Psychologist Claudia Lizbeth Avalos Guzmán from UNAM, Mexico’s top and largest university, showcases her undergraduate work in customizing a Moodle site into an “evolved phonological awareness and support tool” for teachers and practicioners. It constitutes one of the first Spanish-speaking implementations of Moodle’s virtual laboratory features in health sciences. Avalos project focuses on preschool children and early detection of phonological issues.
Before tackling the specifics of early phonological awareness, Avalos shares an interesting update on the use of technology for the psychological education in Latin America. In the subcontinent, universities have a legacy of elitism and discrimination. Requirements for admission seemed focused on allowing not necessarily the most apt or deserving, but those belonging to certain stripes. The religious background of some of today’s most reputable institutions, from Mexico all the way down to Argentina, contributed to class and political divides which still have nefarious effects on the people of pretty much every Latin American country.
Many social and economic developments in recent decades, however, have transformed the perception of higher education in society and policy. Technology in particular has become a powerful catalyzer of more open approaches to education. Almost every country in the region today is, at varying degrees, trying to tackle issues of quality and access of education through technology.
When it comes to the specific case of professional psychological and health education, Avalos briefly documents the evolution of internet-based distance learning inititatives set forth in Mexico by UNAM. What started as a pilot program to bring basic knowledge to rural areas has grown over the years into a bold enterprise with growing financial commitments from government funds. While students have been the direct beneficiaries, there are obstacles in how they take advantage of the platforms, as well as the practical considerations of online learning.
In this context, the learning system’s Simulation features gain relevance. Often named “Virtual Labs” or “Digital Simulators,” they have the opportunity to bridge the gap between theory and practice, at least partially. Many research teams at UNAM currently advance in making labs more effective and fertile ground for practical skill acquisition. Avalos work is in fact part of Dr. Esperanza Guarneros Reyes guided research lines in distance learning at UNAM.
Going forward, one of the expectations of Digital Simulators is its compatibility with next-generation immersive technologies, which could simplify its deployment and its usefulness, especially among young children.
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