Computational simulations are fundamental tools not only for scientific research but also for education. They are frequently used as virtual laboratories to foster students’ understanding of the theoretical concepts that lie at the basis of the simulated systems. Recent research works in STEM education have started to explore the potential of simulations as future-oriented objects, to support students in the development of future scenarios for real-world situations.

In a recent paper published on Frontiers, for the special issue on Future-Oriented Science Education for Agency and Sustainable Development, Eleonora Barelli, post-doc researcher at the University of Bologna, presents a teaching-learning module targeted to upper high-school students on simulations of complex systems. Following the core ideas of the FEDORA project, the peculiarity of this course is that by guiding the students through the conceptual and epistemological analysis of some computational agent-based models, the author was able to ground on these disciplinary bases the introduction of key concepts of the futures studies, like that of scenario.

This paper addresses an original future-oriented activity in which the students were required to choose an urgent problem of their interest, imagine possible and desirable scenarios based on a simulation and identify the sequence of actions to be undertaken to reach the preferable future. In presenting the results of the module’s implementation, the focus is narrowed down to two groups of students who spontaneously decided to address a problem related to the current educational system.

From the analysis of the students’ discourses, it is shown how the students suffer a great problem of anxiety about their school performance and imagine that this can be mitigated in the school in the future. They see the importance of the role of technology in school innovation but also that no innovation is possible if school knowledge is not re-thought of its times and forms. The students dream about a school as a place for relationships and that can become at the centre of the youngsters’ routine. In particular, students deeply recognize the power of their own agency and that of their teachers in the process of school transformation and hope that the tragedy of a pandemic can be transformed into an opportunity to trigger change.

However, the school that the students imagine as their desirable one is not idealized as a utopia. The participants were able to see a scenario - even the preferred one - as a complex interaction of many stakeholders and as a tension between opposite interests that the different agents have regarding a topic. The scenarios envisioned by the students are authentically sustainable.

Read more about the methods and findings of this study in the research paper “Imagining the School of the Future Through Computational Simulations: Scenarios’ Sustainability and Agency as Keywords”.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This is a story about an event that happened not so long ago, which ripples are reaching further...Let's recap. Thursday, May 19 at the scientific “Liceo” A. Einstein in Rimini: the final event of a laboratory “Quantum Atelier” took place.  The project was born as a result of the PLS – Piano Lauree Scientifiche – a course on the Second Quantum Revolution hosted by the high school and the need of finding new languages, in particular, evocative, personal, and new artistic forms to "talk" about the two quantum revolutions. The Quantum Atelier involved six students in their last school year and four teachers of different disciplines that gave rise, in full FEDORA style, to a model of relationship that has allowed to break down the institutional and emotional barriers that sometimes make the interaction between teachers of different disciplines and between teachers and students very complex and demanding. Furthermore, the Quantum Atelier challenged and paved the way to rethink the standard way to conceive the arts as a tool to communicate science, breaking this functional relationship and opening the possibility to design languages and aesthetics in which the first purpose is not to teach content but to foster a mutual enrichment that poses new questions to rethink this relationship. 

The day, which was also the final event of the Italian quantum week organised by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, lasted two hours and included several speakers in its programme. After a presentation of the Italian Quantum Week by theoretical physicist Elisa Ercolessi, Francesco Minardi, an experimental physicist at the University of Bologna, presented the passage from the first to the second quantum revolution following one of the two greatest mysteries of quantum physics, the entanglement. After the introduction of the project FEDORA by Sara Satanassi, the stage was left to the protagonists: first teachers Maurizio Giuseppucci (teacher in Italian and Latin), Michela Clementi, Paola Fantini, and Fabio Filippo (teachers in Mathematics and Physics) who presented the Quantum Atelier as an experience, and then to the students who presented the works.

The Quantum Atelier has marked a step forward for the FEDORA project and we will continue to work with teachers and students to rethink new languages and extrapolate the model of interaction and relationship implemented.

 

Soon it's going to be a year since we had the opportunity to listen and talk with Andri Magnusson, the Icelandic writer who has taken as a personal quest the protection of glaciers by employing a very simple yet powerful and deep tool: language and narratives. His last and most famous book, "On time and water" conveys a collection of messages, stories and knowledge from unknown times that flow together as in a river, making our understanding blossom and provoking a sense of strange-making that feels familiar. And here I say "feels" because, through his words, data becomes much more than a number, but a call to action, a pair of hands shaking our shoulders, an awakening light. The melting glaciers, our sleepy answers to what nature is showing us, and our inability for a radical decision to make the temperature sink are some of the pictures we face while reading his stories. 

