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).
“E-learning is a teaching and learning method that involves the formative product and process. Formative product means every type of material or content made available in digital format by means of computer or network channels. Formative process means the management of the entire didactic itinerary that involves aspects of distribution, fruition, interaction and evaluation” (ANEE, E-learning Observatory, 2003).
E-learning constitutes a broad sector with many facets. The themes to be taken into consideration vary and knowledge of the complexity of the issue is fundamental in order to have a global vision. It would be a mistake to consider this kind of education from a purely technical point of view; nor should one deal with it by limiting oneself to the didactic and methodological aspects.
Although one often makes the mistake of thinking that, for this form of education, it is sufficient to obtain, and concern oneself solely with, platforms, learning management systems, learning objects, etc. (thus delegating educational strategies to technical instruments), experience has shown that, in order to accomplish successful e-learning, it is essential to carry out an in-depth restructuring of educational processes, maintain a constructive and collaborative approach to e-learning, and re-think the roles, placing the student at the centre of the educational process.
It is clear that didactic and methodological issues should always remain in the foreground; nevertheless, keeping an eye also on the instruments and following the technological developments that accompany e-learning from a purely technical point of view is a necessity, if not an obligation. This is fundamental in order to innovate education, taking the best advantage of everything that technology makes available to improve, integrate and strengthen the learning procedure.
The biblio-webliography is sub-divided into the following themed areas, which have been separated in order to deal with the various constituent elements of e-learning with greater clarity:
- GUIDELINES: Research and National Governing Guidelines• TECHNOLOGICAL ELEMENTS: Platforms, Standards, Learning Objects, Open-source.
- EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT: Production/Planning of Contents, Instructional Design
- EDUCATIONAL PROCESS: Methodological Aspects, Collaborative Approach, On-line Tutoring
- FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS: Integration with KM, Mobile or Wireless Learning
Key terms: Research and National Governing Guidelines.
With the aim of providing valid support to deal with the problems resulting from innovation processes in Italy, a number of bodies and associations (including the CNIPA, ASFOR and ASSINFORM) have become involved in creating documents either to operate and provide guidance in the sector of distance learning, or to understand the terminology and methodology within.
There are a number of key texts that are of interest in terms of having a full view of the situation concerning e-learning in Italy.
- ASFOR Lettera Asfor n.3/2002. “The e-learning planet and the Asfor proposals: from Guidelines to Glossary”, in ASFOR, 2002 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
A full glossary with a further 450 terms, the objective of which is to constitute a reference point for the entire public and private education sector. The aim of the ASFOR initiative is to offer clarity in the somewhat confusing sector of e-learning, starting with the terminology itself, often hostile, which is used in this field of activities. ASFOR is the Association for Management Education Development, and has also created the guidelines for the on-line Master’s accreditation process.
- CNIPA (a cura di). “Vademecum for the execution of e-learning educational projects in public administrations”, in CNIPA, 2004 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
An extremely useful, complete and accurate publication drawn up by the CNIPA (National Centre for Information Technology in Public Administration). It contains guidelines for educational e-learning projects in public administrations, with the aim of promoting the correct use of new methodologies and technologies for education. The section dedicated to the organisational and methodological aspects of management of an e-learning project is of note, and particular attention is paid to the numerous and diverse roles and professional figures involved.
- Liscia R. (2004). E-learning: stato dell’arte e prospettive di sviluppo (E-learning: state of the art and development perspectives) Milan: Apogeo.
The ANEE (National Association of Electronic Publishing) of ASSINFORM (National Association of Producers of Technology and Services for Information and Communication) carried out the E-learning Observatory 2004 in order to study the current trends in the Italian market and provide an up-to-date scenario of the sector. The study revealed that the e-learning sector in Italy has grown steadily for the third year in a row. The study was carried out under the aegis of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology and with the collaboration of companies and universities operating in the distance learning sector (including Microsoft, Banca Intesa, Sfera, Telecom Italia Learning Services, Isvor Fiat, the State University of Milan and the Polytechnic of Milan).
Key terms: Platforms, SCORM Standard, Learning Objects, Open-source.
The section presents texts concerning mainly technical issues such as the e-learning standards (SCORM – Shareable Content Object Reference Model), learning objects and the diverse types of software (open-source). Nevertheless, the majority of the texts could also be of use to those who have less expertise, from a technical/technological point of view, or to those who need not deal exclusively with technical issues, because it provides an overall framework in relation to the world of e-learning.
Those involved in instructional design, or those needing guidance in the choice of technological solutions for the definition and organisation of virtual learning environments, will undoubtedly find it useful to go into greater depth with regard to certain essential technical concepts (for example, the importance of metadata, the possibilities that the standards offer or the consequences of the adoption of a specific instrument, be it synchronous or asynchronous, on the type of approach of the on-line course, etc.) and thus perceive the way in which the technological environment can restrict or increase the learning and methodological possibilities of distance learning.
- ADL Initiative. “The SCORM Implementation Guide: A Step by Step Approach”, in ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), November 2002 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
This text may be useful for the practical application of SCORM and may be considered a good starting point for instructional designers. It is a practical guide that provides interesting and precise ideas for the organisation of a SCORM project. Four main phases may be noted: analysis (needs, content, target); planning; content development; and verification and testing. This is a document under continuous development.
- ADL Initiative. “Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) 2004 2nd Edition”, in ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), July 2004 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
The text, which is in its second edition, provides an overall view of all of the documentation regarding the SCORM particulars, the main characteristics of which are illustrated in the latest version (SCORM 2004 or 1.3). Although this is an overview, the language used is technical. Further information regarding the technical details of SCORM can be found in three other documents: CAM (Content Aggregation Model), RTE (Run Time Environment) and SN (Sequencing and Navigation). The ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) is one of the main organisations to advance the initiative for the e-learning standards, and is sponsored by the Department of Defence (DoD) of the USA. This is a collaboration programme between the government, industry and universities, the objective of which is to define how to make the learning instruments and contents interoperational.
- Barritt C. / Alderman Jr F. L. (2004). Creating a Reusable Learning Object Strategy. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
An introduction manual that highlights all of the problems regarding the implementation of a strategy of learning objects in organisations and companies. It analyses the life cycle of the reusable content and is based on real corporate experiences. It is characterised in particular by costs and the increase in ROI (Return Of Investment). It is not very useful from a didactic point of view, in that it does not deal with issues regarding didactic strategies but limits itself to economic and organisational matters.
- Carnegie Mellon University. “SCORM Best Practices Guide for Content Developers”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab), 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A guide aimed at content creators and instructional designers, a valid support for the creation of materials compatible with the SCORM standard, or even to convert existing material. It contains advice and techniques for the implementation of particulars, but it does not substitute the other official, more technical, documents. Document edited by Learning Systems Architecture Lab (LSAL) of the Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA).
- Carnegie Mellon University. “Simple Sequencing Templates & Models”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab), 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A document illustrating the main sequencing rules of the didactic contents that provide the learning object designers with control over the learning process. For example, by means of the setting of certain rules, it is possible to establish a minimum number of points to be obtained in a test as a requisite in order to be able to go on to other contents, or even make it obligatory to consult certain materials before being able to move on to other sections of the course. The objective is to have a universally shared sequencing model.
- Fini A / Vanni L. (2004). Learning object e metadati. Quando, come e perché avvalersene. (Learning objects and metadata; when, how and why these should be used). I quaderni di formare n. 2. Trento: Edizioni Erickson.
An excellent, complete and clear book; above all, it is correct in its approach to learning objects. It provides a number of practical examples regarding instruments, as well as the various experiences on a national and international level regarding the application of standards. The chapter on “Questions, critiques and problems” is of particular interest, as it provides a useful overview of the debate under way which, for some time now, has offered encouragement to researchers and students in the sector with regard to the true didactic value of the learning objects and the possibility of using them effectively.
- Fontanesi P. (2003). E-learning. Milan: Tecniche Nuove (New Techniques).
These texts put forward a brief and concise framework from a theoretical point of view (what e-learning is, main definitions and characteristics), as well as from a technological point of view and in terms of the changes under way in the sector. The market standards are illustrated and explained in a simple manner, even for non-experts. The guidelines to choose an e-learning system are of great use, as is the section devoted to practical examples of available instruments and platforms. Besides these, it is a practical resource for novices who intend to embark on an e-learning project and who, therefore, require certain basic notions, this book also takes a look at the future of distance learning, highlighting the potentials and fields of application of mobile learning.
- Pasini N. “What content developers & instructional designers need to know: an overview of SCORM concepts”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab). 2002 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A presentation (PowerPoint) produced by Nina Pasini, from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA) that provides an outline of the advantages of contents in standard format: the contents become reusable (it is possible to reuse them in a number of learning contexts), interoperable (they can be used with diverse instruments and in various platforms), durable (they will resist technological developments), and accessible (it is possible to individualise and access the available contents in various places). Of particular interest is the section devoted to the impact of SCORM on the design of e-learning processes and therefore on instructional design. Although this is a presentation containing a content outline, the author clearly explains certain fundamental concepts and stresses that the instructional designer should not be responsible for including all of the technical details of SCORM, but should concentrate mainly on the design of effective content.
- Pettinari E-L / Rotta M. “Ambienti sincroni in Open Source” (Synchronous environments in open-source), in Form@re Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The article presents an overview of how the environments for synchronous communication in a didactic sphere are considered. The importance of synchronous communication instruments (such as chat, audio/video conference, etc.) has been safely proved in constructivist-type courses, which see interaction as the key to the construction of knowledge. Nevertheless, the open-source world, unlike what is currently taking place with owner software, still offers a limited number of solutions of this kind. After giving an outline of the main characteristics of synchronous spheres, the authors illustrate some of the instruments of this kind that are currently available, and often little known; for example, platforms, chats and shared blackboards. The authors conclude with a presentation of a number of experiences and specific cases. This is an interesting contribution in order to understand the state of the art regarding the use of synchronous environments in the didactic sphere and the possibilities, unfortunately little known, made available by open-source.
