For Silicon Valley you don't have to get on a plane, you just have to land in Tilburg. Spoorzone Tilburg offers plenty of room for visionaries, the experts of the future. With them, we cast a glance into the crystal ball and conjure up inspiring quotes, wild ideas, cutting edge innovations and downright utopian perspectives.
An ROC student slides a so-called HoloLens in front of his eyes; around him, ten employees of the training institute look on curiously. Erdinç Saçan, a lecturer at Fontys ICT and a practician at ROC Tilburg, is one of the bystanders in the Deprez building, where MindLabs is still based. With obvious pleasure in his voice: "You are in for a treat today. We are having a practical day as part of our practicum. That way we can show other colleagues what we are doing." Sorry, practor-what? "A research group, attached to an MBO institution. Similar to a lectureship."
As a practor, Erdinç will spend the next three years doing research on how interactive technology can make learning easier and more fun, both for students and teachers. Before his move to education, he worked for years in 'hard marketing' for major players such as Corendon, TradeDoubler and Prijsvrij, and he blogged for Marketing Facts and tech blogs DutchComwboys. But, he reveals, he actually always wanted to become a teacher. Because in this way you can give young people something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. And because - precisely by working together with constantly new groups of fresh minds - you also develop yourself. He now combines his expertise in the field of tech and marketing in his research as a practor. He is also regularly invited as a speaker in this field. "After corona, most schools went back to teaching the way they did before. And I think that's a missed opportunity. Because there are so many possibilities to organize education better and more pleasantly. So that the knowledge and experience a student acquires lasts a lifetime."
Erdinç has a clear vision of education. He himself works full time as a teacher at Fontys ICT. Since the beginning of this year, he works two days a week at the Practorate Interactive Technology (PIT) of ROC Tilburg, where he conducts research on the application of interactive technology in education. Nice of course, all those gadgets, but do they really add value to learning? Erdinç, laughing: "Well, that's what we're researching now. Then, more seriously: "Look, society as a whole has trouble concentrating. How often are you on your phone while you were actually doing something else? As a teacher these days, you almost have to be a storyteller, or a stand-up comedian to grab attention," Edinç notes. "I don't believe in banning things. As far as I'm concerned, the solution lies more in making the teaching material you offer more interesting, and in the way you invite students to learn."
In 2035, will his students be working with a HoloLens, or other interactive tools? "Whether it will be that fast, I don't know. Our education has been the same for a hundred years, while, technological developments: it's all happening at lightning speed. But it does require a different way of thinking." At Fontys, he explains, he and his colleagues only work with real-life cases. Real problems from real companies, where a solution from a student helps them move forward. "If you know that what you have created will not end up in a drawer, but will actually deliver something, that is of course a great motivator. You go the extra mile. And it is also extremely instructive." Teachers have a coaching role, and, breaking: there are no written exams. "As far as I'm concerned, written exams and the awarding of grades can be completely done away with. By having students continuously research and create, with and from practice, they learn much more. Plus: they can't wish for better preparation for their future."
In our minds we take a little trip with Erdinç to Den Bosch, to the neighborhood where he lives. There is an elementary school with a very simple bill on the door: 'Fancy a coffee? Be welcome! "Fantastic, right? They set the door ajar with that right away. You're not only welcome as a student, parent or teacher, but also as a community member." Why, Erdinç wonders aloud, do lonely elderly people now feel compelled to go and drink coffee in the supermarket? Surely it should be possible to do this differently? "Education, from primary to scientific, has an important connecting role. And as far as I'm concerned, that should be brought out much more clearly in the future."
