Why and how to implement digital in classrooms? How can new technologies change the teacher’s role? How to guide teachers through this change?
A digital enthusiast, Arnaud Lecuyer has several roles: a history and geography teacher, he is also in charge of digital uses at Notre-Dame du Grandchamp secondary school in Versailles. He is also the co-founder or Padagogie, a partner of Econocom, which helps the group’s customers implement digital teaching methods.
-> Read our report of Arnaud Lecuyer’s speech at the March 2016 Educated-Educatice fair in Paris: What are the best practices for using tablets in the classroom?
three levels: digital culture, tools and innovation
What does being in charge of digital uses entail?
I often say that I’m a link between digital, which is based on uses, and IT, which requires technical skills. My role is both to start from uses —to fully grasp the teachers’ needs— and to understand the IT world.
Nowadays, digital is inevitable but we must use it responsibly, which requires a better understanding of constantly-changing issues. The world is changing; we’re hearing more and more about uberisation, of cross-disciplinary jobs, and also of new ways to enforce our civic rights. Social networks are breaking down hierarchical relationships and the digital society is becoming horizontal. In France, we are having trouble acquiring this digital culture because of prejudices we have. Yet, identifying and understanding these changes is a compulsory first step.
Then come the tools, even if they must eventually take a back seat. In geography for example, a map, whether it’s in a book or on Google Earth, is still a map. It wouldn’t make sense to identify it as digital, since it’s only classroom tool material.
“an isolated innovation will soon be lost”
Finally comes innovation. The education world is shaking up teaching practices: there are a lot of innovators. However, at the moment, they are completely alone. We need to bring them together and spread the word about what they do, to reassure the people who think they don’t know digital.
Which aspects of teaching are evolving with digital?
The teacher’s position is changing. In class, teachers can rely on the knowledge and methods they experienced as a student: that’s how they were trained. Digital shakes everything up, because it means lessons can be individualised. Thanks to the Internet, each student has access to resources and knowledge. Teachers are still essential, but they must learn to master this new position, to divide groups and worktime, because everyone can work remotely, from anywhere.
“the real tool is the teacher”
How should you support teachers through this change?
This is what Padagogie is all about: we work on teaching methods and the teacher’s position, not on the tool. For us, the real tool is the teacher: his/her creativity, inventiveness and methods with the students.
In some ways, reluctant teachers are a good sign: it means they’re asking themselves questions. We answer them by sharing digital uses with them. We never discuss devices or products, we never debate over brands; we focus on the content of classes and on educational choices. For example, during a biology class, we show teachers how to explore the human body through VR.
“Digital breaks down the classroom walls: it means you can have constant access to 3D or 4D anatomy, visit all the museums in the world through VR. It offers a huge area of innovation.”
All our trainers are teachers and above all digital users, so they discuss what they really do in class. It’s reassuring for schools because it allows the sharing of life experiences, from teacher to teacher.
We often refer to educational models and show that you don’t need to transform everything right away, that it’s possible to move gradually towards new teaching methods, step by step.
changing perceptions of digital use
Do you notice differences in the way students use digital, depending on the year or subject?
Not really, it’s mostly linked to their ability to imagine. Some junior secondary schools will have trouble picturing the actual use of a tablet in the classroom: it’s a device you can buy from a supermarket. The general public mostly uses them for emails and social networks, and teachers sometimes have trouble picturing how to use an everyday device in a responsible, educational way. We’re working on this process, by showing how to create digital books and interactive works, how to access VR, etc.
Still, some teachers remain reluctant. Why?
Before, some were anti-Wi-Fi and now others are anti-screens. A number of studies have been published on the matter: for example, the Montaigne Institute suggests people are making better use of the time spent looking at screens. People have to listen to the voice of reason: when we talk about digital in the classroom, we don’t mean 24/7, but a well thought-out use over a given period. Age-groups are also taken into account: in pre-school for example, there are no on-screen activities lasting more than 15 minutes. Whereas in higher education, all the students take notes on a computer.
More digital, a lower drop-out rate
What about the students? Are they more motivated?
Digital arouses enthusiasm, but doesn’t guarantee better results, which is often the argument used by detractors. They forget the importance of students’ motivation: thanks to digital, we have much fewer dropouts.
-> Further reading: “With digital, students are happy to come to school!”
It also allows the development of skills —in relation to digital tools or cross-disciplinary skills (public speaking, working in groups, etc.)— which wouldn’t be developed otherwise, but it also creates a different relationship with students.
To conclude, what advice would you give to a school that’s planning on switching to digital?
Just go for it!
-> Further reading: Experience feedback on the outskirts of Paris — Find out how this Headmaster has supplied several senior school classes with iPads, as a way of experimenting with new teaching practices.