With IOTA, 42 invites itself to the traditional school

42 The Network
4 min readJan 16, 2023

Since 2021, 42 has partnered up with the French Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to take on a major challenge: to transpose its innovative pedagogy based on peer learning and sharing into primary schools, to teach pupils between 9 and 12 years old about the digital culture.

Launched at the start of the 2021–22 school year, the IOTA project is the first large-scale project designed for students aged between 9 and 12 years old to enable skill development through experimentation, at the very heart of the French education system. It offers the peer-learning pedagogical approach of 42, while volunteer teachers who wish to carry out the experiment in their classes provide the structuring framework.

“More than ever, we need a new form of education to prepare our children for future challenges, to teach them adaptability and work together in a world that is becoming increasingly digitized. The necessity to train our pupils in computer science from an early age onwards gave 42 the opportunity to propose an effective and easy to deploy solution to the French government, which doesn’t require purchasing additional equipment nor training teachers. Our objective is clear: to provide our children with IT skills, limit inequalities in access to qualified jobs, and develop their understanding and mastery of the dynamics of an evolving world. Above all, we aim to develop their interpersonal skills such as collaboration, communication and perseverance in an ever-changing society.”
Sophie Viger, Managing Director of 42

Encouraging collaborative work and valuing collective success

Working on a dedicated intranet since May 2020, 42 has adapted its learning method based on peer-learning for cycle 3 students (9 to 12 year olds). Based on fun activities that ought to be carried out in class for 2 hours each week, the project includes tailor-made content (digital culture, getting to grips with content creation tools, algorithmic thinking and coding) as well as a pedagogical approach which encourages cooperation.

IOTA has developed a digital platform, with a dedicated intranet which includes two distinct environments: teacher and student. Pupils carry out their projects by collaborating with each other, under the supervision of the teachers. Teachers can then follow the progress of a session in real time, and can either monitor the progress of a whole class or that of a student in particular.

The activities proposed are linked to the objectives of cycle 3 of primary education in France (equivalent to fourth, fifth and sixth grades in the USA). They are divided into three branches:

  • algorithms to stimulate and develop logical reasoning
  • digital culture to better understand the Internet and its challenges
  • content creation to get to grips with digital creation tools

To ensure that the taught skills are properly assimilated, the IOTA project called on two partners in particular:

  • Pix, for the evaluation of technical skills. Created in 2016, Pix is a non-profit public interest group under French law that brings together actors involved in the fields of education and training, to assess and develop digital skills through learning and playful challenges.
  • The independent research team, led by Camille Terrier, professor at the University of Lausanne, for the evaluation of non-cognitive skills. Her research focuses on measuring non-cognitive skills in children and teenagers across different educational systems.

A concept validated in its first year of experimentation

IOTA was successfully tested in 60 classes of 9–10 year-olds in the 2021/2022 school year. Despite the obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the project’s first major scale-up, it was received with enthusiasm by pupils, teachers and the General Inspectors of the French National Education System. Students who took part in it both improved their academic performance and increased their level of in-class participation. Several teachers also reported an increase in their pupils’ motivation and more involvement in group learning.

For 2022/2023, the project is moving into high gear: 300 classes will be recruited to test a new way of learning digitally, inspired by 42’s pedagogical methods, now led by Marc Perrin.

“The valuable feedback that we received during the 2021/2022 school year has confirmed the legitimacy of the project: it is possible to combine the 42’s innovative pedagogy with the requirements of national education, and to go even further in the skills developed. Above all, the fact that Inspectors General of the French National Education System validated the concept has allowed us to renew the project on a larger scale this year… and hopefully in the future too!
Marc Perrin, IOTA Project Coordinator

The IOTA Project is now eyeing new class openings each year… and maybe even international exports!

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