eTwinning winner: "Crop Circles" challenge - Sint-Donatus Instituut, Belgium; ITCS "Cesare Vivante", Italy and Intercultural Gymnasium of Thessaloniki, Greece
Our motivation was to share learning experiences with students and teachers of European countries. The eTwinning project entitled “Crop circles challenge” brought together European schools to discuss and share their work in a fun way, focusing on the good use of ICT in maths teaching and integrating maths software (particularly open source software) in the mathematics curriculum in a meaningful way.
What were the most enjoyable and the most difficult aspects during the project?
The teacher partners set up a common collaborative event, a challenge among European students to reconstruct some crop circle formations using GeoGebra www.geogebra.at (an open source maths software programme), which was not too difficult and very intriguing.
The most enjoyable aspect for us was to see the students’ enthusiasm as they challenged themselves and each other to make new crop circles. The most difficult thing was to expand this project to other subjects and bring together teachers from different subjects and pupils from different classes.
How do you think that the eTwinning project added extra value to the “routine” school work?
The use of maths software to construct geometrical figures during the activities of the computer laboratory is a new method for teaching maths in an innovative way in order to give pupils and students a more active role in learning mathematics. They approached mathematical concepts and ideas in a joyful manner with very satisfactory results.
The task of the teachers’ group involved in the project was to create a friendly language and mathematics environment and to stimulate the students´ creativity to let them choose and construct their own maths tasks individually and together with European partners. Thus, the students’ personal creative ability has been and will be an asset.
What kind of impact has your participation had on other classes and/or schools and how can they benefit from your experience?
After our eTwinning experience and the Linz meeting, where we had the opportunity to show our project (using posters, brochures, and also on our websites), more and more European colleagues have joined us in the challenge.
Some of them translated the crop circles lesson plan (a paper with a brief introduction on how to start and construct crop circles and use the maths software programme Geogebra) into their European languages: English, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Spanish and Romanian. We hope to broaden our project to more European schools, so we can facilitate the development of the eTwinning process and the use of open source software from a single teacher to teachers of other subjects in European schools.
After this project, what are your plans for the future (more similar kinds of projects, new approaches in teaching, etc.)?
We have recently requested Socrates funds for a multidisciplinary cross-curricular Comenius scholastic project involving Irish, Spanish, Swedish, Italian, Belgian and English high schools for the next school years. This project will engage all pupils in the study of geometry, which will encompass an appreciation and an understanding of the diverse patterns that occur naturally or have evolved over time. In addition, the project aims to develop a friendly environment for content and language integrated learning (C.L.I.L) and a range of artefacts for exchange between the participating schools, thus bringing the linguistic heritage of the participating countries to the fore. Italian and Belgian eTwinning partners are also involved in a Minerva project known as “Com@net” (pre-proposal approved) regarding a diffusion of collaborative maths on the net.Sint-Donatusinstituut, Merchtem, Belgium
Ivan de Winne firstname.lastname@example.org
School website http://www.sintdonatus.net/bb/index.htm
Crop circles Belgian website http://www.math.be/
I.T.C.S. "Cesare Vivante", Bari
Palmira Ronchi email@example.com
School website http://www.vivante.it
Crop circles Italian website
Gymnasium Intercultural School of Thessalonica, Greece;
Dimitris Kastaniotis firstname.lastname@example.org
Crop circles Greek http://users.sch.gr/dkastani/grcrop.html - http://users.sch.gr/dkastani/encrop.html
eTwinning winner: Europe, Education, Ecole - Club de Philosophie - Lycée de Sèvres, France, Liceo Classico L.A.Muratori, Italy & Co.
What was your motivation to join e-Twinning?
E-twinning is an integral component of the didactic activities of our high school, where three foreign languages are studied. Our curricular activities privilege education for European citizenship.
What was the most enjoyable aspect and the most difficult one during the project? It was interesting to confront each other online, to chat and to exchange experiences. However, especially during videoconferences, technical limits were difficult to cope with.
How do you think that the e-Twinning project added extra value to the “routine” school work?
It is a work method that gives visibility to work experiences already in progress. It favours integration between disciplines and facilitates pedagogical innovation.
What kind of impact has your participation had on other classes and/or schools and how they can benefit from your experience?
Already in its second year, this experience began to enlarge, involving six classes and including a total of about 150 students.
The local press has been informed and the results of this experience have been published on different websites (www.filosofiamo.com; www.organizzazionedidattica.it).
5. After this project, what are your plans for the future (more similar kinds of projects, new approaches in teaching, etc.)?
- To develop skills and abilities in the use of digital technologies within the school, creating a team able to make use of them (in particular for the expression of ideas).
- To include the e-twinning experience in the project entitled Comenius 1, reinforcing and increasing its practice.
- To develop historical, geographic and artistic knowledge of the new member states of the European Union.
- To promote discussion concerning European school systems.
Talking Through Time Cauldeen Primary School, UK and Dun Salv Portelli Primary School, Malta (School collaboration, 5 to 12 year-old pupils).
"eTwinning uniquely gave information and resources unavailable in any other form and allowed children to experience first-hand the voices of those who participated in this period of history."
Learning and Sharing Oriveden Keskuskoulu, Finland and Iglemyr Skole, Norway (Pedagogical innovation, 5 to 12 year-old pupils).
"The students have been really excited about eTwinning. They love to spend English lessons in the ICT lab. In a way, they don’t consider it studying at all."
Playing and Learning Escuela Infantil Gloria Fuertes, Spain and Przedszkole Publiczne nr 5, Glogów, Poland (Digital resources, 5 to 12 year-old pupils). Available in English and Polish.
"Our project can be a good example of cooperation and involvement of all the people at the nursery."
