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Science Saturday New centre adds computational thinking to school curricula

A new centre promoting innovation in teaching has been opened at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). The LEARN Center for Learning Sciences provides services, research labs and entrepreneurial programmes in the field of education. 

“To keep pace with the remarkable advancements in digital technology, we need to update both what we teach and how we teach,” says Pierre Vandergheynst, EPFL’s Vice President for Education. The institute's goal is to to try out new teaching methods and turn them into new teaching practices for the campus and, where desirable, for the educational system as a whole. 

Learning robotics

The centreexternal link will be headed by Francesco Mondada, a professor at EPFL’s Robotic Systems Laboratory and the engineer behind the Thymio teaching robot. Thymio lets children try out programming and learn the basics of robotics. Over 40,000 Thymio robots have already been sold, mainly to schools. Mondada says, “Adding computational thinking to school curricula means showing children what computers can’t do so that they can have a more complete understanding of the technology." 

LEARN members include the Swiss EdTech Collider, a group of around 70 high-tech startups and the Center for Digital Education, which recently unveiled the Learning Companion application that helps students “learn how to learn.” The facility also aims to help teachers adapt to changes in their profession. Mondada will coordinate teacher training programmes to prepare them for the introduction of a new subject called “computer science and digital projects” for young elementary school kids (aged 4-7) in canton Vaud.

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