We live in a constantly changing world, impacted by rapid technological advances. The way we work, go to our workplace, consume, spend our free time, communicate and even think, have undergone unprecedented changes under the influence of technology.
By Melanie Brockmann, France
These changes have imposed themselves on our daily lives with such rapidity and such ease that we feel obliged to better understand how this digital world works, if only to better measure the risks to which we are exposed. To manage this new environment, we are developing new skills to adapt to this new technological era.
Of course, we consult the Encyclopedia Universalis much less often than Wikipedia or Google, of course, our co-pilot no longer unfolds a road map against the dashboard of the car, but launches waze or Google Maps on his smartphone . These changes give rise to debates that seem to be only a reawakening of the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns, the avant-gardes and the reactionaries, the materialists and the idealists.
If these developments have impacted our daily lives in such a frontal and inevitable way, it is because they suggest that the digital world is at our level. We can understand it, apprehend it. To better manage this new environment, we can "improve our skills". And the question of competence seems to be a key notion of the change that is at work.
To use the radio or the TV remote control (to stay with examples of communication technologies), the rise in skills was not so significant, even if it was a small revolution with major consequences. Between the apprehension of the rotary volume control button of radio sets, the green arrow of VCR remote controls, the Nintendo joystick, the right click of the mouse, bluetooth, and the dialogue with Alexa of Lab126 from Amazon.com , there is a whole world…
Truly a world.
That is, strictly speaking, a new environment, a new web of relationships between individuals, between individuals and objects, between objects themselves. Depending on each other's orientations, we can choose to focus on technology, disruptive innovation, industry, or information networks. But, by focusing the reflection on this "rise in competence" to which the digital world commits us, we bring into the round, a sector still worried, shy, not historically prone to "disruption", that of education.
“Digital technology is a profound change in our societies, which, for example, transforms the relationships between people. The important thing is to understand that. Today's children will all learn computer languages, that's a fact. The real question is whether their parents will be able to do it too. " - Olivier Crouzet, educational director of École 42, Paris, France
The conductor of this new world, we are told, is the computer scientist. The computer engineer capable of creating the algorithms that precede or respond to technological advances. The computer languages he uses have a history, and his skill is less in his mastery of particular programming languages than in the logic behind them.
Programming, code, is now entering the school curriculum earlier and earlier. The Scratch software is a perfect example of the objectives of learning to code in primary school. The TICE, or even the Magic Makers' workshops are symptomatic of the sudden importance given to the logic of programming and the algorithm. Children are invited to understand the logic of command blocks and their sequences. Quite often, it's a matter of visually moving command bricks in a certain order. This arrangement of bricks will produce effects, a progression, a sequence of actions in playful environments.
It's not just about knowing how to talk to a machine, it's about understanding how the machine works. In the arrangement of command bricks, it is possible to create instructions, conditions, loops, to multiply possibilities, to test actions by executing them, to experience the logic of connections between actions and to adjust independently. There is little error in this learning. We experiment.
The tone is set. Here is an apprenticeship where we experiment. A learning or making mistakes is an experience which makes progress. Learning where you can have fun.
But it doesn't stop there.
Collaborative board games where there is no winner or loser, offers an abstraction of the logic of profit and success. It is a group that achieves or does not reach a goal, it is therefore a question of organizing collective intelligence. A practical programming workshop can be done in autonomy, but the spirit of this type of workshop finds all its meaning when it is approached in a collaborative mode. End of competition between individuals, from an early age, winning becomes a victory for all. Obtaining a complex result via control bricks that each group will have arranged, and which, once placed end to end, will produce the desired effect, is a victory for collective intelligence. In this new paradigm, children progress in "project mode".
The counterpart of this vision of learning is revealed in the latest advances in artificial intelligence. After e-learning and access to sometimes very specialized training without leaving your living room, here is the digital "machine" in a primary class can offer to adjust any type of classical learning (grammar, conjugation , spelling, vocabulary, foreign languages, mathematics, history, geography, literature, etc.) at the pupil's level. To achieve a learning objective, the intelligent software will adapt methods and content to the needs of the child. No more academic failure, the child will progress at a pace and according to a unique, personalized path, adapted to his own capacities, and not to his shortcomings.. To this, the collaborative mode invites children to help each other, to pool their efforts to discuss and think together in order to find the right answer.
We can thus see how this new digital environment does not only affect uses, practices and needs, but also values. Of course, we can be ironic, worry about this strange coincidence of a common vocabulary and values between startups, management and education.
It is a question of keeping our eyes wide open on this new environment with compromised logics with sectors known for their double talk. Thus, the expression of a critical concern remains the essential corollary to prevent any perversion, any discrepancy or reversal of the vocabulary and the values which are attached to it. When we talk about the digital world, we often evoke the idea of an ecosystem. In this ecosystem, the fear of misappropriation of values, false promises and the disappearance of all critical sense is part of the whole.
The SmartCity is barely developing with its procession of enthusiasm and fears, when a SmartSchool is already emerging, the promises of which sadly disturb our vision of the future. Making digital technology and its tools indispensable in the education of children looks like a factory for future Google users. Company that is defined by the transformation of the "uses" of a digital tool into sound and stumbling cash. However, the tactic is simple, the digital is everywhere, it is by nature apprehensible, it must therefore be understood as well as possible, and from an early age, to prevent overflows.
In this digital ecosystem, the “watchers” could well be embodied in education by teachers whose status, role, function and skills are bound to change. This is evidenced by the spirit of Ecole 42 in Paris. The teacher is a coach, a guide. For him, everything is already there, you just need to get on track and experiment with rigor and creativity.
Information and communication technologies are not a priori intended to serve a GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft). Calls to make these companies accountable testify to a very real threat as much as to the desire to pass digital challenges along paths where the fundamentals of the common good and the freedom of individuals will be preserved. In short, ethics.
What becomes of the educator, the teacher, the pedagogue in the world of smart objects of the SmartSchool? Is it enough to connect a school to a network for it to become smart?
Behind the digital, there are techniques, technologies, engineering, tools, but also profits and interests that are not always brilliant. There is sometimes a spirit of conquest, but also values, sharing and ideals. If it were necessary to "design" the teaching of tomorrow, the teacher could have this role of coordinator, organizer, facilitator. Organizing knowledge, experimenting with it, bringing out values, provoking discussion, criticism, arousing curiosity, giving a taste of the world to come, questioning information, uses, the flow of communication networks.
Once again, in the digital ecosystem, monitoring is essential. In political institutions, in social organizations, in business practices, monitoring is a primary concern. The watcher is a mutant capable of transmitting and prioritizing the flow of information with a critical mind, of categorizing products as well as tools. And the watchman learns from his watch. His permanent learning is reinforced by the knowledge of others. The learning relationship goes both ways. The watchman does not only watch over his tools or his connected networks. The watchman does not watch alone. The watchman enters into contact, exchanges with those to whom he transmits the information. And from this exchange is born the transmission. It is this articulation between the world Wide Web and the individuals who constitute it.
Between the pedagogue, the teacher, the coach and the watcher, a link draws the contours of a mutant educational system that could prepare the child to flourish in the connected world of tomorrow. Because the challenges of education remain the same, despite the digitization of disciplines: giving children every opportunity to flourish in a world of multiple contradictions, experiencing the complexity of socialization processes, to orient in the tumults of the inner life. In this new digital environment, it would seem that it is neither intelligent machines nor connected objects that will have any authority over the transmission of knowledge, but the mutants of the world to come.