husband's company, Pixsell. They were having a conference in Guatemala and wanted to display all these classes around the world. As an aside in the email she casually mentioned that if any of us were willing, we could go present at the conference, all expenses paid. I, adventurous person I am, jumped at the opportunity.
Everything happened so quickly and, before I knew it, I was writing a keynote, my first, and preparing a presentation about connecting with Google drive. Plane reservations arrived, information about pick up at the airport, confirmations about the technology set up, and I was on my way.
What I didn't realize was how amazing and important this conference really was. This is what is says on the Pixsell website:
"At Pixsell, we seek to improve the world through technological innovations. We challenge the impossible with our technological expertise and a commitment to deliver constant value to people and organizations."
Sounds very...yeah. But I spent time with Pixsell these past few days. Luis Bolanos, Emily's husband, and his partner and founder of the company, Joseph Tanpoco, really believe they can change the world. They put technology into the hands of educators in countries that have very little. Guatemala is their fourth country.
Guatemala is a beautiful country with some of the friendliest people I've ever met. But 2/3 of the children live below the poverty line. Children often work instead of going to school. Here is more:
- 75%: The illiteracy rate in many rural areas of Guatemala
- Two-thirds: The proportion of Guatemalan children living in poverty
- $4 a day: The average daily earnings of a rural, Guatemalan family
- Nine out of ten: The proportion of schools in rural Guatemala that lack books
- 60%: The percentage of entry-level jobs in Guatemala that require computer skills
- 79%: The percentage of Guatemalan middle- and high-school students who lacked the opportunity to learn to use a computer prior to the arrival of our program
- One out of ten: The proportion of rural Guatemalans who attend middle school
- 1.8: The average number of years an indigenous Guatemalan woman stays in school
So when they decided to come to Guatemala, they set up this technology conference, EduDay with Google at Guatemala, to introduce the power of Google to educators and the government. They sent out 200 invitations and 500 people showed up. Most came with no computers. Many traveled far to get here. All were excited, skeptical, and enthusiastic. This all happened because of Pixsell and one lone Google Certified Teacher with an action plan. Michelle Urdiales is the first person in all of Central America to be a GCT. Her little action plan was to bring Google to Guatemala. She and Pixsell pulled off an amazing feat!
So what did I see here?
1. A renewed vigor for the excitement of learning. The educators I met and spoke with were excited to try all of these great ideas.
2. A whole new level of PLN. Michelle, Luis, Joseph, Marybell Rodriguez and Jocelyne Perreard, GCTs from Mexico, Pablo Barrios, the publicity guru behind the whole day, Otto Diaz and Mario Estuardo, part of Pixsell, and David Deeds, ex-pat extraordinaire. I spent so much time with all of these people and was made to feel very welcome and very much a part of it all. We will be in touch always.
3. Marvin, our tour guide for climbing the active Pacaya Volcano. This father of three has such a love for his country and for the volcano that it was hard not to get caught up in it all.
4. Rene, our driver, who stayed with us, helped us, carried bags, translated conversations, found a bank to get Quetzels and went above and beyond anything he was supposed to do.
5. A new appreciation for all I have and all I can reach through technology. Without my PLN, without Google, without support from my district and my family, none of this would have been possible.
I admire all the people I met. They are better people than I, living what I know I cannot, working hard against incredible odds, to make things better for others. I am grateful to have been able to spend a few days in their company and happy that I will connect with them all for a long time to come.