Research - 14.08.2018 - 00:00 

Smartfeld makes young people fit for the digital age

At the beginning of the new school year, the new Smartfeld education project was launched in Lerchenstrasse 3 in St.Gallen. It aims to make children and young people fit for the digital age. Sponsors include the University of St.Gallen.

14 August 2018. Smartfeld is an interdisciplinary education initiative, which was inaugurated officially with an opening ceremony on Monday, 13 August. It is funded by the innovation network Startfeld, Empa, the St.Gallen University of Applied Sciences (FHS), the Pädagogische Hochschule St.Gallen (PHSH), NTB Buchs and the University of St.Gallen. The initiative was launched in order to promote competencies for the future. Specifically, it aims to prepare children and young people for the challenges of the digital age. However, Smartfeld is also intended to make a contribution towards the focused promotion of the so-called MINT subjects (mathematics, IT, natural sciences and technology).

Smartfeld combines theory and practice

The chairman of the Startfeld association and the Smartfeld project is the former Councillor of State Hans Altherr. The new education project enables young people to get into contact with young entrepreneurs in technology-related fields and to experience an aspect of the new economy and the significance of new technologies at first hand, Altherr emphasised in his welcoming address.

Much praise was accorded to the new education initiative by Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr. He was extremely pleased about the fact that Smartfeld would open up new possibilities for making young people interested in the MINT subjects. Even though the world possessed an enormous amount of knowledge today, many conundrums were still unsolved. Getting to the bottom of them required space and leisure for young people's thirst for knowledge and pleasure in making discoveries to be able to develop. It was of great importance to show young people what knowledge was good for. "Theory and practice must therefore be kept close together," explained Walter Thurnherr.

Being actively involved in shaping the future

The Federal Chancellor’s speech was followed by numerous further statements. The President of the St.Gallen Cantonal Government said that Smartfeld tied in perfectly with Syllabus 21, which did not only stipulate the acquisition of new educational competencies but also required pupils to be able to apply their newly acquired knowledge in an inspiring learning environment with the aim of solving problems. He described the initiative as a stroke of luck for the Canton of St.Gallen."With its decentralised structure and its pool of talents, Switzerland was predestined to continue to play a leading role in innovation and technology," said Nicolas Bührer, Managing Director of digitalswitzerland, in his short address.

EMPA CEO Gian-Luca Bona pointed out that Smartfeld was intended to provide young people with an impression of how they would be able to use their creativity, knowledge and diligence to configure a project themselves and thus be actively involved in shaping the future. NTB Rector Lothar Ritter spoke along similar lines: "Pleasure derived from success, not fear of failure, is what fosters people’s readiness for lifelong learning," he emphasised. PHSG Vice-Rector Titus Guldimann raised the question as to what competencies we required to live a meaningful life while assuming social responsibility at the same time. "Smartfeld creates innovative and authentic learning spaces which are exemplary for learning in the 21st century: critical thinking, communication, creativity and cooperation," was his answer.

FHS President Sebastian Wörwag focused on people’s expectations of their work after the digital transformation. They hoped for less routine work, more development functions, more project work and the possibility of being in contact with more people. These statements revealed that people perceived opportunities in the changing world of work. HSG Professor Ulrike Landfester indicated that technological progress had changed people from time immemorial. "Innovation can be learnt," she emphasised. And finally, Smartfeld Director Cornelia Gut-Villa addressed the significance of cooperation. "Complex challenges can only be solved by cooperation and with an interdisciplinary approach."

Official programme to start in mid-September

Smartfeld's official programme will start on 15 September. The basic range of courses includes different half-day coding workshops for classes of the 5th to 9th years, and corresponding courses for teachers. The first focal topic will be smart textiles, with creativity in nature and technology playing an important role. In a day-long workshop for classes from the upper primary and lower secondary years, simple T-shirts will be converted into high-tech textiles with LED functions. Furthermore, Smartfeld will also offer a one-day workshop for the 5th and 6th year classes on "Digital business workshop – how to get ideas off the ground successfully". In addition, Smartfeld will also run supplementary courses such as the practical project on "First steps in coding with Cubetto" for children aged six to eight and their parents, which is being realised in cooperation with Namics.  

Picture: Fotolia/ra2 studio


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