Findings of the Teachers’ View about new Technologies and Inclusion Questionnaire proposed by ITD-CNR to approximately 300 Italian teachers show that the majority of them (75%) acknowledge that ICT tools and resources may have a great potential to foster and actualize inclusive practices in schools. Notwithstanding this, almost all of them declare that they still need specific information and guidance on how to choose and use the appropriate ICT products to these ends.
Two pilot research projects addressing these needs are presented in this paper. One is designed to provide teachers with full and effective information about the accessibility features of educational software. The other is oriented towards the dissemination of know-how and good practices to support the construction, sharing and reuse of “inclusive” pedagogical plans. Such projects have given birth to two specific online services respectively providing information on the accessibility features of educational multimedia products and bringing to light best practices in school inclusion.
The basic idea is, in fact, that the process of inclusion can be fostered by means of new technological tools, but in turn it requires changes and modifications in educational contents, approaches, structures and strategies.
One of the unique qualities of eTwinning lies in the existence of very active support services at both National and European Level provided by the National Support Service (NSS) and the Central Support Service (CSS), as well as a number of built in incentives for teachers in the form of quality labels.
The professional development programme for those involved in eTwinning includes workshops at both European and national level which provide a platform for teachers exchange and growth of good practice.
Core to the success of this action is the www.eTwinning.net portal, a highly sophisticated communications platform available in 20 languages and offering a wide range of specific tools for teachers.
Is eTwinning successful? The answer has to be yes when one examines the statistics in relation to numbers of schools and teachers registered. Teachers find it is an easy, non-bureaucratic way to realise projects together in a highly developed online platform.
Observing the e-Learning phenomenon: The case of school education. Analysing the transformative innovation of e-Learning
A lot of public spending took place, in the form of subsidies for the development of end-products or funding of pilot products (mainly off-line) at both the national and the European level. Nevertheless, although there are not any well-documented surveys regarding the returns in terms of quality and effectiveness of learning, it seems that these targeted content applications have been put to use only marginally in school curricula. In the meantime, the changes in digital content (business) models, brought about by the continuous enhancement of Internet-based services, which are revolutionising the content services markets, are further undermining the traditional paradigm of knowledge building at school (from a straightforward “push” to a blended “push-pull-push” model). This means that the availability of hardware (infrastructure) and the (sometimes) abundance of textbook-like digital content (the fallacy of “new” textbooks in the electronic era) do not appear to be sufficient to cater for advanced, enriched and innovative learning experiences, thus marginalising any returns on investments.
We have hereby considered three strategic evolution dimensions: that related to the decision-making processes (running of schools), that related to the accessibility level in relation to the achievement of a standard quality and, finally, the emerging inter-winning fields of professional teacher development and the value chain of content (knowledge) as it cuts across the traditional fragmentation between the “creator” and the “consumer” of “knowledge”.
In the final years of the process of pre-accession of Bulgaria to the European Union, the conditions for involving and efficient use of e-Learning in different educational institutions were significantly improved. The basic factors that positively influenced the improvement of the e-education index in Bulgaria could be summarised as follows: the participation of educational and research institutions in a lot of international projects; government policy; initiatives by universities, educational and research institutions; well-qualified experts in information and communication technologies, didactics, psychology and other subject areas that, with enthusiasm, add value to the development and dissemination of e-learning content.
Unfortunately, there are problems, such as lack of sufficient e-Learning content, especially in the humanity areas; insufficient preparation and readiness of university lecturers and school teachers to use e-Learning technologies; insufficient didactical readiness of teachers to use e-Learning technologies; lack of a regulatory system in schools and in some universities to stimulate school and university teachers to develop and use e-Learning content.
In our view, to overcome the above problems, a regulatory system has to be approved to stimulate, develop and use e-Learning content at all educational levels; good practices need to be disseminated; open-source software and e-learning environments with Bulgarian language interfaces should be popularised; joint research concerning the technological and didactical issues of e-Learning have to be conducted on a larger scale; and more universities should offer Master’s programmes in e-Learning education.
First of its kind
ICT has been introduced into the Nordic schools during the last 10-20 years. While many studies have analysed how and how often ICT is used in schools, hardly any studies have taken this analysis to the next level: What is the impact of ICT?
The inter-Nordic study E-learning Nordic 2006 focuses on the impact of ICT on education within three key areas:
- Pupil performance
- Teaching and learning processes
- Knowledge-sharing, communication and home-school co-operation.