It is not only from a social aspect that schools would do well to open their doors to the world around them. It also ties in with the previous paragraphs, in which Erdinç argues that education could draw even more on practice and the business world for teaching material. "As an educational institution, you do well to have one foot in society. Or perhaps with both legs. You train for that society, don't you? So it's actually crazy that schools are often somewhat closed bastions to the outside world." Incidentally, he interrupts himself, this does not only apply to education. The business community or social organizations, healthcare - to name but a few examples - would also do well to be even more open to the world around them. That's why a collaboration between education, knowledge institutions, civil society organizations, as is already happening in MindLabs, is such a good development, according to him. "For example, organize a content day as a company, as we did today with our practicum. It takes some effort, but you get a lot of new contacts and ideas in return. And who knows what that will yield."
Then a point of concern, because that's what it is: how do we ensure that we can continue to properly weigh and interpret all of the information that is floating around in the (digital) world? Erdinç: "Fake news, fake science, AI algorithms that can conjure up scientific reports that are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing: it worries me. As far as I am concerned, education has an important role to play here too. Not later, but right now." As far as he is concerned, media literacy should be given a structural place in education: elementary school, secondary and further education. "And not as a separate course, but as an integral part of each subject. Because how do you judge whether a photo is real, whether there is a real person behind that Instagram account, and whether the research you read is based on reality?"
He tipped the book 'Really Fake' by Menno van Doorn, Sander Duivestein and Thijs Pepping, where examples of digital fakeness are cited in a comprehensible and enjoyable way. An eye-opener for himself, he explains. A book like this puts you back with both feet on the ground, and makes you look more consciously and sharply at everything that comes your way in the digital world. This awareness is not only a responsibility of education, concludes Erdinç, but also of ourselves. As individuals, as entrepreneurs and as a society. "That awareness is indispensable in the world of today and the future. Only through awareness, are we able to make a countermovement."
We walk from the Deprez building to the future MindLabs building, next to the LocHal. "How cool it would be if we could open these doors to everyone, just like the library next door", Erdinç points out. Because that is what MindLabs stands for, as far as he is concerned: a place that connects knowledge and research to practice. It should be easily accessible: entrepreneurs and other interested parties just walk in with their question. "And the great thing is: all the ingredients are present here in Tilburg. Colleges, universities, companies and social partners, everyone is willing to cooperate. It is precisely because of this sincerity that we are able to achieve changes and solutions."
Imagine, he dreams out loud, that a PhD student from the university works together with ROC Tilburg and a healthcare institution to make a healthcare robot accessible to patients. This would open up a world of possibilities, he expects. "But to do so we need to break through the existing silos and work together even more. There is still room for improvement there." The fact that MindLabs is located in the Spoorzone, right in the middle of Tilburg's city center, is a golden opportunity as far as he is concerned. "This is a lively area, where knowledge, creativity and innovation go hand in hand. There is a very good vibe here, a good climate." With a broad smile: "And for entrepreneurs who read this: you can always enter into a partnership. In any case, our door is wide open.
MindLabs is a partnership involving three knowledge institutions, governments and a growing company of business partners, social institutions and startups. The physical location is now being built in Spoorzone Tilburg and will be ready in 2022. Currently MindLabs operates from the Deprez building, also located in Spoorzone Tilburg. Together, MindLabs partners strengthen the development of technologies that interact with human behavior; or human centered AI. With the unique capabilities of these technologies, partners want to help solve societal challenges. The focus is on technologies from artificial intelligence such as robotics and avatars, mixed and virtual reality, serious gaming, natural language and data technologies.More MindLabs
Spoorzone Tilburg is the new and pioneering talent and innovation district of the Netherlands. Adjacent to the railway station and well connected to the city, region and country, it offers the ideal base for your company or satellite establishment. In this raw industrial area full of culture, hospitality and history in the center of the city, people are working hard on the future. It is a knowledge-driven biodome built for and by creative entrepreneurs with interactive technologies and behavior as the basis. The presence of Tilburg University, ROC and Fontys Hogescholen provides knowledge, talent and vision. The area itself is compact and sustainably developed and offers a life long stay for entrepreneurs from startup to scale-up and beyond.More Spoorzone Tilburg