"Jest wyjątkowy, ponieważ daje możliwość bezpośredniej współpracy pomiędzy przedszkolami/szkołami."
Internetzeitung und u.a. Austausch von Texten zur Unterstützung beim Erlernen der deutschen Sprache Bischöfliche Maria-Montessori-Gesamtschule, Germany and Súkromné gymnázium Prešov, Slovakia (School collaboration, 13 to 19 year-old pupils).
"Kontakte knüpfen, Menschen aus anderen Ländern kennen lernen, neue Freunde finden waren nicht nur die Ziele der beteiligten Lehrer, sondern ebenso die Wünsche unserer Schüler, die wir auf diesem Weg letztlich erfüllen konnten."
Europe, Education, Ecole - Club de Philosophie Lycée de Sèvres, France, Liceo Classico L.A.Muratori, Italy, École Dzukija, Alytus, Lithuania, Lycée no. VII, Peristeri, Greece, Gymnázium J.G. Tajovského, Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, Gymnasium Matyase Lerche, Brno, Czech Republic (Pedagogical innovation, 13 to 19 year-old pupils). Raffaella Lodi's (Liceo Classico L.A.Muratori, Italy) interview available in English and Czeslaw Michalewski's (Lycée of Sevres, France) interview available in French and English.
"eTwinning is a work method that gives visibility to work experiences already in progress."
"Vouloir travailler en réseau, c’est donner l’occasion à tous les talents et à toutes les compétences de se manifester."
"Crop Circles" challenge Sint-Donatus Instituut, Belgium, ITCS "Cesare Vivante", Italy and Intercultural Gymnasium of Thessaloniki, Greece (Digital resources, 13 to 19 year-old pupils).
"The most enjoyable aspect for us was to see the students’ enthusiasm as they challenged themselves and each other to make new crop circles."
The research, which will be repeated including the necessary updates in six months’ time, was carried out by bringing together the know-how and experiences of experts in three different areas: an IT technician and expert in language learning programming (Preti), an e-learning designer and expert in communication and information technology (Monti Bonafede), and a linguist and expert in new technologies and glottodidactic practices (San Vicente).
The overall objective of the study was to illustrate the state of research at the CLIRO (Centro Linguistico dei Poli Scientifico-Didattici della Romagna) in relation to e-learning. Over the years, this language centre has invested increasing resources in the development of new learning and teaching contexts in order to take advantage of the numerous opportunities made available by new technologies.
A number of characteristics were considered in the selection of an e-learning tool capable of responding to the requirements of a language centre such as the CLIRO. The study led to the conclusion that a platform must, among other things, enable the management of learning materials and contents; adhere to recognised international standards for e-learning (SCORM); include collaboration tools (e.g.: forums, chats, file exchanges, calendars, etc.); and have a clear and accurate interface in order to aid usability.
The research made it possible to deal systematically with a number of issues linked to e-learning, particularly the relevant criteria and elements when it comes to making a choice that will have specific repercussions on the setting-up of an effective teaching system and the process of online learning.
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The move to e-learning has been a major development in the recent history of education, involving changes in pedagogy and in the way in which technology is used to support learning. New approaches to education are emerging which promise improvements in provision and learning. Open source and free software and resources are also increasingly important in e-learning and e-teaching, in contrast to the 90´s, when proprietary code and software were dominant. This development is in part driven by economic and policy issues, but also by a desire to make knowledge more accessible.
Our intention in this article is to draw attention to two specific aspects which can make a key contribution to making these wider developments in e-learning successful. Firstly, in parallel with the changes we have mentioned, a number of institutions have collaborated to provide specifications and standards that address several widely recognised problems in e-learning. One key focus for this effort has been on interoperability and re-use, making it possible to use the same information package or learning scenario in several different tools, and to create new units of learning re-using some existing content. This is seen by many as being a key requirement for making e-learning an effective solution, and the main body of this article is taken up by a an introduction to some of the specifications which have been developed to address this need. Particular attention is given to IMS Learning Design, as its pedagogic expressiveness, and its function as a co-ordinating specification, give it a particularly important role.
Secondly, any successful e-learning effort (platform, specification, repository, editor…) needs to be supported by an active community, which is often partly or wholly virtual. The community requests information and raises problems, and provides answers and solutions. In the most cases, the community is open and free and the drive to participate is pure altruism and/or a need of information interchange (Hummel et al, 2005). At the end of the article we briefly describe how the UNFOLD project has contributed to supporting the communities which are working with e-learning specifications.
Standards and specifications
A standard is an international or national method, technology or format, documented in detail, commonly accepted, and backed-up by ISO (International Standards Organisation), CEN (European Centre of Normalization), IEEE or some other recognised standards setting institution. The establishment of a specification is a prior step, and is often carried out by a company or organization, and not yet certified by any standards setting institution. It may, however, be widely or universally adopted, and be accepted as a de facto standard (i.e. a specification which is so widely adopted that in practice it is recognised as an essential standard, even though it has not been given any special formal status).
We now provide an introduction to Learning Design, followed by a survey of the some of the other most well established and relevant e-learning specifications.
IMS LD: Learning Design (IMS, 2003)
IMS Learning Design, or simply IMS LD, (IMS, 2003) is a specification focused on modelling lesson plans and courses, and making them available online as Units of Learning (UoL). It is one of the more recent IMS specifications, and also one of the most ambitious in scope. A wide variety of pedagogical models can be represented by IMS LD, enabling teacher to adapt their resources and learning scenarios to virtual lessons in a flexible way. Far from only sequencing activities or using repositories of learning objects, IMS LD provides several features to create adaptive, dynamic and personalized learning (Burgos et al, 2005; Koper and Burgos, 2005). Through this description of different roles, activities, environments, methods, properties, conditions and notifications, IMS LD can be used to transform lesson plans into formally specified Units of Learning (UoL).
