UMI for STEM education as new business opportunity – an interactive discussion at the All Digital Summit 2017

On 4-5 October, over 150 participants representing 92 organisations from 26 countries gathered in Barcelona for the ALL DIGITAL Summit 2017. The event under the title ‘Digital Skills for Social Innovation’ brought together participants came from various backgrounds – NGOs, education, public authorities, industry, policy makers. Such diverse backgrounds call for numerous discussions and sessions in varying formats including plenary and group sessions, striving to make the experience as engaging and interactive as possible for everybody.

One of the various formats were group discussions followed through by visual note taking. The UMI project resulted in some useful visuals during these sessions. The UMI experts first provided introduction to the UMI (Ubiquitous technologies, mobile technologies and Internet of Things) technologies to the audience, which was little aware about these technologies and their potential role in education and careers.

During the introduction, participants were made aware of the fact that ubiquitous technologies are all around us, thanks to them services are in place but invisible. Mobile technologies enable us to use ubiquitous services “on the move”. Thanks to Internet of Things technology and thus services are present in everyday objects. These are technologies of the near future and have major potential in education, especially in teaching STEM disciplines. They are also technologies that will be present in many aspects of our personal and professional lives.

In UMI has many advantages in education, it can be fun and engaging, it fits multi-disciplinary projects, triggers different competences and skills and motivates differently oriented people, even those that would otherwise not be interested in technology. Furthermore, kids can build their interactive objects and get naturally excited about STEM and technology.

The experts then introduced the UMI Platform and the Communities of Practice (CoPs) being formed there as a part of the initiative. The CoPs bring together various relevant stakeholders, namely teachers, policy makers, career counsellors, educators, trainers, industry representatives and many more. The platform – open to all interested – also features a number of learning scenarios that others can use or can add their own.

An example of a very simple learning scenario provided during the session was an “IoT Tiles Workshop”. The Tiles, or cards, provide an introduction to how IoT works. This workshop has a number of advantages, for example, in that no previous knowledge is required from students and low threshold entry point is required for educators. It takes about 4-5 hours and students are led to multi-disciplinary solutions in that time. Later they may also be led to creating a prototype. The whole workshop is designed to involve and bring out different skills and competencies in students, as well as involve students with different initial interests. Furthermore, feedback and results are quick and tangible and the activity is fun and engaging.

Disadvantages and difficulties may include connecting this activity with specific career options, fitting teaching scenarios to right target groups, integrating basic digital skills and focusing too much on technology, problems with creating ownership of the solution in students, so that they would be excited to take the next step. This may also create issues in moving from the fun design part to real solution developing new skills. Further hurdle may be represented in a lack of accreditation system for this kind of activity.

Why is this relevant for members of the ALL DIGITAL (i.e. telecentres) network?

      • The UMI-Sci-Ed approach in using UMI technologies to support STEM Education can be ported to non-formal training environments and to varying audiences, which include the target audiences of ALL DIGITAL (AD) members (adults, professionals, unemployed, marginalized, etc)
      • UMI technologies constitute the next “digital revolution” and they will be everywhere, therefore, it will be necessary to train everyone on how to use and benefit from them; in light of this revolution, digital skills will have to be redefined
      • New target groups can be reached by AD members, including young students and girls
      • The UMI-Sci-Ed platform (together with its training contents) are accessible by anyone who cares to register and join the supported CoPs
      • The necessary technology in order to implement the scenarios is open and relatively cheap, therefore the required investment can be affordable by AD members
      • AD members that choose to invest now in providing training in UMI digital skills and STEM, will probably acquire a strategic advantage as these technologies become increasingly widespread

What is the role of digital competence centres?

      • AD members can be training providers (in formal and non-formal settings)
      • AD members can act as UMI technology hubs, connecting different stakeholders and supporting local CoPs
      • AD members can create bridges between formal and informal education (for example, by promoting technology and STEM education, by providing STEM education outside the classroom, by putting pressure on formal education to integrate more technological skills, etc.)
      • AD members can become UMI digital skills certification centres once these technologies become widespread

Further ideas/suggestions from the participants after the end of the workshop?

      • In order to work with UMI for STEM, most trainers will require further professional development, in order to become familiar with these technologies and the associated pedagogies
      • Transition from formal to non-formal training settings is possible, but the scenarios will have to be adapted (for example, become more “market skills oriented”)
      • Parents could be encouraged to become trainers
      • Simple, easily understood approaches, like the IoT Tile, can help in facilitating transition from tradition technology education to UMI-based STEM education

Several participants expressed interest in registering in the UMI-Sci-Ed platform and in testing the UMI kits (based on UDOO platform) that will be made available by AD, in the context of UMI-Sci-Ed project.