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Developing cultural awareness and computer learning skills in pre-schoolers

Improving education standards around the world continues to be a top social priority for IBM. In 2008, education received 67 percent of IBM corporate contributions. Our efforts are focused on preparing the next generation of leaders and workers to be innovative leaders in the new global economy. Through strategic initiatives like Traveling Toys, we're providing schools with solutions that draw on advanced information technologies and IBM expertise.

In October 2008 more than 500 pre-schoolers from disadvantaged communities in 13 European countries participated in the Traveling Toys project. Part of the KidSmart Early Learning Grant Program, Traveling Toys was developed to foster cultural exchange and increase IT communication skills in the classroom. IBM believes these are core elements of an effective education even at an early age.

The children exchanged a toy representing their country with groups in four other regions. The U.K., for example, sent Paddington Bear (along with instructions for making marmalade sandwiches) and received Olli the squirrel from Finland (who had met Santa Claus on his way from the north) in return. Electronic postcards from the visiting toy to its home school—featuring photographs, movie files and sound recordings on a particular topic—were exchanged daily via the Internet, bringing the other culture to life for the pre-schoolers.

“Our social goals have been ‘overachieved.’ This project has motivated our teachers to plan new and creative activities for the children using information technology as an important part of the learning across a range of content.”

Ana Díaz Cappa, Director of Escuela Infantil Zaleo, Madrid

A summary of the Traveling Toys project is available on The European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008 Web site. (link resides outside of ibm.com)

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