Thus the specification is a flexible way of representing and encoding learning scenarios for multiple or individual learners. It may help to think of it as a way of creating interoperable lesson plans which can be read by an application called a player. The player can take on responsibility for coordinating the learners, teachers, learning resources and activities as the learning process goes forward (Burgos et al, 2005a).
Learning Design does not offer a particular pedagogic model or models, but can rather be used to define a practically unlimited range of scenarios and pedagogic models. Because of this it is often referred to as a pedagogic meta-model. Some previous e-learning initiatives have claimed to be pedagogically neutral. Learning Design does not aim for pedagogic neutrality, but seeks to enable pedagogically aware e-learning.
We now go on to consider a number of other key e-learning specifications.
CP: Content Packaging (IMS, 2001)
Educational content often needs to be packaged in some electronic form, so as to support efficient aggregation, distribution, management and deployment of the content. Authors of educational materials need tools and technologies to assist them in creating content; learning management system vendors, computing platform vendors and learning services providers want efficient distribution and management of the educational materials created by authors; and students need good deployment and delivery of tools.
Thus Content Packaging provides a structure that integrates a number of elements. A Content Package can group, for example, LD (Learning Design), SS (Simple Sequencing), Meta-data and QTI (Question and Test Interoperability).
Final Version 1.1.2 of the IMS Content Packaging Specification was released to the public in August 2001. A revised version 1.2 will be published in mid 2006
LIP: Learner Information Package (IMS, 2001a)
The Learning Information Package is a specification for the records of information held about learners.
It was designed in order to allow records relating to learners and their progresses to be transferred between different software applications and institutions. Version 1.0 of the IMS Learner Information Package Specification was published in March, 2001.
Using LIP a record of all the learner’s achievements can be obtained, so LIP information on students’ progress could even substitute for paper certificates. Information can also be stored about the learner’s preferences, which can help, for example, to support the needs of learners with disabilities. All the information related to learners is stored in an XML file, which uses tags to specify what each piece of information in the record means.
SS: Simple Sequencing (IMS, 2003a)
This specification is used to define rules that determine the learner’s path through learning content. Alternative navigation paths through a learning material collection can be defined, which are followed in response to users actions. It defines a method to represent the intended behaviour of a learning object so that any compliant learning technology will be able to sequence learning activities in a consistent manner.
The Simple Sequencing binding provides a unique namespace which is embedded in the organization element of an Content Packaging manifest. Because Simple Sequencing uses the Content Package structure, it is possible to integrate a sequence into a Learning Design.
The Simple Sequencing Specification was published in March, 2003.
QTI: Question and Test Interoperability (IMS, 2003b)
The IMS Question and Test Interoperability specification makes it easier to share assessment information such as questions, tests and results. It provides a standard way to share data defined in XML, so that users can import and export questions, tests and results. The specification supports both simple and complex questions and tests, which are defined clearly and concisely so as to avoid ambiguity. In this way information about questions and about the learner and his or her results can be shared through different learning management systems and different software packages. Authors of assessments can create their own questions, or include questions designed for other IMS QTI users, making it easier to create question banks for reuse on different systems.
SCORM (ADL, 2000)
The SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a part of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative strategy. The primary sponsors of this initiative are the United States Department of Labour, Department of Defence and the National Guard Bureau.
SCORM was originally designed to support personnel instruction at the Department of Defence of the USA, and as a result the pedagogical assumptions which underlie SCORM reflect educational practice in these institutions. Previously the United States Department of Defence had experienced problems when trying to share courses among the different management systems used in the Department: truck drivers, fire-fighters and military and environmental personnel all had their own training materials and delivery systems, with slight differences between all of them. Moreover, the format for delivering training content, depended on the learning management systems, operating systems and authoring systems used by each organisation. If the organization needed to change one of these technologies, the training material might not work with the new system.
The UNFOLD Project, and support for the communities which work with e-learning specifications
UNFOLD project was conceived of as a measure to promote and coordinate the adoption, implementation and use of IMS Learning Design and related specifications, as this appeared to be the best candidate for resolving the need for more sophisticated interoperability. This judgement has been confirmed by developments during the life of the project. UNFOLD was funded by European Commission as a Framework 6 IST Coordination Action, and project partners were Pompeu Fabra University [www.upf.edu], The Open University of the Netherlands [ www.ou.nl], The University of Bolton [www.bolton.ac.uk] and EUCEN [www.eucen.org]. Extensive details about UNFOLD and its activities are available on the project website at [www.unfold-project.net], and so here we restrict ourselves to a brief outline of the project and its achievements.
To read the whole article, please click here
IMS Consortium, http://www.imsglobal.org/
UNFOLD Project, http://www.unfold-project.net
Moodle OpenUniversiteitNederland, http://moodle.learningnetworks.org/
Runnable Example Units of Learning,
Learning Networks, http://www.learningnetworks.org
Universitat Pompeu Fabra, http://www.upf.edu
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All nominated partnerships presented their projects during workshops and in the exhibition hall visited by more than 400 participants. The eTwinning prizes go to the following winners:
Age group 5-12 year-olds
- School collaboration Cauldeen Primary School, UK and Dun Salv Portelli Primary School, Malta: Talking Through Time.
The project developed and exchanged curricular materials to enable pupils to research, exchange and collect memories on World War II together. Pupils gained another perspective through school collaboration.
- Pedagogical innovation Oriveden Keskuskoulu, Finland and Iglemyr Skole, Norway: Learning and Sharing.
The project developed the pupils' ICT and English communication skills and introduced a virtual learning environment to pupils. New topics were discussed every month in forums and chats.
