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Forum of innovative teachers: initiative

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Grégory Michnik is a professor of life and earth sciences at Escaut High School in Valenciennes. In 2016, he received a prize for educational innovation with two colleagues, Mélanie Fenaert and Virginie Marquet, for designing a simulation game: “Survive on Mars”. They meet.

How can we renew education and innovation? On the occasion of the 20th anniversary educational cafe, Liberation is organizing with our teachers and guests a day of debates and exchanges, on November 25 in Paris. In anticipation of this forum, meetings with some teachers.

“The principle is to immerse students in a universe with a very specific scenario, putting them in front of problems to solve, for which they have to use their scientific skills.

“With the group of teachers who worked on the project, we met at a conference in the returned classroom. It is a pedagogical process that consists in inverting the classic times of learning: in normal time it is the course in the classroom and then the homework. The principle is to invert that in order to acquire the theory at home, then in the classroom it is proposed that the activities are put into practice, consolidated and adapted to the students’ levels of understanding.

“We had the idea to create this game that takes place in March to realize the entire high school SVT program. The inspiration came from the movie Only in March. It turned out that the attempt to colonize this planet involved a whole range of scientific fields, and all the problems that an astronaut might encounter have things that could affect us on Earth.

“For survive on mars we imagined several scenarios that we call missions. In one of them, the astronauts are depressed, they need nature. Three scientists embodied by the students – a botanist, a physicist, a soil specialist – are responsible for creating a space in which we can find terrestrial animals and plants. Therefore, we must manage to make the soil fertile, understand the needs of plants to grow, and how to achieve all this in Martian conditions. Thanks to the virtual game board, students can move around the base and ask residents to find out their wishes, then they develop a feasibility project and finally present the project to the class to choose the most feasible one.

“Working in this way motivates students, they are more engaged and have fun in class. I had noticed a growing lack of curiosity over the years. Overall, I was unhappy with the level of investment. The audience changes, so you have to change the method. We must always be attentive: today’s young people are very different from ten years ago. Digital technology is a major driver of changing habits. Attention is less or diverted, they are also in hyper communication, constantly in contact with each other. The idea is to mobilize their abilities to learn and discover.

“I try to keep an eye on technological developments. I don’t want to innovate for the sake of innovating, but to adapt to the public. At the moment, we are starting to talk about augmented and virtual reality, about metaverses. For now, it’s still on the fringes, but maybe in five or ten years, there will be more and more virtual reality in classrooms.

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