The digital and tech in education, poutine & caribou version
Article author :
The Digital 2023 summit was held in Montreal last May 4th and 5th. For its 11th edition, the organising committee did not skimp on pedagogical digital innovations or the quality of the speakers. Inspiring lectures on artificial intelligence and virtual reality, ultra-practical tools to create your educational podcast (or ‘balado,’ as Quebec would say) and participatory workshops enabling you to code straightforwardly. kingkong was there, let us tell you all about it!
It is Thursday, the alarm clock has gone off, a banana in our stomach, one coffee ‘to go’, the Montreal metro station is jam-packed. We get off at ‘Bonaventure’ and enter the lobby of the hotel where the congress will take place.
10th floor. Ding! We go to pick up your badge, then find our friends from the École Branchée and Edulab and enter the lecture hall for the opening address. It is Gabriel Bran Lopez who first takes to the floor. Fifteen years ago, he founded Fusion Jeunesse and Robotique FIRST. Fifteen years?! YES. Fifteen years. That just goes to show how open-minded Quebec has been regarding digital pedagogy. Whilst in Belgium we struggle to get projectors and Wi-Fi into the classrooms, across the pond there is clearly a very different philosophy regarding technology in the service of learning processes.
So that you understand the Belgian context, let us provide you with a short summary of the situation. Starting from September 2023, in a few months, in other words, the school system will have to adapt to a reform of teaching practices. A new skills-based framework will come into being, one clearly reflecting the obvious need to assist the younger generation to take on board the digital in a civic and critical manner. Inherently, this is a good thing: schools must at best be brought closer to the contemporary realities of life and of the world of work. Today, the digital and technology form an integral part of our daily lives. It is thus time for the school milieu to evolve and adapt to the deep-seated transformations society is undergoing.
So … we could make the most of this article to question (critique?) the system’s directive that teachers imagine new series of courses starting from scratch (the lack of information and available training, a basic knowledge gap, etc.), but that is not why we are here (ho-hum).
This opening lecture laid the foundations and validated an engaged position in the speaker’s job as a teacher: allow pupils to flourish, to learn to be kind and properly equipped to become the citizens of tomorrow. BANG. Instead of seeing the digital as an impediment, an obstacle, the teachers here at the summit see in it new opportunities, the possibilities of making use of these digital, technological and robotics tools in the classroom.
Whilst we had so many marvellous encounters during these hectic and intense 48 hours, with kingkong, we have decided to focus on two innovative, powerful and fascinating presentations!
Sowing the seeds of an idea
The first workshop we followed was on pedagogical podcasts (well, well…). Perhaps we have become accustomed to hearing (and understanding) the Quebec accent, but that spoken by Prune Lieutier was very subtle. We even thought that she was French, which tells you something… This woman is an independent producer of sound experiences for young people. In short, she creates podcasts by bringing together creatives, researchers and scientists, the desired outcome being an immersive, ludic and relevant creation on diverse subjects. And quite frankly, we were hanging on every word of her presentation.
For a start, we were totally persuaded by the approach: the majority of their content (200 podcasts, all the same!) consists of docudramas. The idea is to transform the documentary format into something entertaining for children. And it is not for being engaging and ludic that the idea of explaining science in understandable terms is put to one side: each podcast aims to impart knowledge. And honestly, it all comes off brilliantly. She gives us the example of a project consisting of four series produced with Space for Life (Planetarium, Insectarium, Botanical Garden and Biodome). Intended for children aged 7 to 9 (that’s the core target, but even we binge on it), each series consists of 6 ten-minute episodes on the theme of the specific space. What has stayed in the mind above all is the series ‘les insects ont le cafard’ (‘the insects have the blues’) which subtly makes us think of ‘Space Goofs’ … go figure!
‘You will among others get to know a caterpillar which is scared of changing, a honey bee which feels that it is never up to the task, or an Atta ant which doesn’t like mushrooms! Discover how these tiny living beings play such a big role in the equilibrium of the biodiversity!’
And alongside all these productions intended for children, the association also offers balado creation mediation workshops with … children for other … children. In addition to developing technical skills, it also involves the whole task of looking for information, forms of expression, creation, analysis, but equally the development of ‘soft skills,’ as one would say today…
Oh my ChatGPT
The second workshop involves THE STAR of 2023: artificial intelligence! Well, there you go, what a surprise. Phew, we signed up for the lecture in good time, because it is obviously sold out. The hall is bursting at the seams and we wait impatiently to meet Jean-François Mercure from the national RECIT unit, active in the field of the development of the person, and Marie-Eve Lapolice, who likewise works at the national RECIT unit, but in the area of arts.