- Digital resources Escuela Infantil Gloria Fuertes, Spain and Przedszkole Publiczne nr 5, Glogów, Poland: Playing and Learning.
The project is geared for pre-school where teachers and pupils use ICT to communicate and exchange information on cultures, teacher training and software. Teachers implement common methodologies and material to teach English at pre-school level.
Age group 13-19 year-olds
- School collaboration Bischöfliche Maria-Montessori-Gesamtschule, Germany and Súkromné gymnázium Prešov, Slovakia: Internetzeitung und u.a. Austausch von Texten zur Unterstützung beim Erlernen der deutschen Sprache
The project aims were to create a common Internet newspaper and to exchange texts to support learning the German language. Students exchanged articles on a general topic, without difficult words and need for prior knowledge.
- Pedagogical innovation Lycée de Sèvres, France and Liceo Classico "Ludovico Antonio Muratori", Italy: Europe, Education, Ecole - Club de Philosophie
The project developed a network of long distance exchanges (ICT) between students and teachers on the role of culture, education and schools in a Europe of tomorrow. The project included a video conference, weekly on-line work spaces and a digitalised resource area.
- Digital resources Sint-Donatus Instituut, Belgium, ITCS "Cesare Vivante", Italy and Intercultural Gymnasium of Thessaloniki, Greece: "Crop Circles" challenge
The partners in the project used the same free math software to develop and create materials for teaching math and other science subjects. The materials give students a more active role in learning, and teachers used the school network to share experiences and discuss didactic aspects.
Prizes for the winners
The first prize is a four-day camp on ICT and school twinning on the island of Lanzarote for 20 people from each winning partnership. The stay is planned from 27 to 30 April 2006.
The runners-up are invited to participate in one of the European networking and development workshops that take place throughout the school year in different European countries.
In my practice-based research, I demonstrate how I am contributing to a knowledge base of practice by creating my ‘living educational theory’ (Whitehead, 1989, 2004). This involves me in systematically researching my practice in order to bring about improvement. The context of my research is in collaboration with participants on the MSc in Computer Applications for Education and MSc in ICT in Education and Training Management at Dublin City University. Coulter and Wiens (2002, p.23) point out that it is crucial that teachers and researchers become better educational judges of practice. I explain how the educational values that emerge in the course of my practice based research become living standards of judgement. These standards and values include a ‘web of betweenness’ (O’Donohue 2003) and a ‘pedagogy of the unique’. ‘Pedagogy of the unique’ is characterized in the recognition that each individual has a particular and different constellation of values that motivate the enquiry and a different context from within which the enquiry is developing. The ‘web of betweenness’ refers to my belief that we learn in relation to each other and how ICT can bring us closer to the meanings of our embodied values.
Objectives of the session
The objectives of my presentation are as follows:
- To communicate the meanings of my embodied values of a web of betweenness and pedagogy of the unique.
- To demonstrate how Information and Communications Technology (ICT ) can make our teaching public through ‘artefacts that capture its richness and complexity’ (Shulman, 2004, p.142).
- To provide evidence of how I am supporting practitioner-researchers to develop their own living standards of judgement from their practice-based research.
Educational and scientific importance
In their review of the literature on pedagogies in higher education, Zukas and Malcolm (2002, p.1) suggest that the new specialism of teaching and learning in higher education has developed without reference to adult education. Neglecting the strongly self-motivated learner has tended to impoverish many current approaches to teaching and learning in higher education. They found little evidence of critical practice in writings on higher education pedagogy. As diverse and more mature types of students enter higher education, it is vital that the traditional role of the educator as one who offers content knowledge is broadened so that teaching is aimed at developing students’ capacity to create their own understandings and insights through participation, negotiation and dialogue. Barnett’s understanding of a ‘higher education’ is one where students are provided with the space to develop their own voice (Barnett, 2000, p.160).
As the full potentiality of human computer interaction is developed there is likely to be a further explosion of the use of multimedia and the ability for people to communicate in more dynamic ways through use of technology. Myers (1996, p.3) points to the emerging technologies that are a result of research in human-computer interaction. These extend from the mouse pointing device, windows, computer applications such as drawing, text editing and spreadsheets and hypertext, and to the new technologies of the future, such as multimedia and 3D, gesture recognition, natural language and collaborative learning technologies. Myers believes that user interfaces will most likely be one of the main 'value-added competitive advantages' of the future, as both hardware and basic software become commodities. We are still witnessing the pursuit of a developmental paradigm whose eventual outcomes can only be guessed at.
By contrast with the evident potentiality and dynamism of the new technology, studies of its impact upon teaching practices in higher education indicate that, as yet, teachers in general are making use of email and web resources but more advanced technologies, such as online learning environments and wireless solutions are only being used to a limited extent. Few in higher education are dealing in a practical manner with the new technology’s central ideas about the handling of knowledge.
An international comparative study on Models of Technology and Change in Higher Education was carried out by the Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies and the Faculty of Educational Science and Technology of the University of Twente in the Netherlands (Collis & van der Wende, 2002). The study found that Institution wide technological structures are now in place. However, rich pedagogical use of the technological infrastructure is still in development. Van Merriënboer et al. (2004, p. 13) point out that the central concept in handling of e-learning currently tends to center upon ‘content’. They regret that forms of e-learning that emphasise the active engagement of learners in rich learning tasks and the active, social construction of knowledge and acquisition of skills are rare. In other words, the potential of the technology to transform the teaching/learning environment is still far from being realised in the institutions of higher education.
