to perform in a satisfactory way. The fact of taking a learning object created for a specific cultural setting and adapt it to another- specially two cultural settings with many differences in educational, social and economic aspects- made me try to go the extra mile because I always pictured myself doing this same task in the Dominican Republic in the future. I learned that in order to make an effective learning object localization we needed to take into consideration several factors affecting both students and teachers: socio-economical background, digital divide, and even gender and religion. For this project we had to take into account students and teachers’ nationality and their cultural and social background to make the appropriate adaptations when localizing the math manipulatives (bar graph and pie chart). In order to do so, we thought about the reality lived by the students and teachers in Fortaleza, Brazil.

The original version of our math manipulatives was aimed to an American audience, where both teachers and students were used to be in constant access to technology, both from school and from work. However, for our local version, we needed to seek how affordable technology was for both teachers and students, and how familiar they were with using a computer as a teaching tool. I found out that most children did not know how to use a computer to learn these manipulatives and some even were afraid to use the computer at all. To adapt these specific materials to Portuguese, we used local facts to give examples, like the World Cup results to be represented in a bar graph. We needed to find data that were of interest to the children to get their attention and help them understand better the use of these data representation graphics. Football is by far one of the topic of most interest among Brazilians, which I assumed would different from the interest of an American or Dominican audience.

We had overlooked gender and religion factors until Dr. Orey’s class, where our team reflected on the assigned readings about the role of gender, and made modifications based on our findings and peer recommendations. We observed that boys had more computer skills than girls, which confirmed what our reflections on the readings. When paired or grouped with boys, girls let them take the lead in using the computers when working with the manipulatives. Some were even afraid to touch the mouse because they do not know how to handle it. Religion affects the way people view authority. For example, some studies find that Brazilian adolescents tend to be more self-, authority-, parent-, and teacher-motivated. This indicates that the manipulatives should be introduced in a guided classroom rather than in small peer groups.

In the personal aspect, I experienced a cultural immersion that is already part of my life. At the beginning I started to associate everything with my home country, from the public transport system to the way people addressed each other. Despite the fact that only two out of all the people I met knew exactly where the Dominican Republic was, my first days I felt as if I was in a city of my country where Portuguese was spoken instead of Spanish; I would say every moment “wow, just like in my country”. However, as time passed by I started noticing the differences, those ones that make every country or region singular, and made me realize that I was not in my country but in the exotic Brazil. I learned from many many local people that the Northeast (where Fortaleza is located) was different in many ways from the famous Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo which are to the South of the country, so my impression would have been more ‘culture-shock’ like if I had gone down there.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Like any project carried out for the first time, ours faced several unforeseen events, that only experience would bring up to be mended for future phases. I am including recommendations from my observations during the first phase (manipulatives localization) and suggestions during the implementation at school, since we would not be in Brazil for the full completion of the data analysis-to see how effective the manipulatives were to help students to accomplish the learning objectives and what further suggestions our teammates at Proativa would have. In my personal opinion, some recommendations are:

  • For Virtual Manipulatives:
  • For the exchange program in general: