Education takes center stage at Switzerland’s Digital Day

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EPFL addressed the unique challenges of education in the digital age during Switzerland’s second-annual Digital Day.

As part of the second annual Digital Day, which took place on 25 October 2018, businesses, universities and media outlets from across Switzerland came together for over 80 different events in 15 towns around the country. Digital Day is a digitalswitzerland initiative designed to introduce the public to the challenges and opportunities created by new technology.

EPFL – a Digital Day partner institution – organized a number of workshops and demonstrations on education in the digital age. The School also put on an official ceremony attended by EPFL President Martin Vetterli and former Swiss Federal Councilor Johann Schneider-Ammann, and organized two panel discussions.

«One highlight of the day was the official launch of Switzerland’s national Computational Thinking Initiative, in which EPFL will play a key role.»

Stéphane Benoit-Godet, editor-in-chief of Le Temps, led the discussions, which explored political and educational issues related to digitalization; three cantonal councilors were on hand to provide their insight: Cesla Amarelle from Vaud, Christophe Darbellay from Valais and Manuele Bertoli from Ticino.

One highlight of the day was the official launch of Switzerland’s national Computational Thinking Initiative, in which EPFL will play a key role. This initiative aims to teach children – starting in primary school – the skills they need to succeed in a digital world. A pillar of the initiative is the Thymio educational robot, which was developed by EPFL Professor Francesco Mondada.

Thymio introduces young children to the basics of programming and robotics in a fun way. Last year, EPFL, in association with the French National Research Institute for the Digital Sciences (INRIA), developed an online course for teachers on how to use Thymio in their classrooms as well as a book with over 40 activities (available in French, German and Italian). In addition, EPFL, ETH Zurich and HEP Ticino are currently testing a website designed for teachers to ask questions and share their experiences using Thymio. In 2019, EPFL will provide Thymio training to over 300 primary-school teachers in Vaud Canton so that the robot can be incorporated into a new computer science course for children aged four to seven.

Thymio was one of the stars of last year’s Digital Day. As part of the event, Mr. Schneider-Ammann went to a classroom in the Swiss town of Bienne to see it in use.

And in Valais Canton, Mr. Darbellay unveiled plans to hold a series of day-long Thymio demonstrations at around 50 primary and secondary schools. A total of 4,000 Valais schoolchildren were introduced to the robot.

Last’s year’s Digital Day also included workshops held by EPFL where hundreds of schoolchildren were introduced to robotics, programming and computer science – and had a chance to develop their own smartphone app.

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