It is worthwhile, at this stage, outlining the contribution ICT has offered to the development of my educational knowledge, and in particular, to the development of new standards of educational judgement in educational practice. ICT has been used to complement and support my pedagogy as it unfolds. Some examples in the context of this presentation include: digital video to record my teaching and supervision, online learning environments that have sustained ongoing dialogue among practitioners and myself, desktop videoconferencing that has opened up the classroom environment and provided opportunities to share our knowledge with others. Multimedia and web based artefacts with supporting text provide evidence of how practitioners are developing living standards of judgement through asking, researching and answering the question, ‘How do I improve my practice?’
In creating my ‘pedagogy of the unique’ through a living educational theory approach to research, I provide evidence to show my educational influence in my learning, in the learning of others, and in the education of social formations. The methods I use to validate my claims include:
- Living eeducational theory action research cycles;
- Winter’s (1989) six criteria of rigour;
- Social validation meetings.
Living Educational theory accounts of learning methodology involve expressing concerns when educational values are not lived in practice, imagining a way forward, gathering data, evaluating practice on effectiveness of actions, modifying plans in light of the evaluation.
Winter’s (1989) Six Criteria of Rigour include dialectics, reflexivity, collaborative resource, risk, plurality, theory, practice and transformation.
Habermas’s (1987) Criteria of Validity include four criteria of social validity, i.e. comprehensibility, truth, rightness and authenticity.
In assessing the quality of my practice based research I focus on my embodied values and living standards of judgement.
The following data sources will be used to provide evidence of the standards of judgements used to show learning in the public interest.
- Accounts of my learning as a higher education educator.
- Accounts of the learning of Practitioner-Researcher accounts on the MSc in Computer Applications for Education and MSc in Education and Training Management (ICT) at Dublin City University.
In the context of my ‘pedagogy of the unique’ the dialogic processes reflect my growing openness to learning and relearning with others, and reveal that I believe that education should be a democratic process that gives adequate “space to each participant to contribute to the development of new knowledge, to develop their own voice, to make their own offerings, insights, to engage in their own actions, as well as to create their own products” (Barnett, 2000, p. 161). I believe that I have directed my teaching towards learning by gradually providing opportunities for participants to take responsibility for their own learning and develop their capacity as learners.
My practice based research enquiry has indeed been a collaborative endeavour that could not have taken place were it not for the participation of students in the creation of knowledge in collaboration with me. I have articulated the educational values that have emerged in my practice and I believe that I have endeavoured faithfully to live these values in my practice. My values can now be seen to be communicable standards of judgement. I hope that my enquiry will contribute to new understandings of the link between teaching and research and how teachers can contribute to a knowledge base of practice through use of ICT.
- Barnett, R. (2000). Realizing the University in an age of supercomplexity. The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.
- Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Collis, B. & van der Wende, W. (2002). Models of Technology and Change in Higher Education. An international comparative survey on the current and future use of ICT in Higher Education. [Accessed from www.utwente.nl/cheps/documenten/ictrapport.pdf on May, 2005].
- Coulter, D. and Wiens, J. (2002), Educational Judgement: Linking the Actor and the Spectator. Educational Researcher, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 15-25.
- Furlong, J. & Oancea, A. (2005). Assessing Quality in Applied and Practice-based Educational Research. A Framework for Discussion [Accessed from http://www.bera.ac.uk/pdfs/Qualitycriteria.pdf on July 4th, 2005)
- Myers, B. A. (1998). A Brief History of Human Computer Interaction Technology. ACM Interactions. Vol. 5, No. 2, (pp. 44-54).
- O’Donohue, J. (2003) Divine Beauty. London, Transworld Publishers.
- RAE (2008). Research Assessment Exercise.Initial decisions by the UK Funding Bodies. Retrieved 1 June, 2005, from http://www.rae.ac.uk/pubs/2004/01/rae0401.doc.
- Shulman, L. (2004). Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Whitehead, J. (1989) ‘Creating a living educational theory from questions of the kind, “How do I improve my practice?”’, Cambridge Journal of Education 19(1): 137–153.
- Whitehead, J. (2004) What Counts as Evidence in the Self-studies of Teacher Education Practices? - final draft before publication in Loughran, J. J., Hamilton, M. L., LaBoskey V. K & Russell, T. (eds) (2004) International Handbook of Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices. Dordrecht; Kluwer Academic Publishers.
- van Merriënboer, J., Bastiaens, T., & Hoogveld, A. (2004). Interstructional design for Integrated e-learning in Jochems, W., Van Merrienboer, J & Koper, R. Van Merrienboer, (2003). Integrated E-Learning: Implications for Pedagogy, Technology and Organization,. Routledge.
- Winter, R. (1989) Learning from Experience. London, Falmer Press.
- Zukas, M. & Malcolm, J. (2002). Pedagogies for Lifelong Learning: Building Bridges or Building Walls? Chapter 13 in Harrison, R., Reeve, F., Hanson, A. and Clark, J. (2002) Supporting Lifelong Learning. Volume 1: Perspectives on Learning. Routledge. Pp 203-217.
Supporting collaborative or cooperative learning in the online learning environment using structured role-play activities
Recent articles by Maja Pivec and Olga Dziabenko have highlighted the role that structured game-based learning can play in supporting collaborative learning. This area is currently being explored within the European e-learning community through initiatives such as the UNI-GAME project. Similarly, recent action research conducted by CREATE as part of the Minerva-sponsored RAMIE project has examined the part that structured and scenario-based role-play activity can play in promoting collaboration and cooperation between geographically dispersed online learners. This recently completed project work also sought to demonstrate that, in some contexts, role-play, like forms of game-play, can support authentic learning and assessment within the online learning environment.
