Directors: Antonio M. Battro, Kurt W. Fischer and Diego Golombek
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani
Digital technology in the training of teachers teaching science: veni, vidi, wiki
Young teachers, unlike their predecessors, have since childhood been acquainted with the new technologies of information and communication. A tool, which outsources functions, sometimes transcends them. Caesar's sentence, Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered), pronounced to the Roman senate after its swift victory in Zéla against Pharnace II - 47 BC, applies to the storming success of digital technology. From now on, "vici" is spelled with w and k (wiki, express in the Hawaiian language). The acronym WIKI,"Here is What I Know", enjoys great success. At our humble level, we have felt the effects. Until 2001, the network of consultants of the La main à la pâte website was receiving every week approximately 200 questions asked by French-speaking teachers (La main à la pâte is a national French program aiming at revamping and developing science and technology education, at elementary school from 1996 and at middle school from 2006). Then, with the archiving of exchanges, and the development of Google and Wikipedia, the customized request dropped. The pooling of resources increased. The Internet user now manages to find on his ownthe knowledge where it is. He visits virtual libraries, museums on screen. Ethological revolution. Storming success. Consequences?
With the advent of digital technology, all that the human brain can process can be reduced to coded information, divided in series of 0 and 1. Learning science, learning to learn science, advancing science: everything is possible with computer science, including individual exchanges between teachers and researchers, collaborations between scientists and amateurs.
Since its origin, with the support of the Academy of Science, La main à la pâte has encouraged the creation and development of original on-site and distance professional development modalities: resources and sharing of documents on-line, networks of scientific and educational consultants, thematic projects, offers of distance professional development with support by chat or video conference, use of collaborative platforms, creation of rich media, survey tools, massive open online courses (MOOC).
From a typology of tracks left by the users of varied support tools proposed for professional development, we identified several teachers’ concerns (difficulties to take ownership of the contents of the official program; various functions assigned to the experimental practices, ideas on the purpose and the nature of science…). There are many different perspectives to contribute to the evolution of the professional development processes.
Saying that nothing has changed since prehistory, the invention of writing or of printing, would amount to claiming that a penny whistle is as good as an organ, which is obviously false. However, just having an organ does not make you an organist. Nor does the text editor or the word processor transform their user into a writer. But if the tools are so powerful, the best users will become even better than the previous ones. The invention of innovative processes allows us to be smarter.
Since September 2012, the new website of the La main à la pâte Foundation has been available at this address: www.fondation-lamap.org. It gathers approximately 100 000 contents (resources, forum messages, articles, linked media, users’ accounts). There are 200 000 visits and 800 000 pages viewed each month; the most visited sections are, as in the past, the ones that propose "turnkey" resources for the class (activities and thematic projects).
However, in 2012, for the first time in the history of this website created in 1997, as many visits have been recorded for the thematic projects as for the hundreds of other class activities, which were attracting most of the visits before. The website has 46 300 members, 7350 of which subscribed in 2012 (90 % of these new members registered through the thematic projects).
Things that were being done before the advent of digital technology are updated, as such or on another scale, but others are completely new. Playing, joking, blogging, modelling, simulating, reasoning, understanding, programming, identifying, imagining, inventing, the list is endless.