Claudia Zea: A Calming Force
In the early 1990s, when Claudia Zea launched Conexiones, a project-learning program for schools in her native Colombia, she was interested in its effect on technology fluency, student motivation, and another area that might not seem so obvious to those outside her country: student aggression.
At the time, Colombia was suffering from high levels of student verbal and physical aggression. Zea and her colleagues at EAFIT University (short for Escuela de Administración, Finanzas y Tecnología), in the city of Medellín, believed students needed a different kind of learning environment, one that would encourage their sense of responsibility to a small community of fellow learners. Zea knew the inclusion of new technologies would motivate the students, and so Conexiones became an online space for regional, national, and international collaboration on dozens of projects with social, ecological, and ethical dimensions.
The result, Zea says in an April 2007 interview for the Argentinian portal educ.ar, was a marked decrease in the level of aggressiveness among children and in their aggressive behaviors toward teachers and family members.
Conexiones engages more than 10,000 students and 1,000 teachers in more than one-hundred urban and rural schools across Colombia. As a result of its success, Zea was tapped in 2002 as a special adviser to the Ministry of National Education in the use of new technologies. There she led the launch of Colombia Aprende (Colombia Learns), a national education portal for students, teachers, parents, and educational researchers. Colombia Aprende includes a multimedia library, online forums, chat, email, server space for user-uploaded content, collaborative projects, and Internet delivery of Colombia's educational television programs.
Not content to limit her work to Colombia, Zea also is a leader in the Latin American Network of Education Portals (RELPE). Sixteen nations have signed on, with the goals of sharing knowledge, building a common library of Latin American curriculum content, and lowering costs by sharing technological development.