The RAMIE experience: The use of structured, scenario-based, role-play to develop mentoring skills in the online learning environment
CREATE’s pilot work within the RAMIE project centered on an existent online course, ‘Supporting Employee Development through Mentoring’ delivered through the Suffolk Institute of Technology. This course is delivered wholly online, via a virtual learning environment (WebCT) with tutorial and technical support provided online, or via telephone if necessary. The course seeks to introduce learners to all aspects of the theory and practice of workplace mentoring and is targeted at adult learners who wish to develop mentoring skills for application within the workplace. During the duration of the RAMIE project 62 students from across the eastern region of the United Kingdom were enrolled on the course.
The first section of the mentoring course focuses on the theory of mentoring. Thereafter the course culminates in a final formal assessment task based around the experience of participating in a mentoring role-play exercise, again conducted wholly online. The role-play exercise is designed to provide learners with an authentic experience of mentoring and an opportunity to demonstrate and practice recently acquired theoretical knowledge and skills.
The online role-play is organised by allocating two students, both at a similar point of progress in the course, the roles of mentor and mentee for each other. The role-play activity is conducted anonymously via email, with participants working within prescribed roles and scenarios (names, age, workplace, position, issues and responsibilities). Students assume the role of either a recently recruited or promoted employee, or an established manager (with roles of mentee and mentor respectively) and begin a staged mentoring process with the objective of supporting the new starter in the early stages of their new career.
The online role-play is facilitated and discreetly monitored by tutors and continues until the process of mentoring the newly recruited or promoted employee has achieved a series of specific aims. The principal task of the tutor through this process is to monitor correspondence to ensure authenticity and that learning objectives and outcomes are met. Most pairs of role-playing students conduct the exercise over several weeks, often exchanging considerable correspondence. Feedback from learners indicates that they enjoy and value the experience of online role-play, and feel that it provides an opportunity to develop and express newly acquired skills and knowledge in a realistic, but safe, context.
Findings and observations
Our experience suggests that structured, scenario-based, role-play activities can successfully support collaborative and cooperative learning in the online learning environment. If well designed, they can also support authentic learning and assessment. Furthermore, although some subjects clearly offer richer prospects for the application of role-play scenarios than others, the use of such approaches can also allow for the development and assessment of a wider range of knowledge competencies and skills than would be typical in the case of learners operating online and at a distance from tutors and fellow students. Mentoring and specifically e-mentoring provide a context where, in addition to theoretic knowledge competencies, it is also possible to use the online learning environment, and its collaborative possibilities, to develop and assess soft skills.
The online learning environment can support collaborative or cooperative learning within distance learning communities in ways previously not possible. Nevertheless, the development of collaborative learning opportunities, whether through structured role-play or game-based activities, requires imaginative and detailed planning and skilful management from course developers and teachers respectively. This is particularly true where learning activity is often asynchronous and working partnerships or groups are established among distance learners of differing personalities and potentially varying abilities. ICT Technology can support collaborative learning in ways formerly unthinkable, but as Brian Hudson has recently highlighted, it is ultimately the application of innovative pedagogical practices that determine whether collaborative learning fails or succeeds in the online learning environment.
Dr Harvey Osborne
Centre for Research into the Educational Applications of Telematics (CREATE), Suffolk College, UK.
- Suffolk Institute of Technology
- Maja Pivec - The Benefits of Game-Based Learning – 11 Jul 2005
- UNI-GAME (Minerva Project)
- Brian Hudson - Conditions for achieving communication, interaction and collaboration in e-learning environments - 15 Aug 2005
1D.Johnson, R.Johnson and K.Smith, Active learning: cooperation in the college classroom, (Minnesota, 1998). W.Campbell and K.Smith, (eds.), New Paradigms for College Teaching, (Minnesota, 1997).
In the e-learning business in Finland, there are around 160-170 companies that provide elearning solutions. The total turnover was around 140 million euros and it employed nearly 2000 people in 2003. This does not however reflect the digital learning solution markets as a whole, since the figures of the companies providing only partly elearning solutions, universities and other public institutions are not included. The companies are mainly small.
A part of the companies export and take part in international development projects.
The e-learning markets are mainly between companies and institutions. The business of institutions is developed with the help of digital medias. Big consumer markets are still to come, since they require for example proper distribution chains and changes in the buying behaviour of education.
Typical services in e-learning business sector are personnel, product, customer, partner, distributor and change management training. The benefits of these services are pace, savings in costs and time, the unique context and quality and possibility to multicentralized exchange of expertise and interactive discussion.
According to the latest barometer of Federation of The Finnish Information Industries (8/05) there is an upswing in ICT business and nearly half of the companies expect business to grow in the future. According to this study the employment has continued well and new employees have been hired.
The expectations for the autumn are positive and personnel will be recruited even more.
E-learning in Finnish schools
More and more education which include e-learning is given in Finland.
Upper secondary school can be passed entirely by studying in the internet and in many comprehensive schools e-learning ensures the possibility to study also rare subjects. Different kinds of networks between schools enable producing the contents.
The purpose of the basic education is that the teacher utilises information and communications technologies in his work and is able to guide students to reach the basic level in information and communications technology. This means practical skills in work, skills in data systems, co-operation and interactive skills and understanding data security and ethical issues.
The projects of the Post-comprehensive school education and adult education have created dozens of good development networks. Virtual schools have been networked both regionally and nationally. In the project networks there have been developed solutions for e-learning, searched answers to problems caused by new studying methods and produced services. The technical solutions and infrastructure of the e-learning are in quite good condition except that the number of computers in upper secondary level schools needs to be increased. The context produced in the networks could be utilised more efficiently. The self provided teaching is found cheaper than one bought from the network.
The present context of teachers´ education is more teaching of the pedagogic models and developing teaching methods, not that much teaching of the software anymore.
