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Computers in education - Internet projects

Marcos Clayton Fernandes Pessoa
Universidade Estadual do Ceará, Brazil
This paper presents the use of the computer in education. First in Internet projects and after using Special groups with same interest. We show a historical overview of the use of information technology in Brazilian Education. It identifies the main phases of the process of computer usage in education. Firstly, it offers a general view of the main Brazilian Educational Projects that support the process of introducing computers in schools all over the country. Finally, tools for planning, creating and maintaining educational environments are described. We also describe how we implement this projects and describe 16 of them. We show our methodology and how we evaluate the data.

Initial considerations

The work at a computer laboratory aims at developing better resources for research and learning for the students. Therefore, we should not teach informatics, but create an amazing educational tool integrated into the learning of specific content. Into such a context, a mathematics, physics or chemistry teacher makes use of educational programs as they are teaching their content. Afterwards, they take the students to the laboratory so that they can experiment with what they had previously learned in the classroom. For instance, a biology teacher teaching about feeding can take the students after class to see the process in a computer program. In this way students are exposed to opportunities and these help their learning, increasing their self-confidence and their potential.

Thinking this way, and using the Internet, we have tried to create Internet projects aimed at developing a web culture, having teachers and students participating in national discussions about any subject, with an interchange of experiences between students and teachers from many different countries. After the accomplishment of the projects via the Internet we realized that there is also the possibility of creating Interest Groups.

Some Brazilian educational projects

The first governmental initiatives to encourage the use of computers in Brazilian Education were taken around 1981 through the EDUCOM Project. This project had its origins in the 1st National Seminar on Informatics in Education held in Brasilia the same year. The project aimed at implementing pilot-centers in which the formation of professionals capable of using the new technologies in classrooms would be available. Finally, in 1983 the EDUCOM Project document was introduced as an interdisciplinary proposal, with the implementation of pilot-centers with infrastructure meant to provide capable professionals for further implementation at schools.

The FORMAR Project was implemented in 1987, through two courses about computers in education, at an undergraduate level, held at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP). The project was designed to develop competence in teachers from public schools. The capability of the teachers of this project were helped by pilot-centers of the EDUCOM Project. The graduate teachers would design and implement, together with their Education Secretariat, a CIEd - Educational Informatics Center, with technical and financial support from the Education Ministry. After the accomplishment of the FORMAR Project, 17 CIEd's were introduced, one at each Brazilian State.

The National Program of Educational Informatics - PRONINFE, of 1989, aimed at developing the educational informatics in Brazil. The program was developed through projects and activities, on solid and updated pedagogical fundamentals, in order to guarantee the vital scientific, technical and political unity to the success of the efforts and investment involved. The program also intended, among other things, to give support to the development and utilization of Computer Science in all degree courses and in special education; to promote the infrastructure of support related to the creation of several centers spread all the country, by means of consolidating and integrating researches; to produce qualified human resources and to produce, acquire, adapt and evaluate educational software.

Finally, the PROINFO - National Program on Informatics in Education - was launched. The PROINFO had as its main initial targets to finance the introduction of the information technology and telecommunications in the Fundamental and Middle public education and to initiate the universalization process of the use of new technologies into the educational public system. The program's main purposes were to improve quality on the teaching-learning process and at the same time to make possible the creation of a new cognitive pedagogy in the schools environments through adequate incorporation of the new information technologies throughout the schools. All these would offer an education directed to scientific and technological development. The PROINFO, by the time it was launched, anticipated some target actions such as: preparation and support of state projects on computers in education; planning the schools' computerization; support to schools' projects; qualification of human resources; introduction of educational technology centers; definition of the technical specifications and the follow-up and support to projects.

Nowadays, the Brazilian Education is divided into Fundamental Teaching, Middle Teaching and Superior Teaching. One of the government's actual concerns is the TV-School Program, which is a television channel via satellite exclusively dedicated to education. The main objectives of this program are the qualification of teachers from the public schools of Fundamental and Middle Teaching, as well as the enrichment of the teaching-learning process. And further, it aims at providing populations residing in the far-away areas of the country, such as the Amazonian region, with proper education.

Phases of computer usage in education

In this section, two subjects are approached on the utilization of the technologies in the classroom. The first one concerns the use of computers as a tool capable of helping the student to develop reasoning and intelligence. The second one shows the evolution of the use of the technologies by the teacher during the planning and presentation of these teachings.