Andri reflects on this lack of languages, which is making us pay a high price: the apathy and lack of empathy can be explained by a lack of understanding and therefore, his claim for new languages is as loud as the one made by Aldo Leopold a century ago. Leopold could also perceive that our comprehension of cranes and their cry, a trumpet in the orchestra of evolution, was limited and that cranes were symbols of our untamable past. Contemporary artist Christine Sum Kim's huge drawing at the MoMa in NYC, "The sound of temperature rising" also pulls our attention to sounds we are ignoring. Are we losing our hearing capacities as well?

With glaciers being sacred cows, and rivers seen as nurturing milk, Andri invites us to wrap ourselves in the universal blanket of stories, not to bring us to bed but to awaken our hearts and refresh the sense of urgency.

In FEDORA's mid-journey, we have invested time in talking about the gaps and misalignments we see, these unfilled empty holes, the new languages we need to give existence to the set of skills that will help us enhance the comprehension of our powers for shaping the present and the future. People don’t always understand data, but they always understand stories, a scientist told Andri. We are bringing our creative powers into craft work, so we contribute to stories that will be told, heard and embodied by teachers, students and us, researchers.

Picture: alteration based on a photo by Leonardo Cendamo
What is the understanding of policymakers about future-oriented skills in science education? Olga Ioannidou and Sibel Erduran, from the Department of Education at the University of Oxford and FEDORA partners, have just published a new paper that elaborates on this big question, based on stakeholders’ views about what these skills are and how they should be taught. Given the pivotal role that policymakers play in education policies, this study investigated the views of 35 policymakers based in the United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, and Lithuania. You can download the publication here: FiEducation_Policymakers views or go to Frontiers in Education website.
Picture: drmakete_lab via @unsplash.com

The interdisciplinary, imaginative, future-oriented nature of the FEDORA project, together with its aim to develop new narratives for science education, were the issues that pushed us to bring together the second quantum revolution with one artistic expression. We proposed a creative writing workshop to a group of 14 upper secondary-school students. They were introduced to the relationship between science and literature and they had to produce a final piece of writing: this allowed us, not only to understand the engraftment of epistemic concepts and new knowledge related to the scientific content at stake, but also to investigate the emotions that arise from being immersed in a time of changes, that we have defined as scientific-technological, social, but also and above all cultural and conceptual.

The request for the production of the written works, therefore, took place downstream of a very rich disciplinary part that started with the history of classical computers and arrived at the inclusion of quantum computers in our contemporary social context, where nations are mobilizing in order to prepare enormous funding for the technological development as a function of what has been called "quantum supremacy". Then, the students were introduced to the quantum language and logic as tools that allow understanding of how the circuits of these new computers work, as well as the applications that will probably be protagonists of our future-present, such as teleportation and quantum random walk, which exploit physical properties such as the superposition principle and quantum entanglement.

In order to prepare students to develop their final work - they had to start with scientific knowledge but be also literary-creative - they were introduced to a framework that underlined some general aspects of the relationship between science and narratives. We have identified two approaches with which science and literature have often interfaced: the diachronic-visionary, linked to technological development and science fiction (“Imagining the future”) and the synchronic-emotional, with which we took the opportunity to probe the fallout culture of the first quantum revolution in contemporary narratives (“Feel the present”). The claim "Imagine the future" was then also translated from an emotional point of view into "Imagine/Feel the future". Why? Because every scientific-technological revolution is also a generational problem, and depending on the generation, you can differently "feel" the advent of change on your skin.

We then asked ourselves about the most appropriate form to investigate the two aspects and the winning idea was to propose to each student the drafting of a letter "Dear future me..." (www.futureme.org). Letters have always been informal, intimate texts, bearers of emotions, secrets, and confidences. Looking at Amaldi's post-war letters to friends and colleagues, we have found how much through the epistolary form we could talk about science and technology, accompanied with thoughts, hints and personal impressions: the epistemic contents linked to a particular historical moment. In addition, addressing the letter to a recipient situated in the future it was natural for the kids to carry their imaginations forward in time, allowing us to investigate how they think, hope or fear the second quantum revolution will. At the same time, the activity created a space for the students to ask themselves questions and, in the best of cases, to project a desirable vision of a possible new order of man-technology-nature.

From the letters we can perceive inner dialogues that mix opposing emotions: there are those who wait trying not to have too many expectations, and there are those who confess the torment linked to uncertainty, but most of the students are open to hope and respond positively to the narration for which the first quantum revolution has made the world fall into indeterminism, while the second will be able to bring into our culture those epistemic and future skills that allow us to harness and, why not, also to ride the uncertainty that marks our times.

Talking about the future in an uncertain present already assumes the value of a promise.