There is also a lot of self studying material available for education. Education is given to wider group of people, which means all who will need e-learning in their work. In Finland many schools offer studies which lead to graduation including e-learning. Häme Polytechnic launched this autumn as a first institution offers fully virtual education for teachers.
Experts of e-learning are being trained in almost all units offering supportive education such as eOppimaisteri by the University of Joensuu, e-skills by Häme Polytechnic and Ota-e by the Helsinki University of Technology.
Active research of eLearning
There are 52 higher education institutions including 21 universities and 31 polytechnics in Finland. In all of them there are e-learning related development projects. Universities and polytechnics have both built a virtual consortium, which offer virtual studies for the students, but also a lot of information about developing virtual teaching, work of quality and research. Many fields of business are offering possibilities to study and graduate fully or at least partially virtually.
The research focuses on e-learning including media reading, multicultural phenomena, competences of teachers, usability of learning objects, usage of simulations in teaching, controlling practises of smart mobile device, usability of teaching technologies, using common educational material and management of e-learning. The studies result in thesis, articles, conference performances and also international conferences.
The studies have generated many in national and international contacts and there are several international co-operative projects going on.
For example in the University of Helsinki, which is the largest university in Finland, educational environments were used only about 200 students and teachers in 2000. In October 2005 there were around 17000 users. At the same time the supply of educational contexts have grown from less than 200 to 1200.
There is still lack of good contents all the time. Therefore, University of Helsinki is taking part for example in EU eContent programme in EURES project, which aims at creating European multi lingual teaching portal, which is a unique way of producing and delivering materials.
This could be the future
E-learning has become a part of everyday life whereas the meaning of technology has moved backwards. E-learning is one developed procedures in supporting learning and it is available for everyone. The equipment are easily available, they can and will be used creatively and when needed.
Technical environments and equipment belong automatically to the different processes. The electronic web will connect actors, functions and fields of business tightly and in real time.
Tailor-made teaching has increased and modular type learning objects based on individuality or learning trays are everyday life. Increased supply of educational material and connectibility prevent also withdrawal.
E-learning offers a totally new learning culture. It requires breaking down the previous role models, giving up from being tied in place and time and absorbing new models of interactivity. The change should be based on competence of an individual and flexible practises should be offered for the development of individuals.
The key for professional growth is not individual skills but collective skills that offer flexible procedures for individual development. Common data building is power. Organisations focus on right targeting of resources, which includes directing, control of time and priorising issues.
Motivating, good arguments and encouragement and support will ease up the change.
The basis for good reaction for change in organisation is open flow of information and transparency of actions.
The business in the e-learning field will be segmented and focused. E-learning products and services will be integrated more tightly in developing competence in companies in general. Cost efficient and risk free solutions will be underlined in solutions for customers. The market will grow at least the following five years. The business will become global. Alongside the globalisation, companies will operate on genuinely global markets in the far networked global economy. In the pressure of efficiency, the companies are highly specialized and most of their actions are outsourced, but on the other hand, new products and services enabled by technology and networked economy and new concepts of business will give companies chance to find their way to the new markets.
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre (NGO) promotes the use of eLearning and digital education solutions in Finnish companies and organisations. The purpose is to develop and increase the skills and knowledge of eLearning in education, teaching and business operations.
The Association is a national meeting point, providing networking links. It helps to create contacts to both, companies, organisations and individuals. The Association co-operates with the best experts and provides up-to-date information about research, development, trends and experiences of eLearning.
The Association works together with several companies, polytechnics, universities and training institutions. It is also a networking organisation for the numerous Finnish eLearning projects and regional clusters.
We provide contact information for international organisations and experts interested in co-operating with Finnish eLearning experts, organisations and projects.
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre
Tel +358 3 651 5255
Fax: +358 3 621 5200
- Tietoalojen liitto: Suhdannekyselyn tulokset / Elokuu 2005
- Lith P. Digitaalisen median toimialaselvitys 2005, Digitaalisen median, sisältötuotannon ja oppimispalvelujen osaamiskeskuksen julkaisusarja
In the context of the FILTER project respondents in different European countries were asked to reflect on how learners with special needs are assisted in accessing their virtual communities, what barriers exist and what solutions are available. The respondents were asked to review a website in their country or region, and to identify any potential barriers such as ‘missing text equivalents’ or ‘inaccessible online forms’. The reviewed websites are amongst others: www.open.ac.uk, www.kennisnet.nl, www.ou.nl and www.universitet.no. Some respondents explained how the reviewed site helps people who are blind to use the site, or that in some cases there are no text alternatives at all. Most reviewed sites however do offer text alternatives. Some country specific experiences arising from the FILTER study are discussed below.
United Kingdom: The Open University
The Open University in the United Kingdom (OU/UK) is very advanced in this respect and has a policy to deal with students with a wide variety of special needs. The University has its own Center for Assistive Technology and Enabling Research (CATER). CATER supports the development of an accessible curriculum through a number of ongoing projects. It also provides ongoing staff development together with the development of enhanced technology based services for people with special needs.
The OU/UK website (see www.open.ac.uk) has a large range of facilities for students who are disabled: including those who are blind or partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing, people with restricted mobility or manual dexterity, with dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties, with mental health difficulties, with specific medical conditions, or with impaired speech. Adaptations of the curriculum include the tape-recording or videotaping of course materials, the conversion of printed texts into e-books thus enabling texts to be read on screen with the aid of a screen reader, as well as the use of particular programme applications to suit the needs of users with impaired mobility.
The preferred method of teaching can be discussed with the tutor by e-mail. If the student does not feel able to go to tutorials, copies of tutorial materials can be sent to the student. The possibility of an individual tutorial or extended correspondence tuition can also be explored. The Study Support or Disability and Additional Requirements Team in the student’s local Regional Center can also deal with any queries a student might have. In addition, the Evening Advice Line is available out of office hours. Some Centers have additional facilities to provide ongoing support.
