Launched in September 2014 by François Hollande, the French digital programme for schools began its second deployment phase at the beginning of the 2015 academic year and will be rolled out across all the country’s junior secondary schools between September 2016 and 2018. Tablets, ultra-fast Internet, digital resources, new teaching methods and new lessons: we looked at how the programme is progressing so far.
After the initial prefiguration phase during the 2014/2015 academic year, which involved connecting 72 pilot schools – called “cocoons,” there was a more widespread roll-out of the digital programme for schools in September 2015 (500 junior secondary schools). A total of 70,000 pupils and 8,000 teachers have now been supplied with tablets and digital resources and experimented with new forms of teaching and learning thanks to digital.
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As Mathieu Jeandron, Director of Digital for Education with the French Ministry of Education, explains: “The education system is changing and moving towards the school of the future. Students have to understand the digital world and be able to prepare for a future career in which the digital culture is pervasive.” Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French Minister of Education, added: “This plan doesn’t just focus on digital skills but is designed to improve learning in all subjects.”
Tablets are great, but it’s better if you actually know how to use them know how to use them!
Whilst having mobile equipment in itself is a radical change from the traditional exercise book and pen, the real value lies in the possibilities in terms of teaching methods: in March 2015, the Education Minister launched a call for projects to implement high-quality educational initiatives.
The projects should include changes to the national curriculum, training staff and providing digital resources and tools, with the aim of inventing the teaching and learning methods of the future. There will also be an online library, scheduled to open in August – a sort of “augmented reality curriculum”, in the words of Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
Feedback from the first experiments
In schools in Corsica, the digital programme was initially rolled out at five pioneer schools, a project overseen by the island’s School Digital Officer, José Giudicelli, who worked closely with the schools’ IT teams and local authorities. As he explained on Microsoft France’s blog, “Digital is a real revolution: tablets can radically change teaching methods.”
Hands-on assistance is also essential for a successful deployment of the programme, which is why Giudicelli has organised training for all teachers, ranging from “familiarising staff with the tablets – particularly those who are not used to such equipment – to planning a lesson with a tablet.” The ultimate aim is to go beyond the recommendations of the national education programme and promote digital practices across the school system, from primary to senior secondary school.
A gradual roll-out
“It’s not just tablets: there are interactive video projectors, digital whiteboards and digital workspaces; etc. We really want to bring schools into today’s world by diversifying digital uses and tools,” adds Guidicelli.
At the beginning of the 2016 academic year, the digital programme will be extended, so that a total of 1,510 junior secondary schools and around 175,000 students will be supplied with tablets, jointly funded by the State and the local education authority. Meanwhile, a number of calls for projects are being launched, so that the whole French digital ecosystem can contribute to the success of the programme, which should be rolled out nationwide by the 2018 academic year.
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