Wearable technologies for creating interesting learning experiences

Advances in wearable technology are making possible to use such devices to generate practical learning experiences for classes that are traditionally taught in a theoretical or explicatory manner. Providing enhanced mobility, wearables can turn into mobile laboratories.

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Real-time multicultural distance learning environments

Today, students use digital tools in every aspect of their lives, for communication, socialization, entertainment, organization and learning. Therefore, the design of effective digital spaces and tools has become extremely important in terms of pedagogy.

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In Search of the Scientists of the Future. A Global Need.

The growing worldwide concern for fostering science and engineering education has led many universities and institutions to design programs that will increase children’s interest in these fields and, in particular, encourage girls to enter the realm of science.
Photo credit: Women in STEM Introducing Girls to Engineering / Wikimedia Commons.

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Instant learning

Today, higher education is facing the challenge of a globalized environment and a growing need to innovate in teaching-learning processes in order to produce the professionals demanded by the changing world of work. In the future, a new way of producing significant experiences for students will be through instant learning, also known as “ultrafast cognition”.

Image credit: Hashim Al-Hashim / Wikimedia Commons

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Migrant women in transit through Guadalajara, Mexico. The case of the ‘El Refugio’ shelter

By Eduardo González Velázquez

Teaching practice should take place in a multiplicity of spaces that surpass by far the limits of a classroom. Therefore, I teach my students the theory of the migration phenomenon dynamics at school, but also include field work in which we visit the shelters and soup kitchens where migrants receive aid on their way through Guadalajara. In this way, we have managed to achieve the perfect combination of theory and practice that offers a more far-reaching knowledge that favors the students’ comprehensive education.

The current impact of the topic of migration on education is extensive, not just because of the Mexicans who are forced to emigrate since they don’t have access to education, but also because in the current context of migrants returning to Mexico, we urgently need to create appropriate mechanisms to meet their education needs. Therefore, teaching about the topic of migration is absolutely necessary, which is how this article on women migrants passing through Guadalajara emerged. Women who nearly always travel alone, who leave their communities without anyone to guide them across the desert, motivated mainly by their desire to build an independent life project, to undergo a process of empowerment.

For many women, finding the doors of a shelter can mean the difference between life and death.

In their field trips, my students witnessed first-hand the feminization of migration, as well as the violence suffered by women in their communities of origin and across the migrant routes. They also observed the women’s strategy of staying in Guadalajara for a few days before continuing on their northward trek. The violence experienced along the migrant routes is an extension of the difficult circumstances in their hometowns. Assault, rape, abuse and systematic harassment by the authorities, the police and members of the armed forces; in fact, the violence doesn’t stop even when the migration adventure comes to an end. On the contrary, when they reach their destination, they still find themselves in a violent environment.

Photo by Peter Haden

Photo by Peter Haden

In the midst of the vicious territoriality of the migrant routes built by the exiles of war and poverty, the network of shelters and soup kitchens emerge to humanize the constant flight of human beings. For many women, finding the doors of a shelter can mean the difference between life and death, and between coming to the end of the road or continuing to dream of reaching the northern border. These places where migrants are given assistance teach my students significantly more about migration.

Of the population that the El Refugio shelter has received since 2013, 5% are women. Of the 133 women on the register, 40 are Mexican, 58 come from Honduras, 13 from El Salvador, 21 from Guatemala and one from Nicaragua. Seventeen of the women, including 4 Mexicans, 11 Hondurans, 1 Guatemalan and 1 Salvadorian, were travelling with their children. Only 12 were accompanied by a man. Fourteen were returning to their communities. The average length of stay at El Refugio is two days. The oldest woman was 57 years old and the youngest 21. Of the children, the youngest was a four-day-old baby boy.

Advancements in the study and teaching of migration, in the classroom and through fieldwork, have enabled teachers and students to gain greater insight into the migrant phenomenon.

Female migration is reshaping overall relationships in the family, work, gender and power, as well as consolidating female autonomy. Central-American and Mexican women who experience “obligatory migration” owing to indescribable violence, become “vulnerable exiles” as a result of an excruciating reality awash with extreme violence that curbs the exercise of their citizenship, trapping them in a practice of “pending citizenship”.

Female migration is reshaping overall relationships in the family, work, gender and power, as well as consolidating female autonomy.

Of course, advancements in the study and teaching of migration, in the classroom and through fieldwork, have enabled teachers and students to gain greater insight into the migrant phenomenon, and, in this way, obtain better theoretical-empirical tools to propose holistic solutions to the extensive issues generated in migratory contexts.

