April 9, 2012
By Brenna Goth
GUATEMALA – Volcano-climbing teachers, wheelchair-dancing artists and volunteers who build schools out of plastic bottles were among those taking part in the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TEDX ) conference held in Guatemala City on March 24. The event was the third of its kind held in the city and now the most widely attended. More than 450 people filled the Juan Bautista Gutierrez Auditorium of Francisco Marroquín University to listen to speakers present innovations in technology, education and development.
“Events like TEDx help put Guatemala on the map as a country concerned with these issues and solving the problems we see today,” said John Glasgow, speaker at the conference who repurposes technology to teach in rural classrooms. Glasgow, the general manager of the language and communication company CEDS, is originally from Canada but has worked in Guatemala for 12 years. For Glasgow Guatemala made strides in telecommunication and infrastructure in the past decade, but still struggles with bringing technology to rural areas.
The nonprofit organization Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) produces conferences and video talks based on the concept of “ideas worth spreading.” TEDx events are independently organized to provide a similar experience on a local level. This year’s event,“TEDx Guatemala City: Technology + Education = Freedom,” was planned by a group of organizations based in Guatemala, a country of some 14 million people.
Speakers ranged from locals who are building schools from garbage-stuffed plastic bottle called “eco-bricks” and a Guatemalan soccer player who now works with young athletes to U.S.-based experts like David Baker. Dance performances from Fundación Artes Muy Especiales, a nonprofit which helps handicapped people to join the arts, had dancers perform hip-hop music, salsa and improvisational dance in their wheelchairs. The troupe received a standing ovation from the audience. Presentations alternated with pre-recorded, online TEDTalks and coffee breaks were punctuated by robots built by high-school students slam-dunked balls and the youth group La Batucada de EProdep which led the audience back to the auditorium with drumming.
“It was the first event this big,” said event organizer Luis Penados in Spanish. “The next one will be even better.”