Their subject? ‘ChatGPT and the other AIs: why, when and how to use them in education?’ RE-BANG! It makes a change from the resistant reactions expressed by a large number of Belgian teachers when it comes to this new technology. Admittedly, on a day-to-day basis, we are in touch with teachers who are endowed with the resources and the imagination to incorporate AIs into their courses, but clearly the advent of this new innovation provokes fear rather than appeal (we for that matter invite you to read the article by Laurent Di Pasquale, a third-year secondary education teacher at Liege who is working enormously on the question of the digital and who incorporates AI into his courses).
Their presentation is arranged around three very simple questions: why, when and how.
Because it could aid teachers in certain tasks in education, in the generation of content primarily. The acronym GPT (in English please) stands for
- Generative : générer
- Pre-Trained : on the basis of a corpus called the ‘common crawl’, a pool of nearly all of the text found on the internet (fun fact and a crazy one: Wikipedia constitutes 3% of the corpus of ChatGPT 3.5).
- Transformer : which focuses its attention on the context to generate the most appropriate response possible.
Jean-François offers 3 responses to this question:
- When it is useful. Everyone laughs
When you know what it does, but also what it does not do: it is not used to calculate, it is not used to translate. We will for that matter give you some examples. ChatGPT has a memory, which enables the content of the response to be improved on the basis the feedback it is given. It classifies, it expresses difficult ideas in clear terms, it summarises, it inspires, it is creative.
*David is 10 years old, his little brother Franck is half his age.
When David will be 10 times older than he is now, how old will Franck be?
David is 10 years old and Franck is half his age, in other words, 10/2 = <<10/2 = 5 years.
When David will be 10 times older than he is now, he will be 1010 = <<1010 = 100>>100 years.
When David will be 100, Franck will be 100/2 = <<100/2>>50.
So, when David will be ten times older, Franck will be 50 years old.
3. When you know how to make a request, it is called: the art of the prompt. In brief, 5 conditions must be respected:
A. Give a role
B. Give a context
C. Explain the task
D. Target constraints
E. Indicate the outcome of the expected return
*Act like a specialist of Quebec history. I am a first-year teacher who wants to run a course on the manufacturing process of maple syrup. I want you to popularise the history of maple syrup and of the manufacturing process. Constraints: the text must be adapted to young children aged 6. It must have a playful but believable tone. Add 3 unusual facts which would interest young children. Presentation format: 3 short paragraphs with eye-catching titles. Place the 3 unusual facts in bold type. Add a table which summarises the production stages with their durations.
And here the two speakers brim with imagination: in learning processes, it can be used to converse (debate ideas, learn a new language, etc.), to generate content (create images to present your courses, for example) or to revise and analyse (create questions, reformulate difficult content in more popularised terms, etc.). In evaluation processes, it can be used to recommend (trial new pedagogic approaches, glimpse issues and solutions), to generate content once again (develop detailed evaluation headings, for example), or to provide assistance (for example, how to adapt your teaching material to specific learners). And finally, ChatGPT is useful for dealing with related tasks such as helping to write emails, lists of class activities, planning, organising seating within classrooms, etc.
Practical workshops and scientific research
What we found particularly stimulating at the digital summit was the constant back-and-forth between practice and theory, between the practical and research. Because on the one hand, the congress is a mass of workshops around tangible tools and ongoing projects: we could tell you about the use of virtual reality to handle cyberbullying, the use of pedagogical robotics to understand computer programming and the solving of mathematical problems. We could also show you a French writing project based on stories in which you are the hero or heroine, or comic book drawing with the Pixton digital tool, and game creation with MakeCode Arcade, or transmedia narration with Boukili to reinvest reading in creative ways.
But on the other hand, it is lectures to pass on the results related to research involving education and the digital. What will stay in the memory is the fabulous triptych called ‘how to benefit from research’ and the feminist project ‘Ambitious (women)’, which is a modelling of an educational path involving raising awareness of the professions and occupations linked to STEAM (sciences, technologies, engineering, arts and mathematics), intended for girls in upper secondary education.
Who would be keen on creating an event of this type, but this time a mussels and chips version?
A story, projects or an idea to share?
Suggest your content on kingkong.