The computer in the teaching-learning process

The first way computers were used in education and the most widespread one in terms of quantity was the Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI), also known as Programmed Instruction. Programmed Instruction is composed, briefly, of repetitive exercises for remediation, tutorials and demonstrations. The most utilized ones are the repetitive exercises. They are programs that conduct the student to perform a sequence of exercises ordained by the degree of difficulty.

The evolution of pedagogical resources

Traditionally, classes were taught with the help of books. With the introduction of overhead projectors in the schools, teachers started to use handwritten transparencies. With the personal computers, the transparencies became more developed and printed, which produced a breakthrough in terms of visual quality.

Afterwards, came tools to implement more creative classes, like Microsoft Power Point - and the whole package Microsoft Office. Since then, the contents of the classes could be presented through transparencies with larger and better resolution. Its major advantage was the pre-format of transparencies provided by the tool.

Projects in Brazil

With the development of Distance Education via the Internet in Brazil several projects started to arise. Most of them are developed in universities, with the purpose of promoting research in each area, publicising projects, articles, events and results and integrating the community of the country. Some of these projects offer complete "remote" courses, while others have just an informative character, and offer collections of texts and articles of the area, specialists' reports or tips of links. Some of the projects developed in Brazil are:
Kidlink Brazil.

LUAR Project - Leading the University to the Distance Learning.

Aprendiz Project.

LED - Distance Teaching Laboratory.

S.A.B.E.R. Center - Support to Learning Based on Remote Education.

Telecourse 2000.

Campus Global - PUCRS.

Internet project

The use of Internet for education was carried out in two phases:



Summary of the projects

This project took place at a school in Lisbon - Portugal aiming at the study of the people who were common to both Brazilian and Portuguese history. The first person to be studied was the figure of Don Pedro I from Brazil and Don Pedro Iv from Portugal. With such research the students could get to know some particularities of the emperor who abdicated from the Brazilian throne to take over the Portuguese throne, leading the students to discuss Brazilian independence.

There is a challenge in this project, which is that the students must find out about the city of the school. They make up tips and send them to other students and schools that are participating in the competition. The first 20 schools to answer correctly will get a post card. We got a card from Phoenix, USA, Saltsburg, Austria and Guatemala, Guatemala.

The students write messages about the theme "Traffic" talking about what must be changed and what must be improved. At the end, all the texts are put together and sent to the National Congress with the electronic signature of all the students.

A school in San Jose, California - USA, wanted to translate 10 Brazilian fairy tales due to their great community of Brazilians. Then, a research was conducted to see what tale the students wanted to see translated, and they chose the "Spoiled Boy".

This project is made up of six themes (abortion, drugs, taxes, environment, modern women, virginity). The students would freely discuss such themes with other students from other countries, bringing down new information and ideas which would eventually change or not change their point of view.

In this project, elementary students, in December, sent letters to Santa Claus and they have been answered.

Exchange of mathematics problems among students from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Mexico.

It took place from April 10th to 15th in 1995, in Switzerland. It was an exposition of drawings made on the computer program, KIDPIX. We participated in this exposition with nine drawings.

Exchange of information about the Incan culture with students from Guatemala.

Research on the computers of the NASA Educational Center about the climate and vegetation of many parts of the planet.

Exchange of information and digitised photographs of exotics plants between Brazil and Israel.

Creation of a Portuguese (Brazil) - Portuguese (Portugal) dictionary.

Research conducted to get to know the daily habits of students from other countries. The habits which had been studied are: time at school, TV programs, leisure, etc.

Exchange of information about outlaws (Brazil) and about the Vikings (Norway).

Exchange of letters among students from Brazil, France, Norway, Israel, USA, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ireland, Argentina, England, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica.

This project aimed at creating mathematics graphs out of general problems risen by the class.

Interest groups

During the realization of the projects based on the internet, it was clear that the computer had become a tool which socialized and united the students around a project and a common interest. Therefore, we started creating other opportunities of group work in which it was not necessary to have an external partner, and this spawned the Interest Groups.