Danijel, 18 years old

 

 

Talking about open schooling might seem easier than it actually is. These two words are not difficult ones, but when they come together they unfold a new world of possibilities, that oftentimes, we are not always ready or prepare to grasp. 

That´s why events like this one, a one-day workshop at a science engagement conference, the Ecsite conference, are so welcome, especially for our project, which aims to contribute with its deep questions, answers, and ideas to the education that is done daily at schools. I invite you to discover how 5 European projects are doing big and creative efforts to move away from echo chambers and take an active approach to education that is more collaborative and adaptative, and therefore, practising open schooling.

First things first: the workshop was organised by the Open Schooling Together group - a partnership of eight European projects on Open Schooling.  The aim was to gain inspiration and reflect together, through a collection of talks, a period of reflection and some practical exercises.

Concepts such as boundaries, co-creation, stakeholders engagement, evaluation and sustainability were part of the conversations. It was clear to me that we had a lot in common. 

Each project has its own approach but brings this collage of active hope for an education that embraces the important challenges we face, making students confident about their agency capacity and their possibilities to shape a more inclusive, fair and better social system for everyone.

I invite you to explore, discover the new tools, and get in touch with these projects and hopefully, we will meet at the next meeting of the Open Schooling Together group!

https://makeitopen.eu/

https://www.schoolsaslivinglabs.eu/

https://www.phereclos.eu/

https://oshub.network/

https://www.connect-science.net/

 

Picture: Part of a collage made by @annepratt, via Unsplash

“How do you talk about something that is bigger than language? What words do you choose when a scientist shows you how everything will change in the next 100 years? How the glaciers will vanish, and become the ocean, how the ocean will rise and swallow coastal areas, while the pH of the oceans, the acidity will change more than it has in the previous 50 million years? How do you understand 50 million years? How do you understand that 0.3 in the logarithmic scale of the pH levels? 50 million years are too big to register, 0.3 in pH too small and abstract to understand. A person born today can measure in his lifetime greater changes in the oceans than, not only the whole evolution of man but ten times that. Such change is not just historical, you could say it’s mythological”. 

-Andri Snær Magnason, The white noise of climate change.

(The language of climate change), in Levrini O., Tasquier G., Amin T., Branchetti L., Levin M. (Eds.) (2021) Engaging with Contemporary Challenges through Science Education Research: Selected Papers from the ESERA 2019 Conference. Springer Springer Nature Switzerland AG

 

One year after its beginning, the FEDORA partnership organises the first International Event to publicly present the project.

For this occasion, we have invited the Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason whose work has been deeply inspiring to FEDORA's research. With its books and documentaries, the writer is providing a great contribution to describing the graveness of the global changes that are impacting not only the climate and our material lives but also our same imagination and the ways that humans have elaborated to think and describe changes.

The author, internationally renowned, whose books have been published in more than 20 languages, will give an online conference on Tuesday, September 14th (4.30-6.30 pm CEST). The event is organized by the FEDORA partnership and is hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy “A. Righi” of the University of Bologna (Italy) as part of the program of a summer school on storytelling in science titled “Officina di Narrazione della Scienza (Laboratory for the Narrative of Science). The event will be held in English. 

During the conference, Andri Snær Magnason will conduct the audience in a journey “On Time and Water”, as his last work is titled, showing the power of the narratives and imagination to understand “something that is bigger than language”. Indeed, as he writes in his abstract of the seminar “During the next 100 years we expect to see a fundamental change of all the elements of water on our planet. Many glaciers will melt and the sea levels will rise at a faster rate than has been seen before. Acidification will bring the oceans to a pH level not seen in 30 million years. Patterns of rain and snow will change dramatically in most areas. We could say that nature is not changing in geological speed anymore but entering human speed. This extreme shift is larger than any metaphor or any words or language we are used to. We could say that this issue is so large that it swallows all words and meaning. We hear words like “climate change” but for most people, they are just white noise, 99% of the real meaning is not included in our imagination. To describe a black hole you look at the surrounding galaxies and to understand these issues Andri weaves a web of stories from mythology, to his grandmother’s honeymoon on Europe’s largest glacier, to our understanding of our intimate time. The huge narrative emerging from this web of stories should be a source of inspiration and motivation for all scientific studies in the next decades.”

After the welcome from the Director of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Andrea Cimatti, and before the talk of Andri Snær Magnason, the coordinator of FEDORA, Olivia Levrini, will introduce the core ideas of the project. The event will be closed with a contribution by Sibel Erduran, local coordinator in FEDORA of the University of Oxford and president of the European Science Education Researchers Association (ESERA). She will provide points for reflection about the connections between Magnason’s work and the latest advances in science education research. 

The speakers will then be happy to receive comments and questions.

