Spreading Ed Tech to Spanish-Speaking Educators
Claudia Uribe de Piedrahita didn’t initially pursue a career in educational technology, or
even education for that matter. She
studied physical and occupational
therapy in college and then worked in
real estate. Later she managed nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
in health services and for underprivileged children in her native Colombia.
It was the death of her son, Gabriel, in
1995 that set her on a trajectory of improving information and communication technology (ICT) for K– 12 schools
serving underprivileged students.
Gabriel was killed in an airplane
crash at the age of 22. He was just six
months away from graduating with
honors from Harvard University in
applied math. His immediate dream
was to teach at a school in a disadvantaged community.
“Gabriel saw education as the key to
creating a more equitable world, and he
considered communication, the spread
of knowledge, and the shared experiences and realities of human beings to
be pillars on the path toward tolerance
and peace,” Uribe de Piedrahita said.
To honor the memory of their
son, she and her husband, Francisco
Piedrahita, established the Gabriel
Piedrahita Foundation. The NGO is
dedicated to improving the quality of
primary and secondary education in
Latin America through the effective
use of ICT, focusing on less-privileged
schools and communities. Uribe de
Piedrahita is director of the foundation, which started out working in a
handful of schools in Cali, Colombia,
and then expanded to larger programs.
The foundation designs, implements,
and tests curricula, lesson plans, and
other tools aimed at increasing the
competency of students and teachers
in ICT and improving technology integration into all subjects.
“We have seen changes, sometimes
dramatic changes, in the attitudes
of teachers and students toward
teaching and learning, in the level
of aspirations of the kids, in their at-
tainments,” Uribe de Piedrahita said.
“Many students are attending college,
something they would not even have
In 2001, recognizing the lack of
Spanish-language resources for teach-
ers, the foundation launched Eduteka
( www.eduteka.org), a site packed with
information about and resources for
integrating technology into the class-
room. Eduteka offers free original and
third-party content—including updated
national and international articles, in-
terviews, and research studies—as well
as resources and interactive spaces.
When it began, Eduteka served
mostly Colombian teachers. But as
word spread, it began attracting registered users from Spanish-speaking
countries in North and South America
and Europe. These days the site’s visitors are not just teachers but school
administrators, teacher trainers, and
preservice teachers. Eduteka averages
517,056 visitors a month and more
than a million page views.
The foundation was a natural fit for
ISTE, and Uribe de Piedrahita became
a member in 2000.
“ISTE has been a compass for the
foundation and for Eduteka through-
out these years,” Uribe de Piedrahita
said. “We cannot think of what our
foundation and its ability to fulfill its
mission would have been without all
we have learned from ISTE.”
Uribe de Piedrahita serves as an ISTE
Ambassador ( iste.org/ambassador),
which means she helps educators in
her region connect to one another and
find resources. She also volunteered to
translate the NETS into Spanish.
Uribe de Piedrahita works tirelessly
to connect Spanish-speaking educators to modern tools, but she knows
there are many more pieces to the
puzzle than merely offering support
“We need much more hardware, and
we need much better connectivity,” she
said. “But, above all, we have to transform our school administrators and
our teachers. We have to give them the
training opportunities and allow them
enough time to appropriate and feel
comfortable with the new demands of
21st century teaching and learning.”
—Diana Fingal is senior editor of L&L.