Imagine a university without professors. Students only learn by doing projects. Each of them has to be completed within 48 hours and each morning the students receive a new assignment. Jobs pile up, you have to deal with disparity, tackle the disorganization that spreads with the influx of tasks, and optimizes time. This all sounds a lot like the real world, closer to the job market than to padding academic limbo. And all this happens at École 42. This atypical French programming school has been operating in Paris for four years.
There are no professors to teach the subjects and the students organize their work. As projects are completed, student-to-student learning is encouraged. The training is divided into modules, such as integration, algorithms or artificial intelligence, and languages, such as Python, C, or Java.
Training at École 42 is free. To enter the school, candidates pass several tests. The last one is a kind of camp that lasts a month. In this, the applicants have to prove to be the best. Registration is earned by meritocracy, according to those responsible for the centre.
Those who enter the École 42 education have between three and five years of free training. About 80% of students find a job before finishing their studies, according to the school, and all have a job after they finish.
The founder and benefactor of École 42 are French businessmen Xavier Niel. He has spent 48 million euros of his fortune on the Paris campus and another 46 million on another school that opened last year in Silicon Valley.
Niel’s goal is for the Silicon Valley campus to grow to 10,000 students. From there, the idea of opening a branch of the school in China will be considered. The businessman does not disclose any financial interest behind the schools. Rather, their intention has been to create a possibility for free education and to combat deficiencies in the traditional education system.
But the truth is that maintaining schools is 7 million euros a year. An invoice that one of the school’s students will take care of in the future when one of them emerges as the next digital entrepreneur. At least that’s how Niel thinks.
By the way, the name is not a coincidence but a very freaky reference. The number 42 refers to the popular novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, later made into a movie. In the crazy world created by Douglas Adams, 42 is the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and all things.
In general terms, educational robotics supports young people to apply their knowledge of physics, mathematics, logic, etc., while acquiring other skills such as teamwork, developing real projects and solving problems. Within this scope, two types of use of programming and robotics as support within the classroom can be distinguished: robotics and educational programming, and programming and robotics as a social element.
Educational use consists of a set of physical or programming elements that motivate students to build, program, reason logically, and create new interfaces or devices; here, programming and robotic technologies are especially beneficial in teaching STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).
On the other hand, as a social element, programming and robotics can be used as a game or gamification, in such a way that autonomous or semi-autonomous systems interact with humans or other physical agents or software in roles such as coach, partner, tangible device or registry of information.
Today there are already thousands of tutorials (online videos, assembly instructions, texts, etc.) and kits that facilitate the introduction into the world of robotics, both within classrooms and individually. A clear example is DYOR, an educational package created by professors and students of the Polytechnic University of Valencia that allows ESO and FP students to learn to make robots in a simple way.
Another example would be Next 2.0, a curricular robotics project designed by the Edelvives company aimed at work in the classroom from the preschool-infant period to primary school, relying on additional material for each student, guides for the teacher, as well as various applications; The main objective of Next 2.0 is to initiate programming knowledge to the little ones for the development of prevention skills, planning and development of the trial-error process, in a cooperative and problem-solving context.
Digital Education for the Youngest
In addition to all the facilities already mentioned, companies like Telefónica also support the insertion of robotics and programming in classrooms. In this sense, during the past school year, Telefónica launched the first edition of the National Interscholastic Programming and Robotics Contest in which students from almost 400 schools worked in teams creating technological and innovative solutions to participate.
On the other hand, Talentum promotes digital education through programs such as Talentum Schools, which offer children and young people free training and exchange of knowledge in digital skills in schools throughout Spain.
Together, robotics and programming introduce an extraordinary dimension to the learning experience, since computational power is not only located on a screen but also intangible objects that share a physical space with students and the possibility of being altered by the environment.
Learning through robotics increases the commitment of the youngest in activities based on manipulation, the development of motor skills, eye-hand coordination and a way of understanding abstract ideas. Additionally, robot-based activities provide an appropriate context for cooperative behaviour and teamwork.