ParlonsMaths & DEMATHERIALIZATION: when scientific mediation makes pedagogy evolve in times of confinement
Changed on 11/05/2021
The ParlonsMaths project was born out of an initiative by Animath volunteers to offer original presentations, around mathematics, during the confinement period, to students from 6th to 12th grade, particularly during the spring break which lasts throughout the month of April. The project leaders, Fabrice Rouillier and Matthieu Lequesne, joined the Covid-19 Mission at Inria in April.
The first broadcast took place on March 23, less than a week after the start of containment, with the stated goal of broadcasting five days a week, for the duration of the containment. This is the association's way of working: we set ourselves a goal and organize a group reflection. Usually it doesn't take long for this collective, composed mainly of brilliant young students, to come up with original, efficient and easy to implement solutions.
In the case of Parlons Maths, the basic idea is very simple and can be summed up in two points:
to disseminate interventions around topics related to mathematics to allow the greatest number of people to benefit from them;
offer an interactive exchange with the speaker(s);
The general strategy is also very simple:
a facilitator and a director in videoconference with the speaker(s).
the director broadcasts the videoconference on a site accompanied by instant messaging, the moderator welcomes the speaker(s) and transmits the information and questions he or she reads in the chat.
Technically, broadcasts have been built around three technical ingredients: a videoconferencing software, a broadcast software and a broadcast server.
For the first broadcasts, we focused on feasibility by sacrificing, in the rush, our rules of preference for solutions where the end-to-end data flow is controlled. We started the first broadcasts using the proprietary video conferencing system Zoom, the royalty-free broadcast software OBS and the broadcast site known to online gaming enthusiasts Twitch.
Responding to the call for projects of the Covid-19 mission initiated by Inria by proposing to develop Parlons Maths was an obvious choice since Matthieu Lequesne is both an Animath volunteer and a PhD student in the COSMIQ project team. Fabrice Rouillier is the head of the OURAGAN project team and president of Animath.
The recognition of the quality of the project triggers the rapid evolution of our objectives: Parlons Maths is going to become DéMATHérialisation;
With the success of the first broadcasts, we then focused on 3 evolutions:
developing a complete chain of installations (servers and clients) that were totally free of rights, thus guaranteeing complete control of data circulation,
develop the components to allow the complete dematerialization of all Animath's activities,
adapt solutions to enable more generally the holding of dematerialized events at Inria and its partners.
For many years, we have faced a considerable obstacle to Animath's development: how to involve young people who are geographically distant from university centres in our activities? It is a question of social equity, as far as girls and boys in France are concerned. It is also a major issue of development aid towards French-speaking youth, especially in Africa. As has often been the case in history, dramatic exceptional circumstances have led to important advances: DéMATHérialisation is a good example of this, which will allow us, Animath and many others, to reach out to a large audience of young people to arouse and nourish their interest in mathematics, computer science... and any other subject.
Martin Andler, Founder and vice-president of Animath
The turning point of the DéMATHérialisation project
Friday May 1st took place the first real crash test for our complete chain of royalty-free solutions with the organization of a completely dematerialized speed-meeting, in collaboration with the association Femmes et Maths, the support of the foundations Blaise Pascal and Femmes-arobase-numérique, for which 77 young girls and ten speakers had registered, that is to say a hundred people including volunteers.
For this event, it was first necessary to gather everyone together for a presentation of the day and then to ensure the holding of 10 virtual fairs in parallel where the girls and speakers could exchange cameras and open microphones on the trades of maths or computer science and the routes to get there.
This experience was decisive for the future of the project because it showed that it was going to scale, but above all it showed that the general strategy adopted was very flexible.
Indeed, for an event that can attract an undetermined number of people, the set of components that we have put in place makes it possible to position the cursor wherever we want between a highly interactive videoconferencing solution that welcomes all spectators and participants, but which will quickly saturate, and a broadcasting solution that is not very interactive or not interactive but which has no limit on the number of spectators.
Technically, a determining point of the device is the flexibility of the solutions offered by the company Scaleway who provides the servers we use: it is currently possible for us to resize the servers we need fairly precisely and in a few minutes according to the number of participants to benefit from the necessary power for the duration of the event and then return just as easily to our usual configuration. This is a way to make the most of the hardware and therefore a way to help reduce the carbon bill related to the use of IT resources and operating costs.
The solution seems to have won over the participants of this pilot event, as can be seen from some of the comments gathered on the Filles et Maths website.
DéMATHérialisation on video
The multifaceted use of DéMATHérialisation
ParlonsMaths has entered its post-confinement phase at the end of the school holidays and is therefore reducing the number of broadcasts to accommodate the resumption of classes. The broadcasts that were daily will gradually become weekly. The majority of our volunteers are ... students. The upcoming deadlines in May are the final of the Alkindi competition (65,000 participants in the first round, about a hundred in the final) on the 13th, the prize-giving ceremony for this competition on the 20th, two new sessions for girls and maths/information and, above all, the complete virtualization of the Culture and Mathematical Games exhibition which has been taking place for 20 years at Place Saint Sulpice in Paris.
Beyond Animath's activities, mediation at Inria is gradually taking over the tools developed (first broadcast on 6 May with the "13:45" proposed by the Inria Lille - Nord Europe centre) and we are now also solicited for initiatives from institutional partners (symposia, seminars, etc.). In June, our friends from the Maths.En.Jeans association will use the solutions we propose to set up a dematerialized version of their annual congress. Finally, several projects are being set up to use "dematerialization" solutions for Animath's actions in sub-Saharan African countries.
The future of DéMATHérialisation
The DéMATHérialisation project helps to reduce territorial inequalities and will naturally contribute to reducing the carbon bill by allowing totally or partially dematerialized scientific events.
Relying exclusively on solutions based on free software, it is in line with the willingness of public institutions to prefer this type of solution and therefore does not expose it to any limitation of use. We are currently working on the development of solutions for face-to-face seminars with a very low investment (the objective is under a hundred euros all-inclusive).
Animath now intends to systematically propose a dematerialized alternative for each of its actions to increase their impact.
We are very pleased that "adaptability" was one of Animath's criteria in its search for a solution for the DEMATHERIALIZATION project and to be able to support them in their future projects and initiatives.
Indeed, by choosing Scaleway, the association was sure to be able to parameterize and adapt the configuration of its server on the basis of its consumption. This allows Animath and more broadly all our users to ensure optimal use of resources and contribute to reducing the carbon bill related to the use of IT resources.
We support the Animath collective, using our human and technical resources, in order to maintain the excellence in French mathematics that we can all be proud of.
Yann Lechelle, CEO of Scaleway
Animathis an association whose aim is to encourage the taste and practice of mathematics among young people. In the manner of a sports or cultural club, we organize activities ranging from the simple pleasure of reflecting on beautiful problems to the most selective competitions.
Scaleway,one of the European leaders in the cloud, covers a wide range of services for professionals: from the public cloud with the Scaleway Elements ecosystem, private infrastructures and colocation with Scaleway Datacenter and dedicated servers with Scaleway Dedibox. It is also the cloud branch of the Iliad Group.