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"Digital Tools are a Great Opportunity for the Education System"

BLOG - 30 August 2017

By Institut Montaigne

Christophe Gomes, Deputy Director of the organization Agir pour l'école, answers our questions.

You are currently working for an organization operating within the education system. What do you think are the benefits of such an approach ? How are you perceived in this environment?

The major asset of our approach is that it enables us to work during school time, within the classroom walls, and side by side with the teacher. Pupils spend 24 hours per week with their teacher, which is why we need to make sure they are able to confront their difficulties within this timeframe, thanks to the educational tools validated by scientific research. Agir pour l’école translates the findings of educational research into concrete actions, so as to make them available within the classroom, to assist and support teachers in the use of new tools, and to assess their impact.

Our results are very positive and each year, more teachers volunteer to be a part of our initiative. The change in teaching methods induced by our project is very appreciated by teachers. Indeed, all the actors involved in the French national education system are more willing than ever to ensure pupils’ success, which is why they are after rigorously conceived educational tools and a fruitful approach. This is precisely what we offer. Like them, I strongly believe that in this important battle, everyone’s good will is welcome, be it from within the institution or from elsewhere.

Among other things, you are developing apps teaching children how to read, from kindergarten to second grade. Can these tools make a difference to help children with the most learning difficulties?

Digital tools represent a real opportunity for schools, provided that they are used in a very specific way and serve a clearly identified, accepted and measured educational purpose. Children with most difficulties need more time to acquire the skills necessary to the serene pursuit of their curriculum. Today, schools unfortunately do not have the human resources required to enable every pupil to succeed, which makes the work impossible where it is most difficult. Reducing the size of these classes is a major step in the right direction, and digital technology can usefully reinforce this measure in order to customize learning and free teachers from a number of tasks, making them more available for targeted interventions.

You have recently developed a tool incorporating machine learning. What opportunities does artificial intelligence represent for the educational environment?

The use of digital tools gathers a lot of data, which helps us improve our understanding of the different steps of pupils learning process. The machine can now learn from this data, and provide a more subtle and relevant support, in order for all to succeed.

The progress of artificial intelligence is opening many new doors and will most probably redefine the classroom dynamics as we know them today. Teachers’ role will itself evolve, and has already begun to do so. It will not be about doing everything at the same time anymore, as a non-negligible share of their tasks can be delegated to the machine. A teacher supported by artificial intelligence is a conductor able to be everywhere simultaneously, to know at all times what is happening in front of each pupil, and thus in the ability to propose the most adapted task for each.


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