- Rotta M. “L'accessibilità e l'usabilità delle piattaforme Open Source” (The accessibility and usability of open-source platforms), in Form@re – Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The problem of accessibility by differently-abled subjects remains unresolved in the majority of e-learning platforms. Their architecture often makes it harder and more complicated to adjust to the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) standards. The author shows that there is still a great lack of attention devoted to the issue, although research groups and specific projects (such as the Commonwealth of Learning or the MIUR Technological Observatory) are dealing specifically with the issue. Part of the problem stems from the fact that there are still too many barriers in e-learning, not only technological ones, but above all cognitive ones, concerning the planning and bad organisation of educational plans. The barriers with cognitive implications are still such a huge problem that they overshadow the technical barriers. One potential solution is the possibility of making open-source type platforms accessible since, given their nature (the possibility of accessing the source code), they can be modified and adapted to specific requirements. This is a task that undoubtedly requires time and work, but it is possible.
- Rotta M. “Open Source e scuola: alcune riflessioni” (Open Source and school: some reflections), in Form@re – Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
This interesting article by Rotta offers an in-depth framework regarding the perception and aims of the use of open-source software in schools. The author stresses that, although this has been talked about and debated for a while now, one often mistakenly thinks of open-source mainly as a means of breaking up the Microsoft monopoly, or to obtain free software. This is not correct, since the situation is actually complex, whereby the types of license vary and the scenario is constantly evolving. Rotta criticises the fact that, too often, the technological choice prevails over the didactic one (hardware and software are, in fact, only instruments of an educational strategy) and that insufficient attention is devoted to the learning project. Dwelling too much on the ideological debate under way regarding open-source does not appear to be very useful in relation to schools, which should also take into account the fact that, besides CMS and platforms, there is a great deal of specific software (text editors, graphic, sound and animation editors, etc.) that can be used for didactic purposes.
- Sinform - Sinergie per la formazione (2003). Gli standard internazionali di produzione dei contenuti didattici: il modello SCORM (International production standards for didactic content: the SCORM model), project financed by the region of Emilia Romagna.
A complete and in-depth report on e-learning standards. It deals with technical issues, such as the Content Aggregation Model (specifics to define data and content in XML for learning objects) and Run Time Environment (specifics that enable communication between objects and LMS) in a simple and accessible manner, even for beginners. The issue of metadata is explored in depth in an accurate way. Also of interest is the section on conformity and LMS and content certification, an issue about which little information is found in networks and literature on the standards.
- Whiley D. “Learning Objects, a definition”, in Wiley, 2002 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
For the creation of reusable content, the SCORM model is based on Learning Objects (LOs). One of the most recognised and used definitions of learning objects, also because of its flexibility and indefiniteness, is that which can be found in this document by Whiley: a learning object is “every digital resource that can be used to assist learning”.
Key terms: Instructional Design, Content Design.
Instructional Design is the application of learning principles and theories and teaching for the development of formative participation. The instructional designer is responsible mainly for the organisation of the on-line education course, defining the instruments, the technological architecture and the storyboard, with the objective of creating effective learning experiences.
- Bruschi, Barbara / Perissinotto, Alessandro (2003). Come creare corsi on line (How to create on-line courses) Rome: Carocci Editore.
This guide contains practical advice and methodological indications for those who intend to create on-line courses. It is particularly useful from a practical point of view, in that it offers good suggestions in relation to basic issues, such as the use of images, the usefulness of speakership, music, videos and animations, the strategies to use for the construction of texts, from formatting (graphical form and text arrangement) to the type of language (brief, schematic, syntactically simple and attractive). Also of note is the part relating to the structuring of the didactic learning objects which, according to the authors, should have an initial evaluation, an introduction, a set number of content units, a summary or conclusion of how much has been learnt and a closing learning assessment. The section on learning objects is not dealt with from a technical point of view, but a methodological one: the authors show a certain sensitivity in terms of the Italian learning situation, and indicate a different approach to the one suggested by those who drew up the standards. Indeed, it is often difficult to believe in the real combinability and standardisation of the learning objects and the possibility of applying a model of this type in a humanist environment. Therefore, methods that are more in keeping with the Italian education system and the cultural traditions of the country are put forward.
- Calvani, A. (2001). Educazione, comunicazione e nuovi media, Sfide pedagogiche e cyberspazio (Education, communication and the new media, pedagogical challenges and cyberspace) Turin: Utet.
In this book, which deals with the main problems related to the use of technology in educational contexts, a number of interesting concepts emerge, such as “media ecology” and “didactic ergonomics”. The former regards the mechanisms to be borne in mind in learning environments, such as avoiding an overload of information, finding a balance between direct and indirect learning experiences, integrating and measuring out more learning channels, and using simple technologies. The latter concept concerns a discipline that is placed mid-way between the ergonomics and education technology, the object of which is the safeguarding of the cognitive commitment in the subjects involved, to prevent a levelling-off of the cognitive functions during the subject-technology interfacing.
- Lucchini A. “E-learning e scrittura professionale” (E-learning and professional writing) in Mestiere di Scrivere, 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
Lucchini is a business writer and is involved in professional writing courses. In this MdS (Mestiere di Scrivere, in PDF format) notebook, the author analyses (based on his own experiences and specific cases) the use of e-learning for education courses on writing, demonstrating the advantages of distance learning. The author dwells on the issue of the sense of isolation and coldness that can be experienced in a computer learning situation and, in this respect, puts forward methods of experimentation in order to increase the active and emotional involvement of the students and collaboration among them. He cites, for example, the CREAM method (Control, Relevance, Emotion, Action, Multi-sensory environment) proposed by Patrick Dunn (a learning strategist from DigitalThink UK Ltd.). The author comes to the following conclusive reflection: “… we can anticipate for the coming years a development in the profession of the e-learning writer. Not a simple extension of the web writer, or the technical writer, but a professional who, besides writing skills, requires the understanding of the psychological and didactic mechanisms that govern and promote learning”.
- Ranieri M. (2005) E-learning: modelli e strategie didattiche (E-learning: didactic models and strategies). I quaderni di Form@re n. 3. Trento: Edizioni Erickson.
After providing an introduction to the concept of industrial design and the differences between the two main directions (instructivism and constructivism), the text illustrates the main types of e-learning that can be developed from the methodological point of view. This can be summarised in the following categories: content and support, the content being the central element, learning is individual in type and interaction with peers is scarce; wrap around, whereby content is less structured, learning is individual and in small groups, with the support of a facilitator; and integrated model, a form of e-learning that focuses on the group and in which there is a great deal of interaction between peers. After dealing with the problem of e-learning design and the factors that have an impact on this (use, objectives, content and infrastructure), the author stresses the role of the instructional designer and the importance of models and didactic strategies that can be implemented in networks.
- Guerra T. & Heffernan D. “The Guerra Scale”, in Learning Circuits, March 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2004).
A very original point of view in terms of e-learning content is that defined by Tim Guerra and Dan Heffernan: the “Guerra Scale” describes the possible levels of interactive experience of the student in a scale that goes from one to ten, where the first levels are made of the simple reading of on-line PDF files or internet pages that are interconnected, and the final levels represent simulation scenarios attended by experts in the field and virtual realities. This is a very useful representation in that, going up one level in the scale, there is an increase in complexity, functionality, development times, programming capacity, course design capacity and the attention of the experts in the field.
Key terms: Collaborative Approach, On-line Tutoring.
This section presents a number of fundamental texts regarding network communication mechanisms, the various types of on-line interaction and the most effective methods for e-learning. If one wishes to conduct distance learning courses or devote oneself to tutoring activities, it is necessary to have a certain familiarity with the communicative dynamics of distance learning and be able to manage learning situations that respond to rules that differ greatly from those related to traditional forms of teaching.
- Anzalone, Francesa / Caburlotto, Filippo (2003). E-Learning. Comunicare e formarsi online (E-learning. Communicating and learning on-line). Milan: Lupetti – Editori di Comunicazione.
A brilliant text that focuses on certain points of extreme importance where communication, methodology and the management of on-line learning courses are concerned. From the reflections of the authors, the following concept is clear: e-learning differs from the traditional didactic approach in that it is possible to use networks as a collaborative means, where virtual space becomes a space for growth and interaction between the on-line communities and the network is no longer understood as a computer network, but as individuals’ networks. Learning is stimulated through belonging to the group and it is precisely the ongoing confrontation with the group, the exchange of experiences and ideas among those participating in the learning experience that contributes to the acquisition of notions by the individual, increasing motivation and thus also encouraging the growth of the entire on-line community. The roles of the figures involved and rapports within the virtual classes are undergoing a genuine revolution. The introduction of new information technology instruments influences the type of communicative model that is installed: teachers and tutor are no longer at the centre of the communicative process and no longer constitute the only source of knowledge. Furthermore, the student is no longer limited to a mere receptive and passive role, but takes on an active role and has greater autonomy in the construction of the learning course itself (learner-centred approach). The main task of teachers and tutors is to stimulate, motivate and enable the flow of knowledge, guiding and monitoring the progress of the pupils.
- Calvani A. e Rotta M. (2000). Fare formazione in Internet. Manuale di didattica online (Learning via Internet. On-line educational manual). Trento: Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson.
This is a fundamental publication in order to gain a complete idea with regard to distance learning, starting with its history and ending with the most efficient and up-to-date applications. After a first part, in which the main mechanisms of “presence” and “absence” communication are analysed, the text concentrates on more practical issues, such as the design and preparation of on-line courses, presenting the main problems involved. The manual concludes with a series of in-depth charts, a reasoned bibliography and network resources.
- Mabrito M. “Guidelines for establishing interactivity in on-line courses” in Innovate on line, 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
The objective of the article is to enable an understanding of the importance of interactivity within on-line courses. There are three possible types of interactivity: 1) student-teacher interaction; 2) student-student interaction; and 3) student content interaction. The author provides a series of practical advice in order to increase interactivity, an element that contributes greatly to the success of the courses. Diverse studies show that on-line courses are particularly effective when the students manage to be active participants and learn through a collaborative approach: collaborative interaction is the key to the knowledge creation process.
- Trentin G. (2003). Gestire la complessità dei sistemi di e-learning (Managing the complexity of e-learning systems). Taken from the minutes of the Didamatica 2003 annual convention, pp. 1-8.
In this interesting article, Trentin underlines the importance of defining above all the e-learning model that is to be implemented. It is fundamental to be aware beforehand, in order to organise the project as well as possible. For example, for a model based on self-instruction, and therefore on the use of structured materials, professional figures and specific technologies are necessary for the production of e-content; however, for an approach based on learning groups, it is necessary to consider specific professionals (such as on-line tutors) and technologies with ad hoc functionalities for group interaction. It is therefore evident that the choice of model has a decisive influence from a didactic-pedagogical point of view, but also from a purely operative point of view (human resources for the design and management of the educational project, technologies and organisational order). According to Trentin, future studies should concentrate on the problems preventing the dissemination of the proposed models. From his conclusions, it is clear that “the key is to acquire knowledge regarding the demand for a change in paradigm in confronting the issues of continued learning, moving away from the learning on the job logic to that of learning is the job”.
Key terms: Integration with KM, Mobile or Wireless Learning.
A number of authors illustrate the possible developments of e-learning in the near future. On the one hand, a close integration of platforms (Learning Management Systems) with other platforms that are currently used for a number of purposes is forecast, until knowledge management is reached through a single integrated structure. On the other hand, there is greater talk of mobile learning (m-learning) or wireless learning, a learning method that takes advantage of the possibilities of wireless networks, such as those in wi-fi systems, mobile telephones or palm systems. Some of the studies presented in the section demonstrate how these instruments can encourage learning during one’s free time, effectively representing the possibility of learning any time, anywhere.
- Attewell J e Savill-Smith C. “Learning with mobile devices, Research and development”, in LSDA (Learning and Skill Development Agency), 2004 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
An interesting set of studies on the possible applications of mobile devices for learning. Topics discussed include the effectiveness of m-learning, costs, content development methodology, the type of design necessary, the learning potential of games, and the role that mobile learning may play in increasing social inclusion.
- Giacomantonio M. “Il futuro dell’e-learning” (The future of e-learning) in WBT (Formazione in Rete), (in WBT, web-based training). March 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
After a brief overview of the various aspects that characterise e-learning, such as the role, the sectors (content, communication, support, management), the instruments and technologies, the author questions the future of distance learning. Having overcome the adaptation to the standards phase (already in operation for a number of years and at a satisfactory stage) to eliminate the link to certain technological solutions, e-learning will undergo an integration with many diverse applications, thus reaching a more mature phase, to border on more evolved and mature sectors such as KM (Knowledge Management), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), becoming an integral part of HRM (Human Resource Management).
- Giacomantonio M. “Dove vanno le piattaforme di e-Learning” (Where the e-learning platforms are headed), in WBT (Formazione in Rete) in WBT (Web-based Training), September 2004 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The author presents an in-depth analysis of the current LMS characteristics, their evolution and future developments. His conclusion is that the current trend is that of converging e-learning platforms with other technological instruments for content management, document management and project management, in order to attain complete instruments for integrated knowledge management. Indeed, even today, on-line learning activities are no longer reduced to simple structure courses; one learns through working in groups, connecting to the Internet and managing projects together with other people. Therefore, new modules with new functionalities will be integrated within the platforms.
- Prensky M. “What Can You Learn from a Cell Phone? Almost Anything!”, in Innovate online, June 2005 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
Mobile devices, particularly mobile telephones, are becoming increasingly small and powerful. Although they are still considered instruments to be used prevalently for telephone communication or, more recently, for recreational purposes, mobile telephones have now become genuine computers. Like any information technology communication instrument, mobile telephones can be used for learning, bearing in mind the fact that they have a huge distribution, particularly among young people and students. After illustrating how to take advantage of the various characteristics of mobile phones (voice, SMS, graphic displays, download functions, Internet navigation, GPS, etc.), the author concludes the article by suggesting, particularly to those who continue to seek to ignore the phenomenon, that this learning mode be seriously considered, and advising a flexible reconsideration of how to design content and activities for mobile learning.
If we seek to determine the characteristics of the digital era, we will realize that the parameters mainly influenced are the speed and volume of information. A seminal consequence of the influence of Information Society is the acceleration of all processes, a fact that keeps users in a state of vigilance and in a permanent process of updating their knowledge, in a permanent state of alert. In the digital world, solutions of communication that up to now were inapplicable, today begin to materialize.
The volume of information carried via networks is rapidly accelerating. Billions of e-mails and sms run through our planet daily. During the recent years the messages have become more complex, transporting accompanying files mainly photographs and videos, as attachments.
A large part of this information is recorded and a percentage ends in the internet. Human history now walks hand in hand with the machines and the conjunction of human being and machine has already become centerfold in human life and experience.
Questions raised by the digitalization of information
No era has left in its wake so many visual and audio traces as ours. Should we pity the future historian who will be forced to also study the terabytes of the electronic files that are created daily? There are historians who predict the demise of historiography, while others are heralding the explosion of information as the beginning of "real" History.
One thing is certain, the model of historical writing of the past century cannot possibly serve the next one. The epistemology of History will have to change, if historians wish to continue recounting the past in a way that interests the public.
A few moments after an important event, such as the tsounami or the bomb explosions in the London Tube of the 7th July 2005, the BBC was deluged by pictures and videos sent by eye witnesses through their mobile telephones. History runs in madly diverse transcontinental orbits from one monitor to another as, thanks to our cell phones, we can all become participants in its recording The relation between transmitter and receptor has changed radically.
The meeting of Technologies of Information and Communication with the science of History raises a series of questions and the historians face challenges that lead them to new forms of recording history.
The main advantage of the digitalization of sources is that they automatically become accessible to their remote visitors. Most of the digitalized files are organized within powerful databases, thus making it possible for information seekers to easily locate the information they look for.
It is well-known that from the moment a source is digitalized, it automatically changes character. The fluidity of documents after their digitalization constitutes a real nightmare for historians. Nowadays a number of databases have opted to safeguard the integrity of their collections by locking them in pdf files. However, for those who know transforming a ‘locked form’ file, such as pdf, to a file that can be modified, presents no challenge and can be done easily. "What locks, unlocks" whisper the residents of the internet. Mark Poster contends that digital files, because of their fluidity, will limit historians’ false sense of objectivity, since there will be a turn towards the constructional approach to historical texts 1.
Applications of the Technologies of Information and Communication to the subject of history. The didactics of history in the society of knowledge.
Technologies can certainly support the development of student skills required by the science of History. They provide them with opportunities to select sources through a variety of means of information transmission, to re-enact historical events, to make use of databases, in order to reach safe conclusions and acquaint themselves with historical thought. Cd-roms and websites promote, to a large extent, the incorporation of visual forms both in teaching and in research. They allow the "visually prone" students to approach the past through visual re-enactments.
By using historical sources in digital form, the students study the past through discovery. At the same time, however, they need new skills for critical thought 2, new ways to evaluate visual evidence, not only with respect to their authenticity but also to the knowledge that they offer. The possibility of digitalizing pictures and sounds influences historical research as historians have already been creating new types of hypertext with visual and audio content. The internet functions as a novel place for the publication of historical work, where, however work loses its immutable nature, and acquires new possibilities for permanent updating.
Technologies facilitate us in the process of production and control of historical hypotheses, thus providing us with opportunities to approach historical investigation. Multimedia fully correspond to the collective character of history. In the majority of lesson plans submitted to educational portals students are encouraged to delve into sources and reach their own conclusions 3.
The use of technologies may promote student collaboration while contributing to the development of historical thought 4.
The analysis of lesson plans at the Educational Portal of the Greek Ministry of Education reveals that in quite a few cases hypertexts have been used, which helped students look for historical sources as well as discover relations among the topics. The development of analytical and interpretative skills is supported by the hierarchic organization of hypertext. The hypertext facilitates the correlation of sources because of its non linear nature. It encourages a multidirectional reading, yet its effect on historical narration certainly needs to be studied
The multimedia nature of the internet permits the coexistence in the same source of multiple forms of representation. If we take for example a lesson plan for the conquest of Constantinople 5we will realize that it includes hyperlinks to written texts, pictures, maps and plans. The instructions guide the students in forming their own historical path. The educator is integrated in the team of students and supports them during the research process.
Lesson plans utilizing presentation software also frequently appear in educational portals. The integration of activities of text production and presentations helps students develop historical thought, creates and promotes suitable conditions for co-learning, and strengthens creativity and imagination.
With the facilities provided by word processing we overcome the limitations of writing and we are facilitated in rethinking, analyzing and comprehending. Researchers use the term “bricolage”6 to refer to the students’ ability to reuse parts of digital files –an item or a software, a piece of code, a text in a unique way, thereby creating a new original composition. The students develop new dexterities as they creatively integrate pieces of information in their work. This naturally presupposes preparation of activities by the teachers, so that simple cutting off and pasting of information is avoided.
The use of information bases in particular helps students trace trends, formulate historical hypotheses, investigate theories 7. The educational value of databases is multiplied if we put students in the position of those creators. Classification and categorization skills are developed in the process of base construction.