ICT has a positive impact on the schools’ overall target
E-learning Nordic 2006 shows that ICT has a positive impact on the schools’ overall target – improving the pupils’ learning. However, the study also shows that the full potential of ICT is not being fully realized in many schools. Teachers are mostly focused on using ICT to support the subject content. Still, a positive impact of ICT on teaching is also seen on pupil engagement, differentiation, creativity and less waste of time. The study also shows that the preconditions for using ICT for knowledge sharing, communication and school-home co-operation are at hand, and ICT is indeed being used for this in many schools. However the positive impact of this is as yet only moderate.
Real life example: At Oslo Montessori Skole (a primary school in Norway) it is assessed that ICT specifically has an impact on pupils with special needs in the area of writing and reading. It is the school’s experience that ICT has been a valuable tool to support the concentration and motivation among this group of pupils.
Impact of ICT on Pupil Performance
The teachers assess that the impact of ICT is strongest on the pupils’ subject-related performance. However, a positive impact can also be seen on learning basic skills such as reading and writing. 60% of the teachers reported that they experience a moderate or high degree of positive impact of ICT on the pupils’ writing skills.
Also, teachers experience that ICT support differentiation both challenging the academically strong pupils in new ways or supporting the academically weak pupils so that they can more easily participate on equal terms with other pupils. Many teachers find that it is easier to differentiate their teaching with ICT than without.
Real life example: At Mörbyskolan (a primary school in Sweden) the pupils really like that they can manage their own learning to a much greater degree when using ICT. From the point of view of the teachers’ at Mörbyskolan, the computer is not seen as replacing the teacher, but supporting the pupils in new ways to be able, to a larger extent, to work in their own way.
Impact of ICT on Teaching and Learning Processes
Results from E-learning Nordic 2006 show that ICT generally has a positive impact on the teaching and learning situation. However, some people expected that ICT could in some ways revolutionise the teaching and learning processes at school, and compared with this view, the impact must be seen as more limited. ICT does not revolutionize teaching methods. The teachers are mostly focused on using ICT to support the subject content. However, the impact of integrating ICT in teaching can be measured in pupil engagement, differentiation and creativity.
It has been stated in the public debate – in for example Denmark – that a barrier to the integration of ICT has been that too much teaching time is wasted. The results of the study cannot support this argument, since the great majority of teachers do not experience that more teaching time is wasted with the integration of ICT.
Real life example: Oulun Lyseon Lukio (a secondary school in Finland), is a school with an advanced use of ICT. The teachers at the school emphasise, however the importance of that the focus remains on the subject of teaching itself. The choice to use ICT tools in education must be based on a sound analysis of whether the use actually can bring another dimension to the learning process.
Impact of ICT on Knowledge Sharing, Communication and school-home co-operation
E-learning Nordic 2006 shows that the use of ICT as an organizational tool has not yet fully matured. The preconditions for using ICT for knowledge-sharing, communication and school-home co-operation are at hand, and many schools, teachers, pupils and parents use the ICT infrastructure for informational and collaborative purposes. However, in spite of massive ICT-based communication within the teaching staff at many schools, the positive impact on co-operation and knowledge sharing is as yet only moderate.
Real life example: At Greve Gymnasium (a secondary school in Denmark), the headmaster finds that knowledge-sharing is not necessarily easier with ICT, but as the complexity of the school organisation and the management of daily activities increases, ICT is the only way to handle the intensified complexity.
The study shows that the potential of ICT is not being fully realized at all schools. To address this problem E-learning Nordic 2006 offers a number of recommendations for the future. A special key concern is the need for more focus on organizational implementation of ICT. If the potential impact of ICT in Nordic schools is to be further realised, school owners and management need to be more professional in their organisational implementation of ICT. Substantial investments in ICT have been made at both regional and local level, but often with no clear criteria for success and no structured monitoring of the benefits. At many schools, the situation can be compared to buying 10 new laptops and not un-wrapping them. For example, during the last few years a number of schools have invested in Learning Management Systems (LMS) with the ambition of improving education and knowledge-sharing. However, often the investments have not been accompanied by use of the new systems. Return on investment from ICT investments and ICT projects require a commitment to organisational implementation on the part of the school management. They must be visionary enough to initiate and continuously support the use of ICT as a strategic tool for developing the general ambitions of the school.
The E-learning Nordic 2006 study has been designed and launched as a partnership between the Finnish National Board of Education, the Swedish National Agency for School Improvement, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, the Danish Ministry of Education, and Ramboll Management.
Data collection in the study was based on an internet-based survey conducted among 224 schools in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark as well as 12 on-site school visits. More than 8000 persons participated in the survey. Respondents were pupils in the 5th and 8th grades in primary school and the 11th grade in secondary school, teachers in these grades, the pupils parents, as well as the headmasters at the participating schools.
Studying impact is methodologically difficult. The method chosen was to ask different key participants in Nordic schools about their personal experiences using ICT and their assessment of the impact of ICT. This methodology does not necessarily prove a direct link between the use of ICT and learning impact, but it uncovers the impact as it is perceived by the headmasters, teachers, pupils and the pupils’ parents.
- Ella Kiesa from the Finnish National Board of Education,
- Peter Karlberg from the Swedish National Agency for School Improvement,
- Øystein Johannesen from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research,
- Lilla Voss from the Danish Ministry of Education, and
- Sanya Pedersen at Ramboll Management.
Multigrade schools in Greece – result of necessity
In Greece multigrade schools are usually found in isolated rural areas, in small islands and in villages with rather shrunk population. Multigrade schools in Greece are a result of necessity rather than a pedagogical alternative practice. In their negative qualities often educational and research community mentions pressure of teaching time, non fair learning time per student compared to conventional schools, weakened antagonistic learning environment, absence of specialized teaching stuff (on music, foreign languages, sports, ICT, arts etc).
But there is a range of positive qualities that have to be pointed out, such as more coherent relations between students and teacher, faster and more effective socialization, stronger bonds with the local community, development of self-adjustment and self-learning skills, adaptability on a more demanding environment.
The reasons why multigrade schools can not be abolished is multiple and multi-rational: social reasons demand that population will be kept on its position and further expansion of urban centres will be avoided. Pedagogical reasons demand that students will avoid the trouble of daily long routes to more central schools, losing valuable time. The current tensions in Greece regarding multigrade schools’ possible evolutions are:
- Abolishment when there is no further local population of school age.
- Merge of two multigrade schools.
- Merge of a multigrade school and the closest monograde school.
- Reduction of multigrade school into a multigrade school with less teachers appointed, due to the recession of students’ number.
- Upgrade of multigrade school (=more teachers appointed in school which results to improvement of the ratio “teacher per grades) due to students’ number augmentation
From the total of approximately 5800 primary education schools in Greece, 2558 are multigrade, meaning that they function with less than six appointed teachers per school (whereas there are six grades: from A (7 years old students) to F (12 years old students)). More than 1300 schools function with less than 20 students as a total number of all grades. In percentage 40% of primary schools in Greece are multigrade. The current valid system in Greece demands 25 students for each appointed teacher.
There is a legislated way of grades division per teacher:
|1 teacher school|| Teaches all six grades (A,B,C,D,E,F) |
|2 teacher school||1st Teacher teaches A+C+D |
2nd teacher teaches B+E+F
|3 teacher school||1st Teacher teaches A+B |
2nd teacher teaches C+D
3d teacher teaches E+F
|4 teacher school||1st Teacher teaches A |
2nd teacher teaches B
3d teacher teaches C+D
4th teacher teaches E+F
|5 teacher school||1st Teacher teaches A |
2nd teacher teaches B
3d teacher teaches C+D
4th teacher teaches E
5th teacher teaches F
Of course the above are directly correlated to the number of students per grade. For example if there are only 10 students studying in A grade and 10 in grade B, while there are only 2 students in grade C and 2 in grade D a division A+B for first teacher and C+D for second teacher would not be feasible.
Current problemtics in multigrade schools
- There are no specially designed multigrade school books.
Multigrade school’s teacher teaches the same books that are taught in conventional schools, in other words, ministry of education has not produced specially designed books to copy with the special needs and conditions of multigrade schools.
- There is no specially organized multigrade curriculum
In a multigrade school, curriculum follows the conventional school curriculum with changes as far as teaching time available for each subject is concerned. That means that multigrade teachers teach the same objects as in a monograde school with the differentiation of the parameter of week time per subject.
- The factor of synchronous teaching of more than one grade
What gives the quintessence of a multigrade class is the coexistence of more than one grade (of both age and level) in the same class. So, a multigrade teacher is expected to address his/her teaching to more than one grade at the same time. In that way, there are two viable conditions that may be produced: one is the synchronous teaching of more than one grade. In that way, a teacher treats all grades that he co-teaches as one homogeneous grade.
- The factor of time pressure
Time is the most crucial factor of difficulty during multigrade teaching. Teacher has to address teaching procedure to more than one student’s target group. He/she also has to make edges meet as far as teaching time that analogically is referred to each group. Most importantly, he/she is expected to find a method to exploit student’s time when he/she is not directly addressing to them. Than can be achieved with a range of theoretically established methods, such as self-learning activities, peer-learning etc.
