“Navigating with ‘Magalhães’: Study on the Impact of Digital Media in School Children”
Project Reference: PTDC/CCI-COM/101381/2008
Supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT)

In this project we intend to develop an in-depth study on the impact of a Portuguese government programme named ‘e-escolinha’ (´e-little school´). This programme gave the opportunity to all primary school children to acquire a laptop. The launch of this programme, which occurred in 2008, has had a great expression in Portuguese society because the government presented this policy measure as a flag of the Education Technology Plan that “aims to put Portugal among the five countries most advanced in the technological modernization of teaching” (www.escola.gov.pt).

Considering the great social, cultural, economical and educational impact of this initiative, we consider essential to carry out a research that follows and analyses the programme´s implementation and development. Our focus will be on the programme´s policies and mainly on the children´s uses and practices of the portable computer and the resources connected with it, such as the Internet, in and outside school. We intend to understand the children, teachers and parents´ perspectives about the potential and challenges that it introduces.

‘Magalhães’, a portable computer specially designed for children from six to eleven years, highly resistant to shock and water, comes to the fore within the framewok of the ‘e-escolinha’ initiative. This is the classmate PC developed by Intel and adapted to different contexts and countries. The computer whose components are put together in Portugal was named ‘Magalhães’, a tribute to the 16th century great Portuguese navigator, Fernão Magalhães. The idea now is to create the conditions for young children to navigate in the ocean of knowledge.

The general objective of the project is therefore to study, discuss and analyse the uses of this digital technology in education, a technology that is neither new nor consensual. And it is, indeed. The debate about technology and (digital) media in education has been extremely polarized.