About the author

PhD Eduardo González Velázquez is a Research Professor at the National School of Social Sciences and Government of Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara.

École 42, the tuition-free school without teachers and without books

By José Escamilla de los Santos


The University as we currently know it is in constant transformation. An example of this is the École 42 in France: a tuition-free school without teachers and without books. The project emerged as a result of the view of the French millionaire, Xavier Niel, that universities are not developing the IT experts needed by French industry with the knowledge and skills required in this field.

Universities are not developing the IT experts needed by industry.

École 42 is a highly selective engineering school in software development. The first year it opened its doors, it received 50,000 admission applications for 1,000 places. Applications are open to anybody: you don’t need a high school diploma, or an undergraduate or graduate degree. The only requirement is to be between the ages of 18 and 30.

An educational business model is more than just tuition, enrollment and budgets, since it also involves organizational structure and operations matters. This includes academia, professionals, support staff, facilities, technological infrastructure, physical and virtual spaces, and amenities.

École 42 has a total of 30 employees, including teachers and support staff for the cafeterias, cleaning and security. Importantly, the students themselves are responsible for managing and operating the school’s services, such as the internet network and computers. Since students don’t pay any tuition, most of them are more than willing to participate in these tasks for the school, as a sort of community service. This support provided by the students makes it possible for the school to operate with just 30 employees.

The selection process for admission to École 42 is as follows. First, participants take a series of online tests related to topics such as attention, logic, concentration and resilience. Then, the best 3,000 participants are selected and divided into groups of 1,000 applicants. The next stage of the process consists of an immersion test known as “La Piscine”, which is French for swimming pool. Each group of 1,000 applicants begins a one-month boot camp (intensive programming course). For this stage of the process, no knowledge of programming is required. In fact, there is even a difference in the levels of programming skills among students. There is a weekly evaluation. At the end of the intensive course stage, the 333 best students from each group are chosen for a total of 1,000 students who will begin training at École 42. The duration of studies at École 42 is planned to cover a period of three years; however, since students can advance at their own pace, they can even graduate within one and a half years.

Xavier Niel at École 42. / Photo: Martin Bureau, AFP

Xavier Niel at École 42. / Photo: Martin Bureau, AFP

An educational business model based on altruism.

At École 42, the figure of the professor does not exist as we now know it, but there is a pedagogic team, in charge of designing the curriculum. In relation to the academic activities, students are responsible for their own learning and also carry out peer activities and peer evaluation. Learning activities are designed with a project-based learning, peer-learning and peer-evaluation approach. Consequently, when students carry out team activities, the team’s grade is the lowest grade of any of the team members, assuring that they all contribute to the team so as not to affect their grades. The pedagogical approach used at École 42 is oriented toward the development of disciplinary competencies, but not explicitly toward transversal competencies.

École 42 is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Its physical installations are modern and inspiring and are similar to those of the companies in Silicon Valley. There are spaces that integrate street art concepts and works by Banksy, table soccer spaces for entertainment, a “disco elevator” with music and lights, and the school’s exit door says “hasta la vista, baby” as you leave.

Affordable learning that advances a large number of students thanks to peer learning and peer evaluation.

The school’s business model is based on altruism. Niel donated part of his fortune, 100 million euros, to build École 42. In addition, Nicolas Sadirac, who in 1999 founded École pour l'informatique et les nouvelles technologies (Epitech), with his experience in learning by doing helped in the conception and creation of École 42.  

With this model, students are expected, on completing their studies and after obtaining a good job, to offer other people the chance to study like them at École 42 totally free, by giving donations. Some interesting facts reveal that 50% of graduates work in startups where they can make recommendations and put their knowledge into practice. 35% work in companies established as corporations and 15% found their own company.

In 2016, another official École 42 campus was opened in Silicon Valley, in Fremont, California. Niel's interest to establish there was due to the great labor demand that exists of students with the knowledge of computation and programming. The École 42 model has also been adopted in other countries and there are currently three franchises in Rumania, Ukraine and South Africa.

An alternative for university credentialization.

The example of École 42 poses several scenarios for innovating in educational settings, beginning with its unique business model and could represent a proposal for replicating this model in Mexico and other countries in Latin America. It also becomes an alternative for university credentialization, because it means that students do not necessarily have to attend university in order to become experts in programming or informatics, as it offers a shorter path with a higher level of employability than many universities, making it very attractive. In addition, it leads us to question why traditional education is so distant from practice. Elements of this model could be incorporated into a traditional university to make practical work more attractive to students with the aim of joining the workforce more rapidly. Finally, some elements or components of the model could be replicated, such as the pedagogical and didactic aspects, where learning is self-directed and teamwork increases the students' commitment to learning.