The utilization of electronic environments of communication, eg discussions forums, allows students to develop both their abilities in formulating arguments and their comprehension skills 8. It allows educators to locate student misapprehensions with regard to historical thought, something that is not always easy in classroom discussions. In the electronic environments of communication, shy or reserved students are also encouraged to express their opinions, and this leads to the discovery of misapprehensions.
In case an electronic environment of communication is utilized, the students, beginning from the activity hypertext, may support the creation of a network of observations, comments, contributions, etc. This network of messages reflects the exchange of experience and knowledge among members of a school community, and constitutes a capital of knowledge for this community.
Simulations allow the dynamic handling of historical concepts and support the deeper comprehension of the significance of certain choices made by historical personalities under the influence of either their environment or situation.
The use of digital video especially in projects of local history facilitates the collection of oral evidence. Especially if the collection is preceded by the study of such testimonies, then the students may develop more effectively the necessary interviewing skills 9.
The technologies of Information and Communication provide educators with tools essential for the reenactment of historical concepts by individualizing the students’ educational needs. Visualization is enhanced through the utilization of Technologies since the structural concepts of historical thought can be dynamically enacted. The dynamic conceptual maps for example facilitate the development of historical thought because they are constructed with the students’ help and allow the exploration and comprehension of complex historical terms such as social stratification, synergy of factors, social class, alternative/monetary trade. If we take one more step and approach students as producers and transformers of historical thought, then we realize that the concepts are transformed into analytical tools of interpretation of historical material. In this way, students are led to the development of a spectrum of cognitive skills.
Even traditional teaching aids such as the blackboard have been reinstated in our era. In the recent years we have seen a new type of board, the electronic interactive board. The teacher may prepare his or her lesson in an electronic file which includes different sources of media, plans, videos and sound files. The board turns into a dynamic tool, the maps, the tables of data are transformed in front of the eyes of the class, and the students can store their work or even take it home in a portable storing medium.
A number of reports10 that "in spite of the significant infrastructure program concerning computers in schools, their use by the students is insufficient". It is also reported that the students have made shallow use of computers and that the teachers’ computer literacy is still deficient.
Certainly the obstacles are numerous. A prerequisite for the improvement of this situation is sufficient teacher training in the effective use of ICT; this, however, must be accompanied by changes in the organization of schools and in pedagogic methods. Conclusions drawn from case studies suggest that even if the technologies of Information and Communication are the cause for the change, or the means through which change is effected, the use of ICT must be closely connected to other aspects of school development 11. As in the case of enterprises, the full dynamics of Technologies will show only if the introduction of these technologies is effectively combined with other innovations.
Read the complete article in the "Resources" area
- Poster, M., (2004) “History in the Digital Domain”, Historein Vol 4 (2003-4) Nefeli Publishers.
- Giakoumatou T. IT adoption in Greek secondary humanities education. Issues and reflections. e -Learning conference 2005 "Towards a Learning Society" Brussels 19-29/5/2005
- Hennessy, S., et al., (2003). Pedagogic Strategies for Using ICT to Support Subject Teaching and Learning: An Analysis Across 15 Case Studies. Research Reports, No. 03/1, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge .
- Brown, L., and Purvis, R., (2001). What is the impact of multisource learning on History at key stage 3? Technology integrated pedagogical strategies (TIPS) website case reports, http://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/TIPS/brownpur.html
- Seely Brown, J., (1999), “Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age: Creating Learning Ecologies.” Transcription of a talk by Brown at the 1999 Conference on Higher Education of the American Association for Higher Education.
- Martin, D., (2003) ‘Relating the general to the particular: data handling and historical learning’. In: History, ICT and earning in the secondary school (Haydn,T. and Counsell, C. (eds)). RoutledgeFalmer. pp. 134-151.
- Thompson, D., and Cole, N., (2003) .‘Polychronicon - Keeping the kids on message...one school's attempt at helping sixth formstudents to engage in historical debate using ICT’. Teaching History, (113), pp. 38-43.
Wellman, E., and Flores, J., (2002).‘Online Discourse: Expansive Possibilities in the History Classroom’. NECC 2002: National Educational Computing Conference Proceedings (23rd), San Antonio, Texas , June 17-19. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/ch-ssp/2002conf/wellman_necc.pdf
- Wolfrum, M., et al., (2001).‘Capturing History: How Technology Helped Middle School Students Learn History’. EdMedia 2001,World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia &Telecommunications, Tampere, Finland , June 27.p.126.
- OECD, 2005 Education Policy Analysis, 2004 edition
- Fullan, M.,2001, Leading in a culture of change, Jossey-Bass, San Fransisco, California
A digital document is a type of structured information package whose physical storage format comprises a huge list of ones and zeros that have been saved in a certain way. Furthermore, the idea of the list of ones and zeros is not entirely correct: it is more about the visualisation that we have of the different bits so that a human being can understand them. We call a bit an object that can be in one of two possible states: on or off, charged with positive or negative electricity, black and white or in colour, charged with three or seven volts, etc.
The process of digitalisation therefore involves ensuring that something can be sufficiently described with these small “bits” in such a way that it can be reproduced when we want a more or less faithful copy of the original.
- A letter
We can codify each of the letters, symbols or spaces that it comprises with a number, and represent this number as a succession of bits (now we need the image of the ones and zeros). If we know the system that has been followed to codify the original document, we can recompose it quite successfully.
- An image
We can apply a matrix of points – the more the better – to the image, so that, by describing the characteristics of each point and its position, we can once again have a digital codification of the image. So we can say that the point with coordinates 1.1 is blue, the point with coordinates 1.2 is yellow, and so on.
If the point matrix is precise, we should not have any problem when it comes to recomposing the image again, but here we have a problem: we know that reality is not made up of “points” and if those “points” can be seen in the resulting image, the impression of faithfulness to the original may be bad, so we have to make sure that the points we describe are as small as possible. If we manage to make them extremely small, it is possible that the human eye will not see them and will then have a good impression of faithfulness. In order to do this, we use a very big point matrix, which leads to the problem that, in order to describe an image, the resulting list of bits can be very big indeed.
- A song
Let us imagine that we are splitting up the total song duration into many different parts. Approximately every second of the song is divided up into 44,000 parts, and we describe the sound in each of these parts: the frequency of the sound playing, the volume and, if it is stereo, what is playing on each channel. We then store this information and, when we want, we make one or two speakers reproduce exactly a sound of this frequency and volume at the same speed at which it was recorded. The final impression, if the process has been carried out correctly, can be almost that of listening to the original. We all know that music stored on a compact disc (CD) is much better than the old vinyl records. Electronics offer a very good solution to the great speed at which things have to be done. The only problem is that, once again, the size of the resulting list of bits can be enormous. If we want to reduce the size of this list, we can reduce only the number of times we divide each second and, instead of 44,000 times, halve this, or halve half of this… This is known as “reducing sampling frequency”, and the positive result of this is that the final size of the list of bits is smaller; however, the disadvantage is that the quality of the reproduction is not as high.
If we are clear about what a digital document is, we can establish some conclusions about it:
- A digital document is an information package stored in a list of bits.
- The size of the list of bits (from now on, we will use the term “file size” for this concept) can be very large.
With a digital document, however, we have only resolved part of the problem: documents are used to store information but they do not tell you about themselves, that is, they do not tell you about their history of use, how they were conceived, their various parts, etc. All of this information dealing with the information itself is known as “metainformation”. Furthermore, as information, it can also be digitalised and attached to the document. In other words, if we have a digital document that is accompanied by a certain amount of “metainformation”, we have a digital document that can come, to put it this way, with its “user manual”, or with its background. With this, we have “enriched” the document.
Using enriched documentation has some advantages: the “metainformation” is also digitalised and, if it has been constructed in accordance with a pre-established system or protocol, we can ensure that the digital document is processed automatically by a machine in the appropriate manner. For example, we have a digital document that discusses how a law will influence the methods of activity of certain associations that protect children’s rights in India. In addition to the bits that make up the document, we can add another document with “metainformation” about the document in question, for example, with a series of key words such as “jurisprudence”, “India”, “Child rights”, “activism”, “associations, “creation date”, “application date”, “other related documents”, etc. This information on the document, also known as “metadata”, can be used so that, once our computer receives it and it is processed, it is automatically classified in the pre-established categories. Therefore, enriching a document can have many positive consequences:
|If the document is enriched with information on...||we can use it to...|
|Who used this document previously and what he or she thought about it||Support our selection of somebody we trust in order to go directly to the important documents|
|The parts it comprises and what each one talks about||Go directly to what interests us|
|A list of possible applications of the document or what to do with it||Classify the document and send it to somebody we know will find it useful|
We could make a huge list of advantages related to using enriched documentation, always following this method: depending on the information we add, the use may vary. It is obvious that we do not currently know for sure what somebody will do with our document in the future, so it is a good practice to attach ALL of the metainformation that we can to the document, “just in case” it might be of use to somebody in some way in the future.
Metadata and Protocols
As will become obvious, metainformation can not be written in a random way. If we want somebody to be able to use it, we have to write it bearing that person in mind and how he or she will understand it upon reading it. For this reason, it is best to agree in advance as to how to write the metainformation and how to process these metadata.
In order to do this, the most important Information Technology associations in the world and some international standards bodies have agreed to choose the words that will describe the metainformation to be used. After coming to an agreement, they published the syntactical regulations and the dictionaries of words that can be used. This is known as a “standard”. For example, the standard most used to describe a document for cataloguing is known as "Dublin Core" and consists essentially of a series of 15 characteristics that must be written in accordance with a specific method.
If the use we wish to obtain is educational, the standard most used is that of the IMS consortium. With this standard, we can add metainformation to our documents on their pedagogic use.
To write these metadata, a language whose syntax is very simple and easy to understand, particularly by machines, has been used. It is known as XML and it is good because it is very clear and hierarchical in terms of describing the different characteristics of an object.
In Conclusion, enriching a document is adding “metainformation” (“metadata”) to a document. These metadata have to be written in accordance with a “standard”.
The enriched information of a document allows for the document to be used better and for a machine to process it automatically.Glossary
Finally, I am adding a short glossary in case any concept requires clarification.
Bit: object that can exist in one of two possible states. They tend to be grouped in packages of eight, known as “bytes”. To measure them, we tend to use prefixes: 1000 bytes = 1 kilobyte; 1000 Kbytes = 1 megabyte; 1000 Mbytes = 1 Gigabyte (in fact, for more than 1000, we should say two to the power of ten, which makes exactly 1024).
Metadata: data that describes other data. Small package of information that describes another package of information.
Metainformation: generic name for a group of metadata.
Enrich: to add metadata to a document.
Dublin Core: standard to add metadata on library classification to a digital document.
IMS: standard to add educational information to a digital document.
XML: IT language with a very precise syntax to write metadata.
Online asynchronous discussion task(s) can be designed so as to produce these characteristics or activate a large number of Shuell’s learning functions and therefore increase the probability of producing ‘meaningful learning’. This paper discusses five general issues that can help in the design of Online discussion tasks.
Design is not an Exact Science
The learning functions are ongoing and parallel psychological processes. A learner does not simply have expectations at the beginning of a learning episode or receive feedback solely at the end of it. Designers should repeat exposure to functions from task to task, through the whole learning episode.
The characteristics are not independent of one another and the learning functions are not independent of another: expectations, attention and motivation are all related, so are comparison and hypothesis generation , and so are monitoring and feedback. If the designer wants to incorporate some ‘monitoring’ into a discussion task he should ask himself about how he plans to give ‘feedback’ or how he should encourage the learner to give himself feedback.
Any one characteristic may be activated by several functions and any one function may instantiated by several characteristics. For instance ‘Self-Regulation’, a characteristic, may be activated by more than one function e.g. Expectations, Monitoring, Comparison. Conversely ‘Comparison’ may activate both Constructive and Cumulative characteristics . This a reminder that although design is not ‘a hit and miss’ activity it is not an exact science either- a topic taken up below (See ‘Indirectness of Design’).
Indirectness of Design
There is an important distinction between task and activity in the design of online discussions. The task is what the designer designs and develops. The activity, however, is what the learner engages in as a response to that task. There is no guarantee that a learner will respond to a task in the way the designer intends. The relationship between a task and the learner’s subsequent cognitive activity (and ultimately the learning outcomes) is, therefore, probabilistic. The designer devises tasks, based on the best advice available, so as to increase the probability of certain cognitive activities/effects. The designer, however, cannot be certain of the effect (Dillenbourg 1999:6-7). Novice designers may find this disheartening but it is, perhaps, fortuitous. If learners are to be responsible for their own learning then part of that includes allowing them the latitude to interpret learning tasks in the light of their own goals and needs. It is, also, fortuitous for another reason. It is an important reminder of how subsequent moderation of online discussion tasks can help ‘correct’ learner responses unanticipated at the design stage.
Design and Moderation
Moderation refers to tutor-led3 activities such as welcoming, bridge-building, task and process facilitation (Salmon 1998: 5). A discussion task’s effectiveness depends partly on design, partly on its moderation (Goodyear et al 2003 16-7). Discussion tasks, for instance, may explicitly ask students to read and reflect on the their peers’ contributions. If, when the tutor contributes, he is careful always to refer to earlier contributions4 then he models, thru moderation, the behaviour required of the student. This modelling whether it is of ‘suitable diction’, ‘relevant question’[s] or ‘legitimate behaviour’ (Brown et al. 1989: 34) is a powerful reinforcement of the design instruction (Painter et al. 2003: 165-7).
Design and Purpose
Online discussions can have various purposes. One might, legitimately, design a discussion to encourage critical or creative thinking, or as a way of conveying information on domain or procedural matters, or as a question and answer forum, or for the social benefits (Goodyear et al 2003 16) it offers such as validating experience, or simply to support students in just one component of their studies, say the Assignment (Painter et al. 2003: 161-2). These purposes are not mutually exclusive but some choices have to be made. These should be made consciously at the outset.
Design and Participation
Even with well designed discussions (Painter et al. 2003: 162-8), participation in online discussions can be disappointing ( Goodyear et al 2003: 17). Participation seems to increase when it is linked to assessment- a strategic student response (Goodyear et al 2003: 1) -, when moderation is insightful, frequent and sensitive, when there is ‘an emphasis on dialogue’ (Salmon 1998: 4), and when there is some degree of student ownership (Painter et al. 2003: 160, 164). Useful strategies for encouraging dialogue are: acknowledging, agreeing, approving (Painter et al. 2003: 164).
Design and Learner-Empowerment
Some research claims that up to 80% of verbal exchanges in the classroom are attributable to the teacher. There is evidence to suggest, however, that learners who are too shy to contribute in the classroom, feel more empowered to do so online (Jonassen 1996: 172, 179). In this regard, Shuell has a useful list of learner-initiated activities for each function/process (Shuell 1992: 31). Useful design strategies for empowerment in online discussions are: designing tasks that require students to talk about themselves, their experiences, their feelings and their goals, that encourage students to take responsibility (e.g. to put topics on the agenda, getting students or past students to act as moderators) (Salmon 1998: 6; Jonassen 1996: 176), and designing collaborative tasks. Most of the design precepts in this paper are stated in such a way as to emphasise the activity desired of the learner rather than of the designer. Design therefore can contribute greatly to empowerment but, like participation, it too is partly dependent on moderation.
- Brown, JS, Collins, A & Duguid, P (1989) Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 32–42
- Dillenbourg, P (1999) What do you mean by ‘collaborative learning’? In P. Dillenbourg (Ed) Collaborative learning: cognitive and computational approaches Amsterdam: Pergamon
- Goodyear, P, Jones, C, Asensio, M, Hodgson, V & Steeples, C (2003) Constructing the ‘good’ e-learner. Proceedings of the 10th Biennial European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Conference, Padova, Italy
- Goodyear, P (2001) Psychological foundations for networked learning. In C Steeples & C Jones (Eds) Networked learning: perspectives and issues. London: Springer
- Grogan, G (2005): Can asynchronous online discussions be designed to produce meaningful learning? Available at http://www.elearningeuropa.info
- Jonassen, D (1996) Computer-mediated communication: connecting communities of learners. Chapter 7 in Computers in the classroom: mindtools for critical thinking. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Merrill, Prentice Hall
- Painter, C, Coffin, C & Hewings, A (2003) Impacts of directed tutorial activities in computer conferencing: a case study. Distance Education, 24 (2), 159–174
- Salmon, G (1998) Developing learning through effective online moderation. Active Learning 9, 3–8
- Shuell, T. (1992). Designing instructional computing systems for meaningful learning. In M. Jones & P. Winne (Eds.), Adaptive Learning Environments. New York: Springer Verlag.
Quotes: “Learners who are too shy to contribute in the classroom, feel more empowered to do so online”1. Shuel gives this as a description of cognitive conceptions or characteristics of learning but it seems to apply equally well to his own work.
2. The learning function are expectations, motivation, prior knowledge Activation, Attention, encoding, comparison, hypothesesis generation, repetition, feedback, evaluation, monitoring and combination-integration-synthesis.
3. Sometimes discussions can be moderated by students.
4. He may adopt a convention for doing this such as cutting and pasting into his contribution the contribution which he is going to use as his point of departure (Painter et al. 2003: 167)
At least, one should consider that when we move from access to learning to access to (e)learning we must take into account at least six different dimensions:
- access to information on learning, meaning access to information on the available learning opportunities within the formal and, most importantly, the informal education settings;
- access to teaching, meaning access to what is considered traditional classroom-based learning (but not only to that, since teaching takes place informally also);
- access to infrastructure and resources, meaning access to ICTs, learning materials, to the Internet;
- access to studying facilities, meaning physical or virtual access to formal/non-formal/informal learning settings;
- access to learning catalysts, in terms of access to services such as guidance, counselling and orientation;
- access to learning support, in terms of human or machine-driven support services such as tutoring or mentoring;
- access to learning motivation, meaning access to what can motivate your learning experience (from certification to peer recognition), and finally access to funding, in terms of access to the economic support needed to take part in an eLearning experience.
To understand the relation between eLearning and access, a survey has been conducted in March 2005 among more than 2.000 CEDEFOP’s Electronic Training Village users, whose results deserve some reflection. In the respondents view, the beneficial effects of eLearning on excluded groups have yet to be fully realised, although there is a widespread belief that in time this will improve. Furthermore, increased access to learning is mainly grounded on quality of course content and delivery (via better trained teachers) while interestingly the role of ICT – either in terms of better software packages or ICT equipment – was judged to be less important. Then, in policy terms, the majority view seems to be that eLearning policies and initiatives have only a limited impact on achieving greater participation in education and training.
One of the more interesting findings is that, when it comes to the effect of ICT for learning on “excluded groups”, 49% of respondents believed that so far that the effect of e-Learning had been to offer more opportunities to disadvantaged groups for accessing learning, a further 38% thought it offered about the same level of opportunity, and interestingly still 13% thought that there were fewer opportunities. Here the concept of learning divide comes into the picture, e.g. the possibility that while facilitating access to the ones that would be learning anyway, ICT is diminishing the access possibilities for the people that are now excluded from learning. This is mainly due to the fact that eLearning is supported by a media, the Internet, that may constitute a strong exclusion factor (the well known digital divide) to be added to the classics ones (age, poverty, illiteracy and so on).
