Leading school in Guatemala uses Microsoft tools to drive student achievement

Guatemala is changing rapidly. After a long period of civil strife, its democracy has stabilized. With that stability has come an improved economy, which now ranks first in Central America. But challenges remain. More than half of Guatemala’s nearly 17 million residents live in poverty and the country today is teeming with young people who need jobs and opportunity. Moreover, they need education. According to UNESCO, 81.29 percent of the population 15 and older is literate, one of the lowest rates in Central America.

The 620 students of Colegio Centroamericano, a private school in Retalhuleu, Guatemala, are working to influence Guatemala’s recovery. They get help achieving that when they step into Lucrecia Higueros’ English class. In her class, students equipped with Windows 10 devices (with S Mode) and Office 365 use modern tools that create a classroom environment as up-to-date as any in the world. That puts Colegio Centroamericano at a privileged level among educational facilities in Guatemala, where Internet access is rare and public schools are badly under-funded. “The private schools are the ones with the roofs,” Higueros says matter-of-factly.


Better security = less worry


Windows 10 S is designed for schools, with special attention given to security and performance. “As a teacher, I know that I can rely on the security and anti-virus safeguards built into Windows 10 in S Mode,” says Higueros, who has taught since 2000 and is now in her second year at Colegio Centroamericano. “It’s safer for my students than the tablets and iPads we were using previously. My students can only download Microsoft-verified apps from the Microsoft Store and we don’t have to worry about a student accidentally downloading something they shouldn’t.”

Students at Colegio Centroamericano use Windows 10 laptops as well as tablets and desktops from Dell and HP. The touch feature of Windows 10 in S Mode is useful for many of the students’ lessons. Younger students, for instance, draw words or pictures with the Paint 3D app to reinforce their English vocabulary. Older students, meanwhile, use Office 365 to practice English.

Overall, Higueros says working on the Windows 10 S devices makes for a better educational experience. “When students enter my classroom, they get excited because they know something different is going to happen,” she says. “They are more engaged learners.”

In addition to using Office 365 for document creation and document sharing, students communicate and collaborate with their peers using Yammer, OneNote, and Skype. For instance, students recently used Sway to create presentations on the impact of climate change, then shared them with other students globally via OneNote.


Technology helps a teacher connect with her students


Higueros, a passionate, life-long English language learner, is always looking for new ways to share that passion with students. Her use of technology, including the cloud, is just one example. “People ask me why I use technology to teach,” she says. “Some think I am the ‘crazy teacher who makes the connection with Skype.’”

The impact Higueros has on her students is winning allies. “My school principal has been extremely impressed by the ways our students are learning to use technology and has encouraged me to keep going,” she says.

The principal, Luis Santizo, agrees. “Everything we use is in Office 365,” says Santizo. “Yammer, Sway, PowerPoint. The students finish their homework more quickly. And everything is saved in the cloud, so we don’t have to worry about losing documents.”

Plus, Santizo says, the use of Microsoft Education products is creating a brighter future for students. “I know that Microsoft technology is widely used in the world today,” he says. “My students need to learn to use this technology so that they are prepared for university, and so they are equipped to get good jobs. Providing them with access to Windows 10 S devices helps me do that.”


Students show off their technology skills


Students at Colegio Centroamericano are already showing off their technology skills at the national and international level. In 2016, four of the school’s students participated in Microsoft national competitions, taking first place in the use of PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. Manuela Estéfani, González Tzoc participated, Nestor Javier Dardón, and Edward Steven Santay also traveled to Orlando, Florida, to represent Guatemala on an international, competitive stage.

The school’s students have also created video games with Minecraft, and used Microsoft tools to work on robotics projects with CIDETER, an organization dedicated to helping students in Guatemala master technology. In addition, the school is a Certiport Testing Center and manages a broad range of Microsoft testing, credential, and certification programs.

Colegio Centroamericano is working hard to prepare its students for their future. A big part of that is ensuring students are part of the global, digital economy – something Windows 10 in S Mode and Office 365 help achieve. Says Higueros: “I have students come up to me and say, ‘Hey, teacher – thank you! Now I know how to use the Internet.’ It’s like I’ve opened a window to the world for them. That gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.”

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