The new generation of learning has arrived. The virtual and real learning worlds are increasingly growing closer. This is unlocking interesting possibilities that combine new insights, good memories, and lots of fun. An exciting project at an Austrian school – created by young people for kids – is showing how next-generation learning might work in actual practice.
From social media to the Industrial Internet of Things – new technologies wherever you look. Digitalization is advancing and reaching virtually all areas of our daily lives. Smartphones, tablets, or notebooks are nearly always close by. It’s hard to imagine being on the go anymore entirely “without.” This makes information – in any desired depth and format – available always and everywhere. And these advantages make new media interesting for learning as well.
From the display to the mind
PowerPoint (and others like it) replaced blurry, overhead transparencies years ago, and not long after, interactivity came into play. By getting actively involved, your concentration is more focused and you’re much better able to remember the presented materials. So, educationally, this was a quantum leap. E-learning is in vogue, whether for vocational training or continuing education. And flexibility is its trump card, because new media makes it possible to learn wherever and whenever you like. E-learning is also ideal for preparing trainees individually for classroom training. In this respect, differing levels of previous knowledge are no problem: participants can each take only the e-courses they need for the best introduction to the classroom training. This form of learning, i.e., online training combined with traditional seminars and practical exercises, is called blended learning.
Festo recently presented its latest development in the field of digital learning: Tec2Screen®, a mobile learning companion which brings the virtual and real learning worlds even closer together. With the help of an iPad, a special learning environment (software), and individually configurable hardware "connects," Tec2Screen® is the ideal bridge between E-learning and practical exercises. The virtual and real learning worlds can thus be brought even close together via corresponding connects. With the help of an iPad, a special learning environment (software), and individually configurable hardware "connects," Tec2Screen® is the ideal bridge between E-learning and practical exercises. For example, Festo Didactic’s training factories (such as the learning and research station for the Industrial Internet of Things, i.e., the CP Factory) can be easily incorporated with the corresponding connects. Additionally, instructors/trainers can create their own interactive course programs and manage course access rights (classroom manager). As a result, the Tec2Screen® allows a lot of room for creativity – this has been clearly demonstrated by three pupils at the Neufelden Higher Institute of Technical Education (Upper Austria) as part of their graduate work in the field of automation technology which, was also a “Technology on the Train“ project.
The box only opens and permits access to the experiments after the Tec2Screen® has been correctly connected by the children and a knowledge quiz has been successfully completed.
By young people for kids
“Technology on the Train“ is the name of the initiative launched in 2013, which aims to provide children and young people with a clearer picture of technology and the natural sciences. A decommissioned, express-train car will be equipped with exciting experiments for this purpose. A group of companies, including Festo, is providing the necessary resources. The car is being set up by pupils of Upper Austrian technical schools. The final result of these combined efforts will be available to young visitors before the end of this year on the grounds of the voestalpine Steel Division in Linz.
Creativity in demand
Roughly two years ago, when they first began their graduate project, Vera Pröll, Julia Lauss, and Stefan Beringer had more questions than answers, because they had taken on the task of explaining pneumatics to children between the ages of 8 and 14, and introducing them to the subject matter in a playful way, within the context of their project. There were no specific requirements, except that everything had to fit into the limited space available in the train car. And this was quite a challenge, because the grad students had yet to develop the ideas and the concept. One of the ideas was to require that access to each of the six individual stations be “earned,” and that not everything should be immediately apparent, because otherwise the kids would just rush out and play with the technology.
Six stations – five boxes
To make the tour through the train-car exciting and mysterious for the young participants, the idea of hiding the first five stations under pneumatically-locked wooden boxes was developed. Only when the children have properly connected Tec2Screen® received the explanation, and completed a short quiz will the cover of the next station open for access to the small pneumatic system. This way, what has just been learned can be playfully put into practice.
The first five stations show basic pneumatic components, such as a compressed air reservoir, valves, or cylinders. At the sixth and final station, things get especially tricky, because the children must use pneumatics to guide a ball through a labyrinth. The Tec2Screen® guides the children from station to station and helps to clearly communicate the training content. Also in play is the ball from the last station, which is blown into station 6 with compressed air from station 5, and then back again. But this only happens if all of the tasks have been solved correctly.
Professional course design
The project team is enthusiastic about the possibilities with Tec2Screen®. The content builder makes it easy to design a professional course – including the integration of videos, documents, and related links. Interactivity for course participants is a top priority. The ready-to-use interface is designed for user ease with a clean, clear layout. The complexity running in the background goes unnoticed by the users. The Tec2Screen® helps present learning content in a modern way, linking it to the training hardware in a practical manner. Learners easily progress click-by-click through the course – so easily that even children can do it.