This exclusive potential raises exponentially if an eLearning initiative is not associated with e-government and e-inclusion services, and if it is not strongly supported by stakeholders and decision makers, especially at local level. According to the participants to the CEDEFOP survey, the risk that e-Learning policies and initiatives actually increase social divide exist, mainly due to lack of co-ordination of interventions, lack of systematic consultation by decision makers and end-users, and emphasis on European competitiveness rather than equity and inclusiveness.
A very similar conclusion has been drawn by Neil Selwyn of the Cardiff School of Social Sciences 2, in his investigation on whether ICT is producing more participation in Lifelong Learning: ICT has managed to “go deeper” more effectively than “to go wider”: people already endowed with an attitude to learning and already committed to learning through life have increased their participation thanks to ICT, but the most disadvantaged categories have not.
The HELIOS research results are not far from this: if a synthetic answer is to be drawn to the question “is e-learning improving access to learning opportunities?” that would be “Not enough, but it might do better if certain conditions are fulfilled”.
But which are these conditions?
In terms of policy, awareness should be raised towards the fact that eLearning per se cannot be the one size fits all solution, and that it is definitively not enough to promote access to learning if this is not associated to a clear vision and to an inclusive policy, which takes into consideration and attempts to tackle at once several factors contributing to deprivation, such as: employment deprivation, income deprivation, health deprivation and disability, education, skills and training deprivation, housing deprivation, geographical access to services, crime exposure, physical environment. More specifically, dialogue should be promoted between those who are in charge of training devoted to disadvantaged groups and those dealing with e-Learning policy, design and provision.
In terms of eLearning provision, the consolidation of few global players should not lead to dominance of a few common languages in teaching or reproduce the dominance of certain cultures upon others; effort should be put on the other hand to support new frontiers of e-learning such as bottom-up production of content and open content. In the same direction, establishment of partnerships, coordination of resources and actions in the field, although challenging, would greatly improve the effectiveness of public resources and increase the impact and visibility of the implemented actions.
Since in e-learning motivation is key, activities should be oriented at “making learning attractive” particularly towards those who are not used to learn. In this respect, capitalising prior learning, enhancing self-esteem and dignity of learners, valuing successful informal and non-formal learning experiences which took place through e-Learning are fundamental in spurring their motivation when approaching to, or getting back to a learning experience, be it mediated by ICT or not.
To know more about the relation between eLearning and access to education and training, please visit the Report section of the HELIOS site.1. The present analysis is mainly based on the finding of the 1st HELIOS Thematic Report on “eLearning and Access”. HELIOS is an integrated research and development project, funded under the e-Learning programme of the European Commission aiming to establish a sustainable observation platform to monitor the progress of e-Learning in Europe vis-à-vis policy objectives and to forecast future scenarios of e-Learning evolution.
2.  N. Selwyn, “ICT in Adult Education: Defining the Territory”, 2003, http://www.literacyonline.org/ICTconf/
Project learning belongs to alternative teaching forms, which are in connection with the application of Frame learning program for primary education appearing in the actual school practice more and more often. One of the main advantages of project learning is represented by interconnecting of subject links among subjects a particular project corresponds with. The pupils themselves better remember the subject matter which fits in the complex, they connect knowledge of more subjects, they are able to use new acquired experience in practice, their relationship to the co-investigators is enhanced, etc. In the framework of project learning the so-called "blended learning" is used very often. It is a term indicating a so-called "blended education", i.e. a combination of full-time learning supported by ICT.
Undoubtedly, most of you have worked with blended learning already, without actually realizing it. A combination of full-time learning and e-learning complements is used at small, middle-sized (SME) as well as big firms, schools and other state institutions.
Most frequently, a blend (blending) takes place in our lessons when we work with a CD-ROM containing an educational content. For example, when I want to find some information quickly. However, how to start with blended learning?
An ideal start is realizing what I can do, what kind of information I am working with and if I am an educator I need to realize what and how I want to teach my students. The next important stage is to realize the individual important aspects of blended learning and to answer the most important questions. In fact, it is necessary to solve the following scheme for your needs.
DECISIVE COMPONENTS OF BLENDED LEARNING (koláč)
(F. Douglis, ETD San Diego State University)
If we have substantiated the individual components of blended learning we can try its actual realization - e.g. in the environment of primary schools with the use of project learning.
An example of an interesting project using blended learning, project method and critical thinking is the "Flying over Europe” project (“Letem světem po Evropě") done by Veronika Krejčí, Trávník Primary School, Přerov). This project, which is realized at the 5th grade of Primary school, is focused on the basic characteristics of selected countries in Europe.
I. Motivation of the project
The “Flying across Europe” project came from the presumption that the pupils of 5th grade are independent and able to do critical work with information, individually create notes and work with note apparatus. That is why they will be able to work up their own projects focused on selected European states, which they already have some basic information about. The teacher therefore gave the pupils about a month’s time for their individual preparation and processing the topics (they worked in pairs) while the realization of the project itself, which means the responsibility for the success of the project, too, was cared for by the pupils. Filming the „papers“ on a digital camera also motivated the pupils.
II. Aids, tools for presentation and tools for searching information
The pupils used textbooks, atlases, books and other information publications, which were in the public library to look up information. The Internet was also an important tool, which they used especially for full-text searching of information (which they continued to work with later). At the presentation the pupils used maps, pictures and photographs, music samples, slides, tasting of food, etc. Among other tools there was a big folding map of Europe (the individual states can be separated and you can work with them further), pelmanisms of the capitals, states and flags, flags that can be pinned to the map of Europe. The pupils themselves took part in making the map, too. They were learning to put the map on the contour plan. Now they are able to lay the states as a blind map.
III. Project realization
In the initial preparation part the pupils were individually searching for information according to the teacher’s instructions. They were using the public library to obtain information about European countries, they were working actively with the Internet. At the work with sources of information it was necessary to teach the pupils to separate the essential and inessential information. The pupils were learning to process excerpts from exercise books, other books and Internet resources and at the same time every text went through a critical correction. For example, texts from the Internet, which were a few pages long, were abbreviated and maximally simplified in such a way that they would contain the most important information. The pupils then were obtaining other information from their parents, relatives and acquaintances who supported the projects. The pupils were working in pairs (cooperation), sorting out and ranging information and making their own reports. They knew the structure of the individual topics from the previous lessons – they made their own outline for the presentation of the most essential information and at the same time they knew from their teachers what to focus on. The Internet provided a great advantage to the pupils, especially its full-text search. The activity of the pupils was supported by their parents because at searching of the information the pupils were actively working with the computer and they did not limit their activity on playing computer games only, so the cooperation of the pupils and parents deepened. The relationships deepened also when the pupils and their parents prepared spaghetti as a typical Italian food. Then the whole class had the opportunity to taste it.
IV. The project outcomes
The pupils prepared presentations about each country, which were 15 to 45 minutes long. The presentations were enriched in picture material (photographs, but also pictures which they drew themselves), sound recordings, slide shows and so on.
During the presentation the presenting pair of pupils controlled and lead the whole class which worked together with them. The realized project contained basic characteristic information on the countries, structured according to the teacher’s recommendation. In addition to the basic information they also contained some characteristic features of the cultures of the particular country, e.g. the national meal, anthem, specific music or some cultural phenomenon (e.g. Korida, famous personalities, traditions, etc.) The pupils also presented whether the particular country is a part of the EU, if they have accepted the EURO as their currency, etc.
Every realized presentation of the project had to motivate the other pupils, provide some feedback and keep the attention of the other listeners. That means that there was interaction in the lessons. The pupils got the assigned tasks (calculate, find in the map, crosswords, tests, looking for the meanings of the words, e.g. Slovak – Czech, Polish – Czech), etc.). The speakers guaranteed fulfilling the tasks. The outlet of the project is an archive of a big amount of picture, textual, music and digital materials, which will be used further. Today, a multimedia CD-ROM is being prepared which will sum up the most important parts of the project and will contain the video recordings of the project, too.
The project was recorded by a digital video camera, i.e. it was digitally archived. The recordings of the project were used in the prepared CD-ROM and also presented to the pupils at the end of the whole project.
V. Project and RVPPZV
In the framework on the project, interconnecting of the subject links of the integrated subject of National history and geography with the other subjects, especially Czech language, music education, art, mathematics, etc. took place. The children often practised their presentations outside the lessons, which is what RVP is counting with, too – some days will be focused on project exclusively.
The realized project supports healthy self-confidence and ambitions of the pupils, develops the pupils´ cooperation and independence. It correlates also with the outlets of the Framework educational programme for primary education (both in the areas of key competencies and the cross-sectional topics) -work with information technologies, critical thinking, education of Europeanism, environmental education, etc.
Where to find a project: http://cesky-jazyk.upol.cz/evropa/
Some pictures by children
Douglis, F. Blended Learning: Choosing the Right Blend. Online: http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/blendlearning/index.htm
How to design effective learning opportunities? Why is learning by experience often more efficient than learning by studying? How to provide the learning experiences needed to respond to current challenges? Using computer games and games in general for learning purposes offers a variety of knowledge presentations and creates opportunities to apply the knowledge within a virtual world, thus supporting and facilitating the learning process.
Why do we choose games for learning?
Why do we play games in the first place? To have fun, to immerse into an imaginary world, to take the challenge and outsmart the opponents and/or win, etc. There are probably as many slightly different reasons to play games as there are players.
When we have a look at the games within the learning context as opposed to the activity only for the leisure time, we have learners’ and teachers’ perspective of using games for learning. From the learners’ point of view using a game for learning can have various meanings, e.g. learning and having fun, taking the challenge and achieve better score, trying out different roles, being able to experiment and seeing what happens, being able to express the feelings, be able to reflect about certain conflict situation, etc.
