Tuesday, October 2nd.

While I was in Costa Rica I had the opportunity to visit with Eduardo Monge and Clotilde Fonseca at the Fundacion Omar Dengo, an NGO focused on discovering new ways to use technology to improve education. They've been doing this for 20 years and have built up quite a legacy and institution.

When the staff gave me a tour of their facility, it reminded me of the first time Doug Burgum gave me a tour of the Great Plains campus in Fargo, North Dakota. And it's not because there are similarities between Fargo and San Jose Costa Rica, because there are absolutely none! And I mean none! But the FOD facility, which opened in a converted cigarette factory last March, places the same value on design and business purpose that you experience when you first visit Horizon and Vista. The foundation even has a resident artist who designed the steel sculptures you see in the courtyard and waiting rooms as you walk around their small campus.

As part of my visit the staff walked me through some of the projects they are working on, including ...

  • A classroom orchestration project using MS Math and Learning Essentials they (they are extremely active in the Microsoft Partners in Learning program)
  • A Movie Maker video that a teacher created based on a fable his class was reading. In the video the teacher used scanned images of pencil drawings he he had drawn of the different characters in the book. The illustrations he drew were amazing, and I asked Eduardo if there was a way I could share them online. Stay tuned ...
  • A small XO lab (they are strong believers in constructionism and have even named one of their lecture halls after Seymour Papert)
  • A very cool robotics lab with about 20 PCs along with many many bins of Legos. They use the lab to train teachers in how to teach robotics classes
  • Examples of an entrepreneur skills programs they've developed for students and women, where students use PCs to learn all aspects of running a business, including how to tracks costs and inventory, generate demand, etc.
  • A short film consisting of  testimonials from women who participated in the skills program, where they describe how it has transformed their lives (this is another one Eduardo is going to try to share with us)

Clotilde will be attending the education summit Microsoft and Intel are hosting in Guatemala later this week, and she and Eduardo will both be attending the GKIII event in Kuala Lampur in December, so I will be running into the Foundation OMAR Dengo at least twice in the next 10 weeks. But they are the first NGO I have visited in my new role, and I have to say they have set a very high bar for others to meet.