Coordination: A first-year High School student
Sub Coordination: Music tutor
Participants: 13 students 5th, 7th and 8th grades, and 1st and 2nd years of High School
Frequency: twice a week
Duration: 4 months
Objective: Develop through appropriate software an interest in music, stimulating the use of the computer to compose lyrics and write accompanying music.
Material used:
- A computer 486-DX 66 Mhz
- Sound plate Sound Blaster of 32 bits with MIDI output
- Keyboard YAMAHA
- Software (Voyetra, MP2, Sound Blaster, play, Finale, Encore, Pianist)
Results: Two presentations at break time

Coordination: A second-year High School student
Participants: 13 students 7th grade, and 1st and 2nd years of High School
Frequency: twice a week
Duration: 3 months
Objective: Stimulate creativity and present software to help in the development of graphs.
Material used:
- Laboratory
- Software (Kidpix, Adobe Photo shop, Coprel Draw 5.0, Presentation, Paint Brush)
Results: Exposition of works at school

Coordination: Portuguese Department Chief
Participants: 24 students (12 from the honour and 12 from the recuperation) from 8th grade
Frequency: 3 times a week
Duration: 4 months
Objective: Stimulate the production of texts from the students.
Material used:
- Laboratory
- Software (WordPerfect 6.0, SBW, MOS, CPC)
Results: Involvement of 8 students and the production of a journal

Coordination: A second-year High School student
Sub Coordination: Music tutor
Participants: 14 students 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades
Frequency: once a week
Duration: 1 month
Objective: Create an electronic aquarium and stimulate the discussion of the theme.
Material used:
- Laboratory
- Software (ELFISH, Undersea Adventure)
Results: Exhibition of the electronic aquarium at break time for a week.

Coordination: Psycho-pedagogic orientation service
Participants: 30 students from 8th grade
Frequency: once a week
Duration: 3 months
Objective: Stimulate consciousness about sex.
Material used:
- Laboratory
- Software (CPC, SBW, ONCE)
Results: Distribution of many stories told by the students themselves to one another.

Coordination: Psycho-pedagogic orientation service
Participants: 30 students from 3th and 4th grades
Frequency: twice a week
Duration: 3 months
Objective: Stimulate the learning of the curricular content through the computer.
Material used:
- Laboratory
- Software (Math Blaster, Young math, Ortografando, Jogo das Plavras Mortais, Orbits, Bworks, Undersea, Science)
Results: Improvement at school which goes on even when the group ends.


The work was conducted following the parameters below: Working together with the students and the teacher so that these would be exercised as active learning, stimulating thought and action. To reach it the themes are defined through dialogues, negotiation and significance. Yet, investigation and production of knowledge, as well as strategies of intervention for correction, socialization, monitoring will be used, besides, verbalization comes as a way of magnifying the participation of the group within socio-political consciousness.

The teacher is a consultant, articulator, mediator and orientator of the students' development process. The establishment of an atmosphere of confidence, respect of differences and reciprocity encourages the student to recognize her/his own conflicts, and find out their potential. This way, the teacher will not be inhibited in recognizing her/his own conflicts, mistakes and limitations as well but will act in partnership with the knowledge which of the disciplines (Fazenda, 1994).

The teacher acts as a mediator, facilitator, encourager, challenger, investigator of knowledge, her/his own practice and of individual and group learning.


The evaluation of the projects and Interest Groups was made up of the following premises: In the evaluation we conceived the error as an opportunity to re-learn/reflect to advance in the process of learning which takes the students to overcome difficulties. The participation and the level of individual and collective growth involved in the process will be observed in the laboratory.


It has been noticed that some students prefer active learning based on projects with goals to reach and a methodology to be followed. Others, however, learn better when they study what they want. Students said that many parents did not believe in their ability to work and progress with computers. Several students came to the program believing that computers were smart and belonged to smart people only. After participating in the program a feeling of pride and accomplishment were aroused and parents have recovered confidence in the future of their children.

The computer is perceived as a symbol of what is most modern, advanced, and costly in today's society. It is also the ultimate and best of what society can offer to their citizens. By knowing these facts, elites in Brazil try to seize new technologies, especially computers, as a way of perpetuating their condition. Middle and upper class parents send their children to computer courses or press schools to make such programs available.

We can use this kind of project to diminish the digital exclusion. It is a way to put technology at the service of learning no matter what their social class.


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Failure to connect: how computers affect our children's minds - for better and worse (fracasso em conectar como os computadores afetam a mente dasa cirancas - para o melhor e o pior ED. Simon & Schuster.

Senac.DN Desatando os nós da rede: dicas para você não se enrolar na internet /Sonia Aguiar. Rio de Janeiro, 1997.

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Author: Marcos Clayton Fernandes Pessoa, Coordenador de Tecnologia Educacional, Universidade Estadual do Ceará. E-mail:

Please cite as: Pessoa, M. C. F. (2002). Computers in education - Internet projects. In S. McNamara and E. Stacey (Eds), Untangling the Web: Establishing Learning Links. Proceedings ASET Conference 2002. Melbourne, 7-10 July.

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