The OU/UK has a Learner’s Guide Services for Disabled Students website at http://www3.open.ac.uk/learners-guide/disability/index.htm. More than 8,700 disabled students – a figure higher than the entire student populations of some UK universities – currently benefit from the Open University’s pioneering work in transforming higher education into a better place for learners with special needs. The OU/UK is a guide for other institutions. About 8000 tutors can transfer their knowledge to others. In the UK each university is required to be pro-active in the field of special needs policy.
Denmark: ”Tilgængelighed til uddannelse”
”Tilgængelighed til uddannelse” http://tilgaengelighed.emu.dk is a Danish educational portal containing advice and guidance about education and aid to people with disabilities. The providers of this portal have ensured that their own portal is accessible for people with disabilities.
However, as far as access to online forms is concerned, the reviewed websites failed to observe the design guidelines. The result is that users with disabilities are unable to complete online forms and therefore may be filtered out of benefiting from what the site is offering. Furthermore, respondents were asked about ‘inaccessible device restrictions’ for example those interactions that are only available using a mouse, and hence interactions that any user with either a motor or visual disability would be excluded from performing.
However, many web sites are designed in such a way that certain interactions are only available via a mouse. When asked if the reviewed website had inaccessible device restrictions, only one respondent noted that there was an alternative (tab and enter) to using the mouse for interacting with the site.
The Netherlands: Drempels Weg
In the Netherlands a project has been launched by the Ministry of Culture and Education entitled Drempels Weg (translated: Delete Barriers). The purpose is to enhance the accessibility of websites for people with disabilities. Drempels Weg makes organizations and the public in general more aware of the potential access problems faced by people with disabilities and assists organizations in making their sites more accessible.
The website www.sonokids.com enables children to create their own website. One of the games is the RaDaR soundgame where children learn to e-mail, chat and can even build their very own, accessible, website. The mole, the bat and the dolphin are animals that share one common attribute, that is that they do not use their eyes. These animals are the major characters in the game, see also www.sonokids.nl/radar.
Another initiative Netwerk ff contact :0] (www.ffcontact.nl) includes different websites for different target audiences and age groups. Netwerk ff contact :0] has been developed to enable children that suffer from long term illness to chat with each other. Some children are excluded from school and friendships for a long time. The site Sterrekind (www.sterrewereld.nl) gives them the opportunity to get connected with and communicate with children in similar circumstances. There are communities for small children (3-5 years), as well as for older children and teenagers where they can listen to music or watch a movie together. Sterrewereld originated in the hospitals of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague and has now been launched on a national scale. Even a song contest was launched recently.
On another site of the Stichting Artsen voor Kinderen (www.artsenvoorkinderen.nl), children can address a question to a medical doctor, and the site Diabeter (www.ysl.nl or www.diabeter.nl) focuses on education. Other Web initiatives are launched for children with muscular diseases, and the Foundation Rob facilitates imagephone calls for children that are in hospital and want to communicate with their friends or family.
Ireland: accessibility for all in website access.
In recent years the European Commission has been actively developing action plans and policies in relation to access to Information and Communication Technologies for all Europeans (cited in Irish National Disability Authority (NDA) Accessibility Guidelines, nd). While it is not clear how far these objectives have been achieved within individual Member States, it does appear that the Irish Government has taken steps to try to ensure accessibility for all, particularly in relation to website access.
For example, the Irish National Disability Authority outlines proposals by Government in 1999 in its ‘Report of the Inter-Departmental Implementation Group on the Information Society’ which recommends that “Websites should be designed and operated in accordance with the needs of users” and “the key principle underlining accessibility is that websites should be easy for everyone to use, including people with a disability” (NDA, nd). However, an extensive survey carried out by McMullin (2003) and mentioned earlier in this article, analyzed over 159 Irish websites. The survey found that 100 percent failed to meet the professional practice WCAG-AA accessibility standard; 94 percent failed to meet the minimum WCAG-A accessibility standard, and at least 90 percent failed to meet minimal conformance with other generic technical standards for web interoperability. (Information relating to WCAG [Web Content Accessibility Guidelines] is available from the World Wide Web Consortium’s website listed at the end of this paper in the reference section).
Spain: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
New teaching technologies can help people with disabilities to make progress both within the educational field and within the wider social and economic world of work and play. “Project FOTEUMIDIS, initiated in 1997, draws on all of Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia’s (UNED) media to deliver audio and video instruction through the Digital Network of Integrated Telephone Services (RDSI) public line” (García Aretio, 1998). This university-level teaching is directed towards those affected by different types of disability. The objective is to make it possible for individuals with a disability to study via multi-video conference through RDSI and so obtain the maximum results with the least amount of effort. Collaborating with UNED in this project are the Ministry of Work and Social Affairs (INSERSO), Telephónica, the ONCE foundation, IBM, Alcer Murcia, and INSALUD (García Aretio, 2001).
Belgium: the Wai-Not project
Jointly with some European partners the project Wai-Not has developed computer applications that are beneficial to children with a wide range of special needs, particularly those with developmental or learning difficulties, (see www.wai-not.be). In addition to encouraging Internet access by children with special needs, Wai-Not also investigates if access to activities on the Internet by these groups of people has the potential to enhance their social integration into society.
One of the tools used on the website is an Internet playground with creative, recreative and informative content. A combination of written text, spoken text and pictograms are presented, thus accommodating the needs of users with many different types of disability. Wai-Not shows that people who find reading and writing a challenge are able to use the Internet. Wai-Not originated from some Belgium schools for children with disabilities and was supported by the European Commission under the Minerva programme.
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