Digital learning across the board?

By Juan José Tena García


Over the past three decades, technology has gradually transformed the way we live, communicate and learn. The use of digital tools in the classroom and in educational projects has become vital, not just to communicate and connect with students, but also to develop skills and competencies for managing their professional lives. Therefore, the teaching-learning process cannot be disengaged from this reality.

There are several ways of integrating technology into education. One of them is Connected Learning, a theoretical framework proposal based on connectivism and a set of principles for guiding research and educational development. This learning model offers the possibility of experiences consistent with the information era of today’s youth. In other words, technologies are used to match the interests, friendships and academic achievements of young people through production experiences, shared purposes and open networks.

From a social aspect, Connected Learning considers that the function of education is to serve the interests of young people and their communities. This model is based on the evidence that flexible, adaptable, effective learning develops the individual interest of each student, as well as a social commitment to overcome adversity.

The fact that the new generations grow and discover through digital media, social networks and virtual games is an undeniable reality. We need to adapt to this means of transmitting knowledge, but, above all, foster in our students ethics, citizenship and a social commitment to their environment, paying off our social mortgage.

Young people have to navigate through digital environments that actively support the secure development of their identity as participants in public spheres. The new citizenship demands that university students should be agents of change in the digital era, although this will of course imply opportunities and risks for young people who seek this role.

Photo by John Loo

Photo by John Loo

Technological tools help teachers and students to become involved in real problems in the community and to foment civic participation. The main challenge lies in the method and the tools employed by educators to teach their classes and requires changes to the teaching methodology and theory. Therefore, teacher training courses are key to the implementation of these technological strategies to assess outcomes in the short term.

The possibilities for students to acquire new knowledge through connectivism are huge, and one of the clearest advantages is the democratization of education and learning, since virtual spaces give every student access to the information and knowledge they require.

The new citizenship demands that university students should be agents of change in the digital era, although this will of course imply opportunities and risks for young people who seek this role.

One of the main criticisms of Connected Learning is the digital gap and the limited Internet access existing for students in the diverse contexts in Mexico, preventing the proper use of digital tools. In addition, both students and teachers require digital tools and prior knowledge of managing social networks, such as an IT device, a good connection, tools, techniques and technologies, and experience in using them.

Therefore, in a country like Mexico where economic and sociocultural differences are enormous, a lack of financial resources and IT literacy directly affect the use of technology in some sectors of society and lead to ignorance of learning techniques, thus limiting the effectiveness of connectivity.

There is still a long road ahead of us. The new generations need the tools and knowledge to change our nation’s reality, a transformation that should not just be technological, but also imply a social and ethical commitment to improve the conditions in Mexico. This is the task that is still pending and the arduous path we must follow in our daily classes. I would like to invite you to implement the technology and digital tools available to us in order to transmit this knowledge to the latest generations of students. Making learning meaningful for students is just as important as transmitting knowledge.

About the author:

Juan José Tena García holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Democracy. He is Director of the Department of Law at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Morelia, and teaches the course Citizenship and Democracy.

"Mac for every student ?" by Luc Legay
"Laptop" by John Loo

Interview report: Dean Kamen | Inventor, entrepreneur, advocate for science and technology, and founder of FIRST

Interviewed by the Observatory of Educational Innovation


Dean Kamen, participated as keynote speaker in the 3rd International Congress of Educational Innovation. As an inventor, holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, many of them for innovative medical devices that have expanded the frontiers of healthcare worldwide. He is also the founder of FIRST, an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation of young kids to understand, use and enjoy science and technology (FIRST, 2017). 

Observatory: How can we innovate education in science and technology to make these subjects more interesting?

Dean Kamen: If you said to kids, "We're going to play football soccer tomorrow” and they showed up but there's no field, no ball, there's only a 50-page textbook called “The History of Soccer” and then after that, there's a quiz, to see if they know the rules. But if they never played, never kicked the ball, never ran, nobody would like soccer. Well, isn't that how we teach science? We learn this formula, then that formula, and then there’s a quiz on this formula, and then a test on that formula. But, if you said, "We are going to build a robot” and to build a robot, students got to connect this to that, and need to understand voltage and current, and got to understand how to measure things, cut things and assemble things. And then, my robots are going to run around, and if I didn't do it right, it's going to fall apart like the first time you tried to kick a soccer ball and missed. But then you practice, get better and come back, and you see your robot doing more, and that's exciting, and you're proud of it. 

