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UTSA professor’s STEM education program making massive gains in Mexico schools

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UTSA, Guadalupe Carmona's Campus Viviente uses low-cost technologies, innovative teaching-learning approach to improve STEM education (Photo courtesy: Guadalupe Carmona, Campus Viviente)

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(Aug. 10, 2016) -- Guadalupe Carmona, UTSA associate professor of interdisciplinary learning and teaching, and her research team are providing schools across Mexico with a low-cost, revolutionary approach to teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts, and it’s paying off big-time.

Carmona is the director and principal researcher for Campus Viviente, a research and education program housed at UTSA. The interdisciplinary, international program is designed to give students of all economic backgrounds a leg up on learning and understanding STEM.

“UTSA and Campus Viviente’s shared philosophy is one of inclusiveness, collaboration and equity, where there is a true commitment for all students to succeed, regardless of their background, prior performance, or socioeconomic status," Carmona said. “We believe that providing top-tier support to students so they develop a deep and meaningful understanding of STEM concepts is fundamental to keeping pace with the high demands of the workplace and academia in the 21st century.”

The UTSA professor has helped municipal governments implement the program in several elementary, middle and high schools across Mexico. In 2013 alone, Campus Viviente programming was implemented in nine high schools across the state of Coahuila. Since then, Carmona said, the academic performance results from the first cohort of Coahuila Campus Viviente students have been on the upswing.

By the end of the first year of implementation, the students scoring in the top achievement levels on standardized tests for maths doubled compared to peers in a control group not using the Campus Viviente approach and curriculum. In the second year, that number was four times larger.

Carmona credits the success to Campus Viviente's approach. During implementation, the program provides teachers with specially tailored, culturally sensitive models to aid their instruction. Each model helps tie the STEM concepts to students’  home lives and their communities. This helps close the gap between formal and informal learning. Coahuila, for example, is home to a large mining community, and so Campus Viviente’s model presents the STEM concepts within this context to make the learning meaningful to students.

“The high school students in Coahuila were excited because they could connect advanced math, science, engineering and technological concepts to what was happening in their lives outside of school," Carmona said. "They can see how what they are learning in school can be used in their current lives and in their future jobs. This excitement has translated into real, measurable success..”

In keeping with its mission of equitable learning, Campus Viviente provides each classroom with a self-contained digital learning environment housed in a USB drive. The drive contains dozens of educational resources - such as learning tools, software, and curricula - for students and teachers. All the resources are freely available to use and modify under a Creative Commons copyright for further customization and dissemination. All resources are currently available in Spanish and English, and can also be extended to other languages and cultures.

“The Campus Viviente program is designed to be accessible by students and educators from all backgrounds,” Carmona said. “The resources can be booted onto any computer from a standard USB drive. No Internet connectively is required to access the programming. I have yet to meet a student or school for whom these resources are out of reach.”
   
The UTSA program’s success has encouraged several universities and school systems to adopt Campus Viviente’s approach. It’s currently implemented in the Mexican states of Coahuila, Durango, Michoacan and Quintana Roo. As more teachers begin to adopt the program’s model, Carmona said she has seen a strong community begin to build online, with teachers sharing tips and experiences with each other. 

“I have been in education for more than 20 years, and I have never seen quantifiable results as encouraging as the ones recorded in Coahuila,” Carmona said. “We’ve seen the teachers and students extending STEM learning beyond the classroom, and sharing their knowledge with their parents and the rest of the community. That makes me especially proud to be part of a program and university committed to sharing knowledge.”

The first cohort of Campus Viviente students from Coahuila graduated this summer. Carmona attended the graduation ceremony as a guest of the local government.

Carmona is also working with UTSA and North East Independent School District to develop a local Campus Viviente program.

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UTSA and Campus Viviente’s research partners include: La Secretaría de Educación y Cultura del Estado de Coahuila (the Secretary of Education and Culture for the State of Coahuila), La Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila (Autonomous University of Coahuila), Universidad Juárez del Estado de Durango, Secretaría de Educación del Estado de Michoacán, La Secretaría de Educación y Cultura del Estado de Durango (the Secretary of Education and Culture for the State of Durango), and la Universidad de Quintana Roo (the University of Quintana Roo). It has been funded with the support of AHMSA International, Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, Fondo Mixto de Fomento a la Investigación Científica, USAID, and the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT).

UTSA and its College of Education and Human Development host the Campus Viviente program. For more information, contact Guadalupe Carmona at guadalupe.carmona@utsa.edu. 

Learn more about how UTSA is leading efforts to enhance ties with Mexico and its National Council for Science and Technology

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