From the teachers’ perspective, we choose to use games for learning to reach a new generation of learners with a medium they are used to interact with from their childhood. We can offer a game for introducing a new learning topic thus raising the learners’ interest for this topic, or as a complementary activity for many other reasons, e.g. to create a complex learning opportunity, to increase the motivation of learners, to offer another way of interaction and communication.
Games can also be used for personal development and to improve self esteem of the player i.e. learner. In some cases, games can help to establish dialogue and break social and cultural boundaries. For disabled people games can offer opportunity to experience the world in a way that majority of us take as granted.
Key characteristics of game-based learning
There are many different definitions of games. However the main characteristics that all these definitions have in common are: presence of rules, and clear and predefined objective that has to be reached within the game. Most of the games have also competitive elements (as opposed to some games like e.g. Sims, where the social skills are in foreground.)
Within the games there is a close link between action and instantaneous feedback. Learners are able to asses their own activities and see how they are doing i.e. are able to evaluate their decisions and taken courses of actions. One of the game characteristics is challenge, keeping in mind that challenge should match the skill level of the student and permanently adapt through the different levels of the game. Introduction of unexpected of novel events learners is additionally motivating to play the game and acquire new skills and knowledge.
Successful learning opportunities by means of games can be created when following the constructivist learning theory, where ‘constructivist’ means an exploratory approach to learning. Major characteristics of the constructivist approach are, among others, interaction, coping with problems, understanding of the whole, etc. From the constructivist point of view learners are active participants in knowledge acquisition, and engaged in restructuring, manipulating, re-inventing, and experimenting with knowledge to make it meaningful, organized, and permanent.
Benefits of game-based learning
With using games we can influence motivation and engagement of the learners in a positive way. Games offer also a secure and contextual environment that foster different skill acquisition. Basic skill level starts with eye-hand coordination skills and continues to more complex skills e.g. problem solving skills, communication and collaboration skills, strategic thinking skills, social skills. In game-like learning environment, learning by doing, active learning and experiential learning step in foreground.
Most researchers conceptualise learning as a multidimensional construct of learning skills, cognitive learning outcomes, such as procedural, declarative and strategic knowledge, and attitudes. The game based learning model is used in some areas of formal education very successfully, in particular, in military, medicine, business, physical, etc. training. In many cases application of serious games and simulations for learning means an opportunity for learners’ to apply acquired knowledge and to experiment, get feedback in form of consequences thus getting the experiences in the “safe virtual world”. There are specific educational domains where game-based learning concepts and approaches have a high learning value. These domains are interdisciplinary topics where skills such as critical thinking, group communication, debate and decision making are of high importance. Such subjects, if learned in isolation, often cannot be applied in real world contexts.
Process of choosing games for learning
There are many different off the shelf games that can be used in the learning context. There are also possibilities of using low tech solutions for playing games like e-learning platforms, forums or chat. But which game to use? and how to choose the game in the first place.
The first question that has to be answered is “What do we want that learners learn?” Based on the learning objectives we can choose games that we want to use for the classes. To improve factual knowledge of the learner, we can introduce quiz games, e.g. Al Morale’s game show presenter. In the area of learning objectives related to social interaction, games that involve many players, e.g. strategic or role play games can be applied. The innovative UniGame game classification that is based on learning goals, outlines in detail required game features and related games that help to achieve the different learning goals.
Part of the process of choosing games for learning includes also consideration of various constraints and opportunities in the learning setting, e.g. size of the student group, technical possibilities for students, ICT skills of students (as well as ICT skills of teacher), licensing policy, sustainability, etc.
Systematic approach of introducing the game based learning and/or implementing their own game ideas is described in the book “Guidelines for Game-Based Learning”.
You are not alone: the community of practice SIG-GLUE
Want to try out new concepts but you have lack of ideas or you are not really sure how and where to start? You can check good practice examples in SIG-GLUE, a community of practice about game base learning.
SIG-GLUE stands for Special Interest Group for Game-based Learning in Universities and Lifelong Learning. Essential focus of the SIG-GLUE is to foster exchange of good practice in game-based learning and innovative learning approaches as well as promotion of game-based learning approach per se.
Apart from discussions within the working groups, SIG-GLUE offers also other resources, e.g. library, glossary of game-based learning, etc. Separate module is focused on games and provides collection of games, game providers, interesting game links, actors in this area, etc.
SIG-GLUE is an open community, where everyone is invited and welcome to participate, contribute and organise an activity.
Many thanks to everyone involved in the UniGame and SIG-GLUE projects for their contributions and fruitful discussions that contributed to the progress of the projects.
UniGame: Game-based Learning in Universities and Lifelong Learning. is a Minerva Project: 101288-CP-1-2002-1-AT-MINERVA-M.
SIG-GLUE: Special Interest Group for Game-based Learning in Universities and Lifelong Learning is an EC eLearning initiative Project (Agreement No: 2003-4704/001-001 EDU ELEARN).
The Organization for Economic Co-peration and Development (OECD) has recently published the Document Online Computer and Video Games. The Report analyses the Computer Game Industry, including business models, the drivers and the barriers to development, and Policy recommendations.
Dondi C., Moretti M.: Survey on online game-based learning. Retrieved 18. 05. 2005, from http://www.unigame.net/html/case_studies/D1.pdf
Pivec M., Koubek A., Dondi C., (Eds.): Guidelines for Game-Based Learning (Pabst Science Publishers, 2004, ISBN 3-89967-193-7)
Pivec M., Dziabenko O.: Game-Based Learning in Universities and Lifelong Learning:
"UniGame: Social Skills and Knowledge Training" Game Concept. J.UCS , Vol.10 (2004) Issue 1, pp. 4 – 16 http://www.jucs.org/jucs_10_1/game_based_learning_in
Prensky M: Digital Game-based Learning. McGraw-Hill 2001.
SIG-GLUE: Special Interest Group for Game-based Learning in Universities and Lifelong Learning; project web-page. Retrieved 15. 03. 2005, from (http://www.sig-glue.net)
UniGame: Game-based Learning in Universities and Lifelong Learning; project web-page. Retrieved 15. 03. 2005, from (http://www.unigame.net)
At present, the majority of German schools are only open until midday, but they are soon to remain open until 5 pm. Students will spend more time learning in school, and the German government wants them to do so for the most part through internet and new media. The final decision depends on each federal Land, but the general trend is moving in this direction.
We spoke to Ursula Esser, Head of the International Unit of Schulen ans Netz, an initiative that was launched in 1996 to connect the 34,000 German schools to internet. This objective having nearly been reached, Schulen ans Netz is currently developing a series of innovative pedagogical and didactic programs to help teachers use new technology in daily schoolwork in a critical manner.
How will the extension of school hours be organised?
We want to offer material through internet that the teachers can use with their students in the afternoons. Furthermore, students will not continue in their usual classes, but will join groups divided according to specific topics. For instance, if a student has problems with mathematics or languages, he/she can attend the courses offered in the afternoon on those topics. We want students to spend their afternoons learning through new technologies.
How do you approach teaching students through the ICT?
We have developed the ‘Medien Konzept’ philosophy. This consists in the students making a portfolio of their knowledge in new media, such that if a new teacher walks into the classroom, he/she can see, for instance, that those students have already worked on mathematics with Excel, and for languages, they have used such and such a function of Word. Work with the media can be documented. In addition, students will receive a certificate when they graduate indicating their knowledge of the new technologies.
What type of training on new technologies do you provide to teachers?
The majority of teachers in Germany are slightly older and there is a certain sentiment of rejection of new technologies. At times, students know how to apply the new media better than their teachers and conflicts arise. Many of the teachers rejecting the use of new technologies in their classroom cannot see what value they contribute. Our task is to demonstrate the existence of added value, and that is why we offer the service, Weblotsen (web guides), which consists of having a team of trainers travelling throughout Germany and providing training. In the first phase, they travelled to all German Länder, and now we are especially addressing the ‘multipliers’, which are the school directors, the administrators and information technology teachers, that is, people who can train the remaining teaching staff.
I suppose you also do more specific training...
Yes, we do. For example, we have a workshop that lasts a day or two where teachers learn how eTwinning functions and how to work with internet using portals. We teach them how to create a ‘virtual’ class, how to organise a website and things of this sort. In the second part of the workshop, they reflect on the intercultural aspects of bi-national projects. Furthermore, we have developed the portal, Lehrer Online (www.lehrer-online.de ), with many pedagogical resources for all sorts of schools and subjects.
Do many teachers use the portals of Schulen ans Netz?
Thousands of teachers connect with our portal every day. And we have ascertained that they use our portals from their homes more than from school, which means that schools do not yet offer the facilities they need. There is still not enough equipment at the schools. Germany has a certain level of equipment, but it is not enough. More resources must be invested.
I believe that in Germany, gender issues have been worked on a great deal.
Yes, that’s true. We have created the portal, leanet, designed for female teachers, for women involved in the field of education. The portal motivates them to connect to internet and offers them courses, materials, information in the field of education and an account for their personal electronic mail. We have also created Lizzynet, a portal for women where users can create discussion groups on certain topics or create their own page to introduce themselves personally. These services are used a great deal.
Are schools motivated to create digital content?
In Germany, the number of students is decreasing and the schools have to demonstrate how attractive they are. This situation favours the creation of good websites. Practically all secondary schools have a website where they present their projects and activities. At Schulen ans Netz, we have developed a tool that is very easy to use for schools to create their own websites. It is called Primolo, and it is above all for primary schools.
And what role does the technological aspect play in all of this?
Our concept is that the information technology infrastructure must be outside of schools, so that they need not concern themselves with matters beyond their pedagogical task. We therefore try to have the information technology material located in other places, such as town halls or libraries.
You are the director of the international section of Schulen ans Netz. What do you offer teachers from other countries who are interested in making contacts?
