Interview with Sofoklis Sotiriou, project coordinator of the COLLAGE Project (2005)
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After the eLearning Programme closed down the EACEA Agency interviewed the coordinators of some of the projects that were funded by this programme. You can read here the answers given by Sofoklis Sotiriou, project coordinator of COLLAGE - Collaborative Learning Platform Using Game-like Enhancements
How did the project improve possibilities for eLearning?
The project was realized within the eLearning programme, so before Key Activity 3 ICT under Lifelong Learning programme and that time the concept of GPRS was very new and in the process of development. From this point of view, we can say that the COLLAGE Project was very well placed in timing and the use of mobile technology in education was presented as a complimentary tool for the curriculum at school through methodologies inside and outside the school. Within the project, new opportunities were created for being connected with the curriculum via mobile technology and for extending the school education in informal learning models.
Another improvement has occurred for teachers involved in the project; they had to think about how to organize on the field activities involving mobile technologies within the curriculum and educational learning aims.
In your training and professional experience, what has facilitated access to the new technologies for education? What has created a barrier? And what are the problems you have faced?
During COLLAGE Project, teachers were asked to prepare wap applications on the computer for students to see them on their mobile phones. For e.g.: A visit to the museum of Foundation Hellenic World was organized firstly through a wap application and then it was combined with a real visit. During that one, it was observed that students were capable to visualize the structure and the history of the museum, and they could reply the questions correctly. So, specific educational needs were met through use of mobile technology in learning, even if the GPRS technology was just available.
Concerning the problems encountered, it's possible to refer to the facts that the use of mobile technologies in education wasn't involved in the curriculum at schools and that the adaptation of teachers to the technology was more difficult than students.
What impact has the eLearning programme and project had on the lives of beneficiaries/target groups?
It's possible to say that now there are more applications in learning with mobile technology and many improvements in this field, so the COLLAGE Project demonstrated how successful the use of mobile technology is for educational purposes.
What were the impacts of the project for the educational or wider community in project countries and in EU policy?
In project countries, the local and national authorities are encouraging the mobile technology in the curriculum. For e.g.: In Greece, the municipality of Athens organizes every weekend study visits for secondary schools by using the game scenarios developed within the COLLAGE Project. Another example is from Austria, the Ministry of National Education made possible the use of game scenarios of COLLAGE Project in the educational system, so that the e-learning through mobile technology becomes accessible for every pupils and teachers in Austria.
At EU level, COLLAGE Project became a starting point for another European level project on use and re-use of digital education content in re-designing exhibitions in museums. More information on Open Science Resources project can be reached on http://www.openscienceresources.eu.What was your experience of working with partners in other European countries?
The consortium of the project has been composed of the partners knowing each other as a result of previous partnerships and this fact affected implementation of the project very positively. Also all partners were very strong and well-known in education and mobile technology fields. After the successful implementation of COLLAGE Project, the partnership in other projects still continues.
How was the sustainability of the project ensured?
The platform established within the project is still used by 10 schools in Greece and also by Municipality of Athens and Ministry of Education in Austria.
The project COLLAGE has proved to achieve most of its goals, opening the door to integrate new learning strategies using mobile technologies, mainly PDAs, and cellular phones. The level of engagement of all actors has been very high, especially in those scenarios that were evolving in time. Teachers were enthusiastic in using the devise in situations n which learning takes place outside the classroom. The same can be said about students which were always very keen on “learning mobile” and using mobile technologies in the different scenarios. Considering these findings as the main reference the consortium exploits further the work performed in COLLAGE through the following activities:
- The COLLAGE approach has been already introduced in schools in Greece and in Austria through the integration of the developed scenarios in a series of national initiatives. For example in Greece schools that participate in the national programme “Environmental Activities” are using the COLLAGE platform to create new educational game-based scenarios during field trips and other relevant educational activities. In Austria COLLAGE materials are available through the “Virtual School” portal of the Austrian Ministry of Education (see http://www.virtuelleschule.at/collage/index.html.
- The COLLAGE consortium was closely cooperating with the FP6 research project UNITE (http://www.unite-ist.org/) which developed an eLearning platform that aims to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning settings, implement innovative scenarios, enhance learning experience and create a virtual Network of Schools; 14 schools from 10 European schools share their learning experiences and the platform becomes the medium through which schools work and interact with each other. The COLLAGE platform was used in the framework of the UNITE project as it was very easily integrated to the UNITE pool of tools.
- FORTHNET (developer of the COLLAGE platform) continue to upgrade the COLLAGE platform. EA and FORTHNET have introduced the COLLAGE application to the pool of applications that are used from the Rural Wings network (http://www.ruralwings-project.net), a network of 120 rural schools from all over Europe that are equipped with DVB-RCS satellite terminals and have access to broadband services. Many students of these schools are working with similar scenarios that were developed in the framework of the COLLAGE project. Additionally the Ancient Agora scenario is already implemented by the Foundation Hellenic World and the Youth and Sports Organisation of the Municipality of Athens and it has been integrated to the educational activities organised every weekend in the Ancient Agora of Athens.
What do you think was particularly successful about the project?
The success of the project was mainly the active and productive participation of teachers. They have easily become adapted to the platform and we had received numerous scenarios, which were much more than expected and very innovative.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt? What are therefore your key messages (max 3) for the future use of ICT in learning?
Even if the use of ICT has improved a lot; there is still a very long way to go for the efficient and wide use of ICT in education. If different initiatives and projects on education through ICT are systematically evaluated, it will be very beneficial for the achievement of EU policies.
Access the DOSSIER: eLearning programme 2000 - 2006: The Legacy to learn more about the eLearning programme