So, when they say they're teaching science in school, they're not teaching science, they're teaching the history of science. They learn Isaac Newton, 1687. They learn Archimedes, 275 BC. They learn facts. They learn names. They learn formulas. To this day, I don't remember which law is which. I don't care what the label is. I know what the laws mean and how to apply them. I believe that we should stop teaching the history of science. Science isn't about studying those guys.

When they say they're teaching science in school, they're not teaching science, they're teaching the history of science. They learn Isaac Newton, 1687. They learn Archimedes, 275 BC. [...] I believe that we should stop teaching the history of science. Science isn't about studying those guys.

Observatory: What is FIRST?

Dean Kamen: FIRST stands for (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). FIRST is an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation of young kids to understand, use and enjoy science and technology. It was founded in 1989 and has served more than 300,000 young people, ages 6 to 18, in more than 60 countries around the globe. My goal in starting FIRST was to create a generation of kids that embrace technology and see it for what it is: a powerful tool to fix the world and give them great careers. Studies have shown that FIRST alumni are highly motivated to pursue careers in science and engineering (FIRST, 2017).

Observatory: What are the competencies that you see in children who have experienced the FIRST program and that differentiate them from other kids?

Dean Kamen: People used to tell me, "Dean, you're not going to teach kids how to be a roboticist in six weeks." And I'd say to them, "You're exactly right." Of course, I don't plan to do that. In fact, FIRST, as I said today, F-I-R-S-T, education isn't even in our name. We are For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. If the kids recognize it, if they are inspired by it, they'll go get an education. It will take them 10 years. We're not going to give them an education. That's what schools are for. To answer your question, they have self-confidence and self-respect. They understand how to work with teammates even when they disagree with them. I think FIRST is a model to show kids what the world could be like if people are open-minded and willing to learn and work hard, and willing to fail and pick themselves up and try again. That's what they learn.

Observatory: What inspires you to work on an invention, and how do you decide what project or idea to work on?

Dean Kamen: It's very hard to explain to somebody why we worked on a specific project. But when you look at all the projects we work on, I think the safest thing I can tell you is, there are so many big problems to work on, we end up sort of stepping onto one if we think our engineers are uniquely qualified to do it better than anybody else, based on their experience. And maybe we believe we need to do this one because nobody else will do it. So, we don't work on any project unless, fundamentally, we believe we're going to make a big difference. If we do this and it happens right, it'll make a big difference to the people that need it.

For example, we worked on a water machine because we can help the largest number of people on this entire planet. It's the biggest problem, there is no water. But, also, we worked on a prosthetic arm for a few hundred soldiers, and we hope they won't need anymore because we hope to stop sending them out into battles to get their arms blown up. So, I guess a long answer to your question is, we finally pick the project to work on mostly if we think we're really going to make a difference. If we had to compete with five other companies for the project it means we don't need to do it, they'll solve this problem and can take care of it. What I’m saying is I'm not in this to compete.

Observatory: What personality trait makes you who you are?

Dean Kamen: I guess curiosity about the world is what's always driven me, believing that if you think about it long enough you'll understand it, you'll have an insight, you'll figure out how to solve a problem if you really understand it. So, curiosity is a driving force in the world of innovation.

Observatory: Do you think higher education is efficiently delivered? 

Dean Kamen: I think it could be made more effective. It could be made lower cost, and therefore it could be delivered to millions more people that desperately need it. I believe there are many things we could do to make it different. For example, I would make sure kids use the education piece for the education. In other words, I think people confuse education and training, and we use schools to do the training, and we should use schools to do the education. And for the training, schools should say to students, "If you want to be able to do this, here's this program." It's Word, or it's Inventor, or it's some software program. "Go study this and learn how to use it." You don't need a professor to train you to use this program; you just need to practice it. That's training. And then come to class and use the classroom for the education of taking your training and doing something valuable with it.

Observatory:  What's your opinion about this 3rd International Congress of Educational Innovation?

Dean Kamen: I see a lot of people from Tec de Monterrey and its 26 campuses and 37 high schools, and others that came from other institutions in Mexico and other institutions around the world, including South America. It seems like there's a lot of energized people, energized universities, energized companies, energized parents, energized professors, and energized government people that really get it. They realize that if they want the future to be really successful and exciting for these kids and for their country, they've got to double down on tech, and they've got to give kids the inspiration and the tools to make tech part of their future. And, so far, that seems to be the mission of this convention, and that's pretty exciting.

FIRST (2017). Founder, FIRST President, DEKA Research & Development Corporation. http://www.firstinspires.org/about/leadership/dean-kamen

Images: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ciietec2016/albums/72157677668877466