Technology at the service of learning

Some students use augmented reality glasses that make them part of the same subject they are learning today, be it the water cycle or the human body. Others use tablets with the help of Education students. Another small group practices psychomotor exercises with an interactive projector on the floor, while other children perform a gymkhana using the Alexa smart speaker, to learn that technology can help them but also "deceive", if it is programmed that way. It's just any Thursday, but for them it's extraordinary. These spaces equipped with state-of-the-art technology are two pedagogical innovation classrooms on the Terres de l'Ebre campus of the Rovira i Virgili University, in Tortosa: the Aula Idees and the ETLAB (education and technology laboratory).

The two classrooms on the Ebrense campus are part of a symbiotic project that trains university students in the Education degree, future teachers, and schoolchildren who visit the space at the same time. The little ones, in addition to learning, have a great time. These classrooms are focused on a new educational model in which technology and work methodologies are put at the service of education, future teachers and teachers who are already active. Technology thus turns the classroom into a "research space", where students delve into immersive and innovative practices to achieve curricular skills.

«The digital teaching competence of our students is very important, but also that of these children; That they adapt to society starting from now is vital”, explains the coordinator of the degree in Primary Education on the Terres de l'Ebre campus of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Josep Holgado. «We work by competences. We want students to learn to work in a group, to show solidarity, to respect and obviously to reinforce the content that the center wants in particular. Our aim is to create people who adapt to society and who know how to develop using technology”.

The university campus opens these classrooms to the schools in the territory. The Aula Idees closed its first year of operation last year with very positive figures: in total, 1,152 students of Early Childhood and Primary Education from schools in the territory visited the facility to carry out didactic sequences, devised by the students of the first year of the degrees of Infant and Primary Education.

Thus, last year, a total of 14 centers in Terres de l'Ebre benefited from the activities and resources that this classroom offers. The centers can choose the subjects to reinforce from any field (natural sciences, music, mathematics, geography, plastic...) that are already prepared, but the students of the campus also prepare content on demand if necessary, according to the work plan from the center. They adapt to all ages.

All students participate in the design of these activities, forming part of their agenda during the course. "Sometimes they will design activities that later during practice they will see that they do not work with the children, or that they have programmed too many for a single session, etc", exemplifies the person in charge.

In addition, the campus also transfers part of the material and shares it with the same schools. «Our students must necessarily be in contact with children. They also travel to the centers, apart from their practices. It is very important then to discuss with the centers what works, what does not, and to be able to share experiences. Sometimes teachers do not have time to carry out this task of reflection and research”, the coordinator values.

For Holgado, the university must be very attentive to all the innovations that may be in the field of education. "But we are obliged to know what the reality of the school is." In addition, Aula Idees has two cameras that allow the rest of the university students (four carry out the activity while the other 36 are in the classroom) to analyze how the session develops, to take notes, evaluate it and make constructive criticism afterwards.

The classroom is divided into four different areas: Thinking, Design, Maker and Stage (think, design, build and present). In addition, one of its singularities is the flexibility of the space, with furniture that can be moved, which allows it to be adapted to different work methodologies, implementing interdisciplinarity, cooperative work, group and social interaction appropriate to the new ways of learning. The Aula Idees is unique in Catalonia and there is only one other in Spain.

Among the different tools that they put into practice, the little ones especially value, and naturally, the augmented reality glasses. Among the different materials, a Wii game console applied to the educational field is also offered. "It has nothing to do with what they can play at home. What we do is exploit these tools to always search for educational activities”, Holgado explains.

These materials also allow students from disadvantaged backgrounds to be in contact and learn with tools that they may not have at home, although today they all already work with computers in their centers. They especially value being able to use technologies that are not available in all schools.

Aula Idees has the collaboration of the Tortosa City Council, the Tarragona Provincial Council, the companies HP, Advanced Education and NEXTEC. In addition, this year the Innovation Laboratory for Environmental Education (LIEM) has been created in the classroom within the Ebre Bioterritori Specialization and Competitiveness Project (PECT), with an investment from the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) of the European Union within the framework of the PO FEDER of Catalonia 2014-2020.

Although the Aula Idees was inaugurated last year, the Ebrense campus has had ETLAB since its inception, which is provided with new materials every year, in a clear commitment to new technologies applied to learning and education.

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