On October 12, 2018, academies in Aix-Marseilles and Nice (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), along with the New Westminster School District (British Columbia) signed an education partnership agreement to encourage French and Canadian primary, middle and secondary schools to work together.
Thanks to this agreement, eight classes ranging from grade 4 (CM1) to grade 11 (1ere) in France paired up with eight classes in Canada last year, and 15 more partnerships are planned for this year. The arrangement began in November 2018 and students really enjoyed writing letters and telling each other about their school and lifestyle. According to Thomas Garcia, math professor and project coordinator, the agreement should bring new technological developments to the classroom this upcoming year, including immersive virtual reality spaces and avatars.
At the academy in Aix-Marseilles, immersive virtual reality projects are already in the works. Middle school students, some of them from the same school, can now take virtual language classes, among others. Monitored by three research labs (LEST – CNRS, LPL-CNRS, S2HEP – ENS Lyon) and funded by the Directorate of School Education, the academy has partnered with schools in Italy, Germany and Russia to promote these types of exchanges. This requires teachers to really invest themselves because they need to be trained and write pedagogical scenarios. Studies are showing that one major advantage of this project is that with this technology, students are not communicating as they would in a telephone conversation and they do not appear on the screen, which they may otherwise find intimidating. The virtual school’s customizable settings allow students to interact with their teacher in confidence.
A French-Canadian virtual school could be coming soon to Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and New Westminster!
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