Interactive panels, robots and cameras. This is part of the material that the Department of Education will send to schools between now and June 2024. The objective is to advance the uses of technology in favor of pedagogy. In total, 200 million euros will be allocated from European Next Generation funds. The bulk of this money will be invested in the purchase of technological material, and the rest, a quarter, will be devoted to teacher training. It is the most important investment in equipment that the department has ever made. Robotics material and audiovisual equipment will be sent to schools and institutes, beyond computers and tablets, to promote learning of Steam. Material such as printers, scanners and 3D pens or a solar energy kit, among others, will also be included. There are currently some thirty centers that work with this equipment, within the so-called FAIG project.
New technologies have been present in classrooms for decades, and their use in education is increasing. The pandemic revealed that there was a gap in this matter, now that pedagogical models based on experiential learning or the promotion of Steam, the acronym in English that refer to the fields of science, are increasingly opted for. technologies, engineering, art and mathematics. With this new plan of the department, all public centers and subsidized centers where there are more students with vulnerability will be reached. The objective is equity and democratization in access to new technologies for all students.
The present and the future of education were discussed this Monday at Catalunya Avança at the Jaume Tarrés Institute in Terrassa, with the Minister of Education, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, and with the heads of five schools and institutes who explained how they have adapted their educational models to new technologies. This is the case of David Atzet, director of the Cardener Institute in Sant Joan de Vilatorrada; Maribel Tarrés, director of the Jaume Cabré institute in Terrassa; Conxita Gimeno, director of the Rubí Montessori school; Montse Jiménez, pedagogical director of the Vedruna-Prats project 01-16 of the Carrera de Palafrugell, and Àlex Salleras, director of the Pla Marcell de Cardedeu institute.
Digitize the classrooms
The Education plan is launched this academic year and will culminate in June 2024
Why is this investment coming now? On the one hand, because the Next Generation European funds are granted to the Ministry so that it allocates them to the digitization of classrooms. Gonzàlez-Cambray explains that “with this investment, the most important endowment in the history of the Catalan educational system, we will guarantee equity and democratization in access to technology, which has always generated inequalities.” And on the other, because since the pandemic many things have changed. “In the digital field, the pandemic has accelerated the updating of the pedagogical methodology in the new technological tools,” explains the minister. David Atzet clinches it: “The pandemic has broken the expression ‘we can’t do it like this'”. Maribel Tarrés assures that “there is no turning back. Technologies are part of the life of the students, and we have to help the centers to understand that they are not only instruments for leisure or learning, but that they will be in the future for work”. Minister Cambray adds that “we cannot have the same school as ten or fifteen years ago because what we did before is useless now, because we are in a changing world. The moment requires doing it differently because the students and the world are”.
Little by little, teachers have been delving into the world of new technologies that provide solutions to difficult aspects of learning and help make the subject more didactic. Conxita Gimeno warns that if we want to “encourage the learning of Steam, especially to generate new vocations among the students, we would have to start very young. We start it at 3 years old so that girls are not influenced by the context. Because after that it is more difficult to change”. Currently, only 30% of women choose university degrees in the field of science or technology worldwide, according to the latest data from Unesco. In Catalonia, the number of graduates in these careers is only two out of ten.
Over the years, teachers, to a greater or lesser degree, have used new technologies, but the beginnings were not easy. To a part of the teachers, all this caught them new, and they did not have enough clues about how it worked, which prevented them from extracting the virtues that it could bring them. David Atzet believes that “change is scary. But the fear of error has to exist. It makes sense to put a digital tool when the student knows the meaning of that tool. Digitization has to be a process that those who experience it pick up on it, appropriate the idea and use it according to their context and reality.”
The gender gap
Only 30% of women choose scientific or technological careers
Montse Jiménez believes that digitization “still costs, it is a slow process. I don’t know if the entire educational community shares how knowledge is being transferred and everything that is happening in the classroom. ‘Scanning’ does not always equate to ‘screens’. We have to go further. In all the great revolutions, the tool has come first and then how it is done. There has to be a process that accompanies the arrival of new technologies”. David Atzet adds that “not all the educational community wants things in the same way.” And Àlex Salleras insists that “teachers have to be clear that we have to allocate part of our time to training, that it has to be part of our schedule”. In the department’s project, which is launched from now until June 2024, there is an item planned for teacher training. Now there are already 40,000 teachers and professors with basic training, but they want to reach more than 90,000. But beyond this basic training, the Department of Education will leave it to the discretion of the centers if they want to do additional training in digital matters. In addition, there will be 200 digital mentors to accompany the centers and training capsules will be made, as if they were tutorials, to understand how all the new technological equipment works.
All these changes in the pedagogical methodology, by rebound, have to cause changes in the organization of the centers. Àlex Salleras affirms that “we will have to review our structures in depth, we have to reinvent ourselves. It will be necessary for the department to open the dance floor”. Montse Jiménez insists: “Part of the problem is that we have lived very compartmentalized. And we have realized that this, in the current context, cannot be”. Conxita Gimeno insists: “Each center has to have a clear project and they have to believe it. We have to break stone from within”.
The five of them, despite directing centers of very different typologies, are clear that it is also important to learn from the other, look at the models or systems that other schools apply, share. Among the department’s plans, it has also provided for the FAIG project. Schools and institutes with highly advanced educational projects in digital terms, 150 of which will be volunteers, may be a reference for others in the Steam field.
Up to 90,000 teachers will receive training in new technologies in the next year and a half
It is clear that a robotics kit can be a fantastic tool as long as it is accompanied by content. It can facilitate student learning, make it more attractive. But if when we think of new technologies or Steam environments we only see screens, we will be wrong. The resources have to be accompanied by content. “We are opening structural paths that, if they have benefits for the students, there will be no turning back,” concludes Cambray.
The school has to be an active agent in the digital education of all students. If not, it may happen that they acquire digital knowledge outside the school environment and, even, outside the family environment. Out of control. Because digitalization has come to stay.
Director of the Pla Marcell de Cardedeu institute
“With digitization it will be necessary for us to rethink our organizations. We will have to thoroughly review our structures, we have to reinvent ourselves. Do a reset to be able to continue”.
Director of the Rubí Montessori school
“If we want to promote learning in the scientific or mathematical fields, especially to generate new vocations among the students, we must start small. We do it from the age of three”.
Minister of Education of the Generalitat of Catalonia
“In the digital field, the pandemic has accelerated the updating of the pedagogical methodology in the new technological tools. We will guarantee equity and democratization in access to new technologies”.
Director of the Jaume Cabré Institute in Terrassa
“Technologies are part of the lives of students and we have to help the centers to understand that they are not only tools for leisure or learning, but that they will be for work in the future.”
Director of IE Cardener de Sant Joan de Vilatorrada
Digitization has to be a process that those who experience it take it, appropriate the idea and use it to the extent of their context and reality. The students have to understand why it is that tool”.
Pedagogical director of the Vedruna Palafrugell school
“In all the great revolutions, the tool has come first and then how it is done. There has to be a process that accompanies the arrival of new technologies, both for students and for teachers”.