We inform them of contents and educational trends in Germany. We also foster the exchange of ideas, know-how and new initiatives among European countries. It is very important to consider education – or rather learning – as something international, global. Furthermore, Schulen ans Netz is the National Support Service (NSS) of the eTwinning action, and we maintain close contact with the NSSs of other countries to put schools and their teachers in contact with one another. The information on our projects is available in English, French and Spanish.
Se inaugura hoy la edición de 2005 de Online Educa Madrid, como puente de enlace, entre Europa y América, para pasar revista al estado de integración de las tecnologías de información y comunicación en nuestros sistemas educativos y para avanzar en común, colaborando en la búsqueda de las mejores estrategias para su aportación eficaz a la innovación educativa y la mejora de los procesos de aprendizaje.
Buscamos como objetivos, la mejora de la calidad de la educación a través de las metodologías activas y cooperativas que facilitan las tecnologías y la formación de nuestros escolares en las herramientas que permitan su plena integración en nuestra sociedad del conocimiento. Destacamos entre las ventajas del conocimiento de esas herramientas la mejora de la capacidad para la formación permanente, que se viene haciendo ya imprescindible para todos, tanto profesional como socialmente.
Proponemos un incremento en la colaboración entre nuestras instituciones, compartiendo el resultado de nuestra investigación, nuestras experiencias y nuestros desarrollos.
Vamos a estudiar en estos días políticas educativas, estrategias y proyectos, materiales educativos en línea, materiales para la formación del profesorado, ideas innovadoras y preocupaciones sobre la implantación de las tecnologías en las aulas.
Entre estas preocupaciones está presente el distinto derecho de acceso a la educación de calidad para alumnos de distintas regiones de nuestros territorios y de distintas extracciones sociales y económicas. El acceso a las tecnologías de información y comunicación está empezando a ser generalizado en algunos países avanzados de nuestros continentes, mientras que en otros, tanto el equipamiento de escuelas y hogares, como las posibilidades de acceso a la comunicación en banda ancha, son apenas existentes. Los siguientes escalones de acceso, como la existencia de contenidos digitales disponibles en nuestras lenguas y relativos a nuestras culturas - que tanto tienen en común - y nuestros currículos, y la formación adecuada de nuestros profesores, serán también seguros temas de reflexión en estas jornadas.
En Europa la introducción de las tecnologías en los sistemas educativos está realizándose con distintos ritmos. Los indicadores empleados para medir esta integración hasta ahora en la Unión Europea han venido siendo de tipo cuantitativo, como ratio de alumnos por ordenador, porcentaje de centros educativos conectados, número de profesores formados. En el último Eurobarómetro de 2002, publicado por la Comisión Europea, sobre estos indicadores en los Quince, la media de alumnos por ordenador estaba en torno a los 9,3 y 16,9 si tenemos en cuenta sólo los ordenadores conectados a Internet. La distribución variaba fuertemente entre unos países y otros, estando en primer lugar los del Norte de Europa, donde se llegaba a una ratio de 4 alumnos por ordenador conectado, mientras que en algunos países del sur, esta ratio subía de 30. En estos países con una ratio alta hay además una gran desigualdad de equipamiento entre sus escuelas. Se iniciaba además un fenómeno en los países mejor equipados, de transferencia de los ordenadores, desde las aulas de informática hacia las aulas corrientes, a la vez que se remodelaban los espacios de los centros.
Aunque estos parámetros fueron tomados mediante encuestas de opinión a profesores y directores de escuelas europeas y no son por tanto objetivos, sirven para darse una idea aproximada de la situación. Otros estudios parecen indicar que la situación real en cuanto al acceso a las TIC en las aulas era algo menos favorable. En cuanto a la formación de los profesores, el 44% de los profesores europeos reconocía no haber recibido ningún tipo de formación en TIC. Un 91% de los profesores europeos declaraba tener ordenador en casa, pero sólo un 77% disponía de Internet. Las encuestas sobre la utilización en las aulas daban resultados bastante bajos para lo que parecían indicar los valores anteriores de equipamiento y formación, llegando la media de utilización de ordenadores en aula, por profesor y semana a 2,5 horas, en asignaturas distintas de Informática. Este parámetro desciende hasta 0,9 horas semanales si se trata del uso de Internet.
En los estudios puestos en marcha actualmente por la Comisión Europea se tiende a restar importancia a estos indicadores cuantitativos, al pensar que los indicadores orientados exclusivamente a las infraestructuras pueden contribuir a distorsionar políticas de inversión adecuadas en este campo. Los indicadores estudiados en adelante se orientarán preferentemente a los resultados educativos de las TIC, y a la integración de las TIC en los programas de enseñanza y aprendizaje. El próximo Eurobarómetro encargado por la Comisión deberá ser realizado dentro de este curso escolar. Las recomendaciones actuales de la Comisión Europea van en el sentido de englobar las políticas y estrategias sobre TIC en los objetivos educativos a largo plazo, asegurar nuevos servicios de apoyo a la educación, ayudar a los agentes educativos en el proceso de cambio y desarrollar la investigación, estableciendo nuevos indicadores y haciéndolos accesibles. La Comisión ha favorecido la identificación e intercambio de prácticas innovadoras de enseñanza-aprendizaje entre los Estados Miembros, organizando visitas entre Ministerios para su difusión y su evaluación entre pares.
Entre las preocupaciones actuales del Grupo de Trabajo sobre TIC de la Dirección General de Educación y Cultura de la Comisión Europea están:
- La falta de estudios suficientes que relacionen la frecuencia y la forma de uso de las TIC con la mejora de los procesos de aprendizaje;
- la consecución de infraestructuras bien desarrolladas, como requisito imprescindible para la participación plena en las nuevas metodologías de aprendizaje basadas en TIC;
- la obtención de datos sobre la integración de las TIC en el currículo de los países europeos y el tipo y frecuencia de su utilización;
- la distribución de presupuestos entre infraestructuras y recursos humanos, principalmente en lo que se refiere a la formación de los profesores.
Respecto a este último punto, las investigaciones recientes indican un cambio favorable en la tendencia, hacia una inversión mayor en recursos humanos, pero no hay todavía datos suficientes de la mayoría de los países.
En España la ratio actual está en torno a 11 alumnos por ordenador conectado en banda ancha, habiéndose conseguido en los últimos años acercar los niveles de infraestructuras entre regiones. La colaboración entre las administraciones central y autonómicas, dentro del Convenio Marco Internet en el Aula, ha conseguido además desarrollar recursos en línea para el currículo de los niveles de educación reglada. Otra importante actuación ha sido el incremento de la formación del profesorado en el uso pedagógico de las tecnologías. Se debe destacar principalmente esa colaboración eficaz entre todas las administraciones implicadas para compartir investigación y desarrollos, aprovechando economías de escala.
El Centro Nacional de Información y Comunicación Educativa es la unidad del Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia encargada del desarrollo de la integración de las TIC. Ha coordinado las actuaciones del Ministerio en materia de nuevas tecnologías desde el curso 84-85, almacenando en sus equipos humanos y en sus desarrollos la experiencia de estos veinte años de labor innovadora. El CNICE mantiene un portal educativo en el que están registrados 130.000 profesores, centros educativos y alumnos adultos de enseñanza abierta y a distancia. Estos usuarios reciben del portal acceso a Internet, correo electrónico, correo web, foros, y espacio web para poder publicar sus experiencias y desarrollos. El número de visitas mensuales que recibe este portal es de 1.250.000. Entre otros contenidos, se mantienen en el portal recursos para el aula correspondientes a las enseñanzas de Secundaria Obligatoria y Bachillerato, y se están produciendo, en colaboración con las Consejerías de Educación de las Comunidades Autónomas, los recursos para Infantil, Primaria y Ciclos de Formación Profesional. Este desarrollo de contenidos para la educación reglada se enmarca dentro del convenio Internet en el Aula, en el que la Administración Central (Ministerios de Industria, Turismo y Comercio y Educación y Ciencia) y las Administraciones Autonómicas colaboran en el progreso significativo de equipamiento y comunicaciones en las aulas, la disponibilidad de contenidos y aplicaciones educativas y la formación del profesorado.
En cuanto a datos de formación, en este momento el servicio de formación de profesores del CNICE tiene matriculados 16.500 alumnos, atendidos por 360 tutores, en 34 cursos distintos relacionados con la aplicación educativa de las tecnologías, a través de convenios con 11 comunidades autónomas.
Nuestro Programa MENTOR, de formación abierta y a distancia de adultos tiene matriculados a lo largo del curso 2004-2005, 16.250 alumnos, en 103 cursos distintos, con un plantel en activo de 260 tutores, y 336 aulas MENTOR abiertas en todo el territorio nacional.
Nuestro Centro para la Investigación y el Desarrollo de la Educación a Distancia (CIDEAD) tiene 1200 alumnos cursando enseñanzas de Primaria, Secundaria Obligatoria y Bachillerato, con residencia en 70 países distintos. El próximo curso se incorporará a estas enseñanzas el Centro Virtual de Educación, plataforma desarrollada en el CNICE para facilitar a todos sus profesores y alumnos los servicios personalizados de información y comunicación necesarios para su interacción educativa.
Todas estas actuaciones serían estériles sin el importante esfuerzo de nuestros profesores, base fundamental del cambio en los procesos educativos, para estar al día en el manejo de las herramientas tecnológicas y en su aplicación pedagógica.
Finalmente quisiera destacar ese espíritu de colaboración mencionado antes entre las instituciones educativas europeas y entre las administraciones españolas en el desarrollo de la sociedad de la información en nuestras escuelas. Sé que hay también buenos ejemplos de colaboración entre instituciones educativas iberoamericanas en este sentido. Nos gustaría que este encuentro sirviera para incrementar ese trabajo en común.