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Belgium: Winning Practices for Successful 1:1 Device Implementation in Secondary Schools

Since 2014, the Athénée Royal de Nivelles, a public secondary school in Belgium, has been rolling out a particularly well-crafted digital plan that has allowed it to transform not only its pedagogy, but also the entire educational experience for students. We take you there today with us. 

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Part of our team had the opportunity to go on an educational mission to Belgium at the end of January 2023, in the heart of Wallonia (the French-speaking region), to develop links with various educational stakeholders, including the eduLAB. On this occasion, some articles will allow us to share with our readers memories of key moments. 

On January 24, 2023, our team went to the Athénée Royal in Nivelles, a French-speaking town located in the Walloon region, in the province of Walloon Brabant, south of Brussels. For the record, Athénée Royal is the name given to schools, most often of secondary education and non-denominational, whose organizing power is Wallonia-Brussels Education.

Our team was welcomed by Julien François, science teacher and proud ambassador of the great project of his school, which is recognized as an Apple Distinguished School (Apple Distinguished School). He took the time to explain to us the process he has gone through over the past few years to get to this point, a process that has obviously been supported and encouraged by the directors who have been at the helm of the school since then, both of whom were keen to tell us about it.

But how did a traditional school become an internationally recognized leader in just a few years?

After the first iteration of a digital plan was developed back in 2014, a teacher training campaign took place the following two years. It wasn't until 2017 that students began to be equipped with iPad tablets in turn, on a 1-to-1 basis. The purchase is partly financed by the parents, but at no more than 50 euros per year, the maximum amount required by schools for school equipment. Subsequently, creative and collaborative spaces were born in the school (including a large FabLab), learning programming was integrated into the curriculum in 2019, and the transformation of classrooms to foster innovation began in 2021. 

After the detailed presentation of the approach, we attended a science class where the young people had manipulated equipment to experiment and understand the concepts of series and parallel circuits. They now had to show and explain their circuits to the whole class and could do so simply by taking a picture of their assembly with their tablet and projecting it on the interactive board. When a correct answer was found, the picture could be sent to the class discussion group so that they could "correct" themselves directly. "Now make me a short video explaining your understanding of the two types of circuits. You can use iMovie or Canva, for example," the teacher said to conclude the lesson. "And don't forget to add the Macarena as background music!" she added with a laugh. 

Closer to the end than to the beginning of her career, the teacher confided to us that at the beginning, she had resisted, even been afraid - fear of not being up to it, among other things. However, it was when she gradually became interested in the digital tools that were taking their place, especially thanks to the coaching offered, and when she saw concretely what the students could achieve, that she began to script her courses differently. Today, she teaches using the various collaborative and creative possibilities of the tools available, and feels that she could not do without them.

A FabLab that brings together

The students in charge of the student radio station saw our visit as an opportunity to question us about our practices. So we were interviewed by a well-prepared host and an experienced console operator. In fact, they host short programs every day during break times. They choose the topics, the music and participate in creating a student life of their own.

After the interview, we visited the adjacent FabLab. The FabLab is a digital fabrication lab that provides opportunities for students to explore their creativity and develop their problem-solving skills. Students can use tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and engravers, and Cricut machines, among others, to design and build concrete, useful objects for their community. 

For example, during the pandemic, they produced more than 2,000 visors that they distributed to nearby hospitals, doctors, health specialists (private nurses, physiotherapists, etc.), police officers, local merchants and institutions for the disabled. During our visit, the laser engraver was putting the finishing touches on the bouquet of medals that will be distributed during the Carnival of Nivelles

The young people on site during our visit took pleasure in explaining to us the many possibilities that were offered to them in this space.

Encouraging students' creativity in this way certainly helps them develop important skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and communication. When encouraged to explore their ideas and put them into practice, students develop confidence and self-esteem that prepare them for both their professional and personal futures.

Even beyond the ubiquitous technological equipment in the school, the Belgian colleagues who accompanied us noticed the incredible confidence that was given to the students and which allowed them to set up various "clubs" during lunch hour, such as a dance club, a sports club, a drawing club, etc. These extracurricular activities, all led by the students themselves, are non-existent in most other schools where they prefer to lock and forbid access to the premises and equipment outside of class. These extracurricular activities, all led by the students themselves, are non-existent in most other schools, where they prefer to lock down and prohibit access to the premises and materials outside of class hours.

A collaborative space for students to use in a corridor of the school.

While in Belgium, the promotion of schools is necessary to ensure that they get students in a system where they are in great competition despite their public nature, not surprisingly, the Royal Athenaeum of Nivelles refuses hundreds of applications each year...

We can make a virtual visit of the school here!

This mission was made possible thanks to the collaboration of the Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie du Québec within the framework of the 12th call for projects Quebec - Wallonia-Brussels.

About the Author

Audrey Miller
Audrey Millerhttps://ecolebranchee.com
Directrice générale de l'École branchée, Audrey détient une formation universitaire de 2e cycle en technologies éducatives et un baccalauréat en communication publique. Membre de l'Ordre de l'Excellence en éducation du Québec, elle s'intéresse particulièrement au développement professionnel des enseignants, à l'information à l'ère du numérique et à l'éducation aux médias, tout en s'activant à créer des ponts entre les acteurs de l'écosystème éducatif depuis 1999. Elle s'implique cette année notamment dans l'Association Edteq et en tant que membre du comité d'orientation stratégique de l'ACELF.

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