What if we did class differently?


The transformations due to the digital revolution and the Covid-19a epidemic invite us to rethink the places and forms of education. From now on, it is no longer a question of animating the eternal debate around the integration, or not, of digital tools in teaching practices. Thanks to the multiplication of mobile interfaces (computer, smartphone, tablet) equipped with an Internet connection, we can learn everywhere.

Where do we learn? When do we learn? With whom and how can we learn? The architect Fiona Meadows , in charge of programs at the City of Architecture and Heritage, sheds light on these questions which are today at the heart of public debate through an exhibition entitled Trop classe , presented in Paris at the Maif Social Club of the 25 September 2020 to February 13, 2021.

The choice of this expression deliberately questions the notion of transmission: “it can be seen as positive, synonymous with“ Génial! ”, But it can also be read as the contraction of“ too much class ”, referring to an“ too full ” , an excessive presence of the “school form” ”, explains the commissioner.

The scenography is thus organized around an agora, in which we find certain key places of the school – the classroom, the courtyard, the “nap corner”, or even the library – but revisited thanks to the works of the artists. like Filipe Vilas-Boas or Bonnefrite, and opening up new experiences that are both tangible and digital.

Language and digital

At the center of the exhibition, children can grasp the notion of communication through the manipulation of forms in volumes scattered in space. Composed of circles, sticks or commas, this Sign System , designed by the studio smarin., Is loosely tangible alphabet created in the XIX th  century by German educator Friedrich Froebel and allows to form words in French and in Arabic.

At a time when we can dialogue in real time with people on the other side of the planet, the question of switching and translating from one language to another also arises. The stake is to invite the children to play with the language, to wonder about the way in which one can make community thanks to the association of forms, towards the creation of a common language.

Long before writing was democratized, transmission was based on speaking. A direct exchange also transformed by new technologies such as voice assistants . Just like the computer code, made up of 0 and 1 (also called binary language), the dialogue with these conversational machines is codified with the use of ready-made formulas: “Hey Siri…? “,” Hey, Google, can you…? ”

But the use of digital tools also makes it possible to preserve all the spontaneity of the dialogue with a child, as evidenced by the interviews conducted by Valérie Mréjen and Mohamed El Khatib. In these videos projected on a wall of the exhibition, the children are questioned in a benevolent way on everyday subjects such as the argument, or their way of explaining certain idioms such as “The skin of the bear”.

New modes of transmission

In the digital age, the intelligence of doing and of the hand is also in the spotlight. Fab labs, these third places of digital manufacturing, are popping up all over France. These are spaces accessible to all that promote learning by “doing” (or “Learning by doing”) through the use of digital machines – laser cutters, digital printers, etc. – and the dissemination of the “open-source” philosophy. With the Covid-19 epidemic, these third places have become more democratic and have become places of production, for gowns and masks for example, as a recent article published on Le Monde highlights .

At the heart of the exhibition “Too Class! »The« Mobilab »by designer Victor Bois, winner of the 7 th  edition of the MiniMaousse competition on the theme of digital inclusion. This mobile fab lab goes to meet the actors and actresses of the territories in which it is established around collaborative projects.

Digital tools encourage a change of posture on the part of the teacher. Since information is easily accessible on the Internet, the teacher is no longer the sole master of knowledge. It is on this idea that the inverted class is based . In this teaching practice, students study the lessons at home and do the activities in class, making it easier for them to ask questions or work in groups.

Facing the manipulable alphabet of smarin. , the Mobilab of designer Victor Bois also invites learning by doing. “Too much class” exhibition at the Maif Social Club / Marion Voillot , Author provided

Taking up the principle of the inverted classroom in the exhibition, the artist Bonnefrite invites us to come and draw with chalk on the traditional blackboard of the classroom. Throughout the visit, we are invited to participate in the exhibition, just as the student must adopt an active posture in class.

To extend the interaction, tablet applications are available in the center of the scenography. Selected by the Gray Mouse , a benchmark in digital education, these applications allow children to develop their “soft skills”, such as collaboration or critical thinking. They then rub shoulders with books on the shelves (invented by the same creators as the apps). It is therefore no longer a question of opposing book culture and digital culture but of associating them in the same space, within the same culture.

Give back room to play and rest

This exhibition, both fun and educational, formally shows us that play is THE vehicle for learning. Although put forward by alternative pedagogies for more than a century, the concept of “game” has nevertheless been neglected for too long in our education systems. Since the appearance of video games and the craze around “serious games” and other “escape games”, games are now used as a real educational tool, from kindergarten to continuing education.

The game teaches us that the alternation of trial and error is a source of motivation and memorization in the learning process – unlike the “stupid and evil” punishment, as the work of Filipe Vilas-Boas titled The Punishment . In this work, a robotic arm endlessly replicates a prevention message to learn that it is forbidden to injure a human (i.e. Azimov’s first law of robotics). So what would be the meaning of a sanction which can be accomplished by a machine?

Finally, in a small, almost hidden room, visitors are invited to dream. Thanks to smarin’s “Kairos” . the light is regulated according to the heart rate. This space invites us to (re) pose to regulate our anxiety, while sleep is increasingly endangered by our screen time. This reflection makes it possible to value rest, an essential moment in the assimilation of learning .

Recent developments are shaking up teaching practices, thus inviting us to rethink places of transmission as spaces open to others and to the outside, the city and the territories, whether tangible or virtual. The school should now allow everyone to build their course in an interactive, individual and autonomous way, like the course offered in this exhibition.

Author Bio: Marion Voillot is a PhD Student at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (CRI)