Program

 

Practical information

The participation is free of charge after registering at this link. The event can be attended either remotely or face-to-face (Aula Magna, Department of Physics and Astronomy “A. Righi”, Via Irnerio 46, Bologna, 100 people maximum and with the COVID-19 green pass). During the registration, the participant can choose the preferred modality and will receive the instruction for the online 

Biographical notes

Andri Snær Magnason is an Icelandic writer born in Reykjavik. His book, On Time and Water is coming out in 32 languages in 2020 and 2021, exploring the language of climate change and why data and science have not reached our souls or policy. Andri is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays and documentary films. His book LoveStar won the Philip K. Dick special citation in 2014 and Le Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire in France 2016. His children’s book, The Story of the Blue Planet was the first children’s book to win the Icelandic literary award and has been published in 32 languages. His book Dreamland, a Self Help Manual for a Frightened Nation has contributed to a new energy policy in Iceland and the vision of the Highland National Park in the Central Highlands of Iceland. Andri Snær Magnason ran for president in Iceland in 2016 and came third in the election. His documentary films, Dreamland, The Hero's Journey to the Third Pole and Apausalypse have travelled to film festivals worldwide. 

 

FEDORA is proud to launch its new communications product: a sweet and nice video that presents in two and a half minutes what is the project about and why is it so relevant.

 

We hope you will like it and share it among your networks!

FEDORA is ready to present her first results at the ESERA2021 conference that will be held online from August 30th to September 3rd. ESERA means the European Science Education Research Association and the conferences of this association are organized biannually. They are currently the most important and most attended appointments occurring in Europe for researchers in science education who come not only from Europe but from all over the world. The 2021 edition is organized by the University of Minho (Portugal). In the 2019 edition, held in Bologna (Italy), more than 1600 researchers participated. Professor Sibel Erduran, the coordinator for the University of Oxford in FEDORA, is currently serving as the president of this huge and prestigious association.

 

FEDORA will present at the 2021 edition a poster and three oral presentations that report some results of studies that ground their roots in the Erasmus + project I SEE and are, then, further developed within the framework of the third Work Package (WP3) of FEDORA, whose aim is to “futurize science education”.

 

The titles of the presentations are:

- A FRAMEWORK FOR ANALYSING STUDENTS’ FUTURE PERCEPTIONS RELATED TO AGENCY, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY. Antti Laherto, Tapio Rasa,  Giulia Tasquier, Martina Caramaschi, Erica Bol, Els Dragt, Olivia Levrini.

- BROADENING PERCEPTIONS OF FUTURE, TECHNOLOGY AND AGENCY: STUDENTS’ EXPERIENCES FROM A MODULE ON FUTURES THINKING AND QUANTUM COMPUTING. Tapio Rasa, Antti Laherto, Elina Palmgren.

- NETLOGO “TOY” SIMULATIONS AS LABORATORIES TO IMAGINE THE FUTURES. Eleonora Barelli, Olivia Levrini.

 

ESERA delegates can watch the prerecorded videos in advance and participate in the live session for discussion that is scheduled on the first day of the conference, Monday, August 30th, at 12.30 am (CEST).

 

We do hope to receive many comments from the ESERA participants so as to go on developing more and more effective science teaching approaches that can support the young to imagine and build their desirable futures.

FEDORA envisions a radical transformation of contemporary schooling such that students can be equipped with those skills that will help them manage their future lives and the uncertainty that they entail. How can such a vision be implemented? How can educational reform be structured to enact such a vision?

A key set of contributors who have the decision-making power in addressing such questions are policy-makers. Policymakers are individuals in the different national contexts of the project who influence policies about curriculum, assessment and teacher training to name a few. When the Oxford team asked the UK policy stakeholders what they themselves view as competencies that could frame future-oriented science education, they referred to the need to shift away from a knowledge-rich curriculum towards more cross-cutting, contextual and interdisciplinary approaches. 

 

But how can such competencies be assessed? How can educational systems be re-calibrated to align such ambitious visions with the reality of high-stakes assessments in science education? Reforming the science curriculum and pedagogy without a coherent alignment in reform about assessment, such visions are likely to fall short. How can national and high-stakes examinations be designed to align curriculum, instruction and assessment? The Oxford team and FEDORA Work Package 5 will be posing such questions to policymakers and developing some recommendations at a national, as well as cross-national level. Watch this space!

FEDORA, Future-oriented Science Education to enhance Responsibility and Engagement in the society of acceleration and uncertainty, is a 3-year EU-funded project. It started in September 2020 and will deploy its activities until August 2023. It gathers 6 partner institutions from 5 European countries.
FEDORA has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement no. 872841
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