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Nouvelle Aquitaine Edtech Cluster : 2 days to get projects off the ground

On 3rdand 4th May, purchasers from French national education system departments will visit the Nouvelle Aquitaine Edtech Cluster and meet with its project leaders. The goal is to foster collaboration between two worlds that are unfamiliar with each other and discuss technical solutions to meet the needs of education in the future. Inria will be a driver of this initiative.

Can Edtech players and the French national education system understand one another? The Nouvelle Aquitaine Edtech Cluster believes they can. The Cluster was born from an unprecedented synergy between the Talence Innovation Sud Développement economic development agency and the educational authorities of Bordeaux. “Our role is to help project leaders clearly define their objectives, in particular by including an experimental programme for students and teachers.” To encourage encounters, the Cluster is organising meetings on the 3rdand 4thMay with the Procurement Department of the Ministry for National Education and the Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the Digital Technology for Education Directorate (Ministry for National Education) and local authorities. Inria teams have long been committed to devising the education system of tomorrow, notably within the framework of the Class'Code project that aims to give teachers the tools they need for introducing children to computer code, but also to creating robotics projects for schools, such as IniRobot and Poppy Education. Two Inria project teams, Flowers and Potioc, will therefore be obvious participants in this event to present their work.

Machines that adapt to children

“The education market is rather complex to understand for the layperson, because there are many national and regional players, as well as practices and decision-making processes that differ according to the section, level and discipline. One way to give impetus to partnerships between education and research is to create working groups for encounters and discussions that facilitate experimenting and defining the uses and relevance of devices,” explains Didier Roy, a researcher on the Flowers project team with thirty years of experience in the national education system, who coordinated Inria's participation in the event. His multi‑disciplinary team has been working for several years on how to model the learning mechanisms of children so that teaching can be personalised to each child. The goal is to offer each child teaching sequences based on machine learning that are stimulating, motivating and effective.
One of the applications that they have developed is Kidlearn, a software programme that is designed to teach Year 3 pupils (aged 7-8) arithmetic and how to use money (see the project website: Children use a virtual purse to buy items with varying prices that make calculating the total cost more or less complicated. This software programme provides a means of experimenting with personalisation algorithms. Using the child's responses, the application identifies children's individual characteristics and adapts the exercises as a result. The software programme proved to be effective during a large-scale experiment involving 500 pupils in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. Kid Breath, another example, helps asthmatic children to better understand their illness in order to encourage them to follow their treatment. “Above all, we hope to gain feedback on our work in order to assess its value in education,” enthuses team manager Pierre-Yves Oudeyer. 

Machines that are forgotten

As for the Potioc team, they are counting on augmented reality to encourage cooperation and experiments. “The use of digital technology in the classroom is often limited to using computers or tablets,” explains team leader Martin Hachet. “But these tools are not well suited to group work and do not require physical experimentation, which are both excellent drivers of learning.” This is why these experts in human-machine interaction have developed several approaches and interactive systems that go beyond conventional computer systems. This work is the core of the e-TAC research project (in partnership with the University of Lorraine), which aims to promote collaborative learning through hybrid mind-mapping activities that mix tangible interactions (with physical objects) with digital representations in augmented reality. Children work together, discuss and manipulate in order to learn more efficiently. “The machine tends to be forgotten since the children don't work on screens,” adds Martin Hachet.
Potioc work has also been applied to the Hobit project, an augmented reality system that imitates an experiment done by physics students with the Michelson interferometer to understand the wavelike nature of light. In addition to simulating the physical phenomenon, additional information is projected in augmented reality to the place where the experiment is being carried out. The team will also present Teegi, a tool for better understanding how the human brain works, along with Aïana, a MOOC reader that can be used by everyone. “Our objective for this event is to go from lab prototype to large-scale experiments so that our research can have a real impact in the field of education,” concludes Martin Hachet.

Keywords: Augmented reality Éducation Learning