- The factor of dead time
One of the greatest challenges of multigrade teaching is dealing with what pedagogical theory studying multigrade schools is referring to as “dead time”. That term is eloquently mentioned to the situation emerging when multigrade teacher excludes some present student’s level from his teaching, specially addressing it to a specified target group. The excluded group then faces the parameter of “dead teaching and learning time”, unless teacher is adequately prepared to guide them into alternative learning procedures.
ICT and multigrade teaching
ICT is essential for education in general. But in case of multigrade school can be the absolutely irreplaceable solution. ICT have a multiple role in multigrade schooling: a) ICT and teaching, b) ICT and teacher’s training, c) ICT and administration. ICT use demands and pre-requires special tools and methodology:
a) ICT and teaching. For student’s training there is a wide range of educational software, of educational internet portals and also of original digital material developed by a specially trained teacher.
b) ICT and teacher’s training. For teacher’s training there are special on distance seminars training them how to achieve best use and implementation of ICT as a teaching tool or as a learning object. Distance training can only use ICT to train teachers on a very different aspect, e.g teaching methodology for multigrade schools. Distance education is of great importance for multigrade schools, since it allows in situ training and school can remain open and functioning.
c) For teacher’s administrative duties ICT can again be of capital importance. Archives, student’s files, grades, statistics, annual curriculum, scheduling holidays can all be easily handled with the help of specially developed software.
EE official expected ratio for 2006 is one PC for every 20 students. That can cause severe problems for Greek multigrade schools, since many of them function with less than 20 students. It would be a safer measurement to create a second alternative ratio of PC per teachers. ICT enrollment requires a range of necessary factors. In this point, it is worthy to mention the Greek project “Society of Information” which aims to train all Greek teachers of primary and secondary education in ict educational use. Factors that obstruct ICT enrollment could be summoned up to the following points: cost of equipment, cost of equipment’s maintenance, cost of teacher’s training, ICT lab (existence of an adequate extra available classroom), helpdesk to solve technical difficulties, pedagogical methodologies of ICT best practices as far as educational implementation is concerned. One of the major problems that hinders ICT enrollment maybe is retrogressive mentality according to which technology impedes teacher’s work adding difficulties to an already demanding task. So, one of the essential things to be done for ICT best possible educational implementations is to try and persuade this portion of reluctant teachers that ICT can be there best ally.
ICT can be implemented in a variety of methods in classroom routine:
- A simple way would be to transform books into e-books.
- Another suggestion would be to create a functional, palpable data basis with titles of tested and suggested educational software.
- An other viable suggestion would be Distance teaching and training exploiting all ICT’s available tools and introducing them into teaching routine
- Asynchronous teaching is also feasible via specially designed internet educational portals
- ICT can be a powerful tool for multimedia teaching
All the above, combined according teacher’s, students’ and schools’ needs can develop a harmonic cooperation of ict-centered teaching and traditional teaching.
ICT and multigrade implementations
ICT can be the best method:
- To train teachers how to develop their own educational interactive material,
- For teachers to develop this educational material
There are dozens of software that support web design and simple java programming. With no great or time consuming training, a teacher with accented initiative and improvisation skills can create his/her own original educational material. This material can be available in
- School’s intranet lab
- School’s server and accessed via internet
- Classroom’s PC and accessed via cd rom
This material can be uploaded into a specially designed internet portal in an environment that supports remote exchange of digital material. If teachers are sufficiently motivated this portal can be soon a gigantic source of original and perpetually refreshed educational material
Teachers can also train their students to develop educational material, as a well guided and organized team (or personal) project. Specially designed sites host these students’s material, allowing download and free educational use, counting visitors and “downloaders”, announcing popular and mostly praised material. That way, school is constructively advertised and students who create digital educational material are constructively motivated and spurred for extra similar action.
Results from a multigrade case study in Greece
University of Aegean has carried out an investigation about the situation of multigrade schools in Greece. The questionnaire was sent out to the total number (835) of 1 teacher multigrade schools of Greece. 220 replied, while it is important to mention that almost 15% the initial 835 were abolished and the questionnaire was returned. The whole article will be later available in NEMED project’s website (COMENIUS 3 project): http://www.nemed-network.org/
Curriculum and time. Teacher of a Multigrade classroom faces intense time problems, since he/she owes to address his/her teaching. Teacher can not deal with the curriculum of all grades synchronously. So he/she has to use auxiliary teaching techniques. One of the most popular techniques for copying with the problem of shrunk time is assigning homework to the students to replenish time. But since home work can not solve the problem of time spherically, there are several other parallel measures to deal with shrunk time, such as shrinking breaks’ time, shrinking the chapters that should be taught for each subject, shrinking the exercises per chapter etc.
It is important for the ministry to create and provide:
- Special guides for best practices in Multigrade teaching
- Best practice guides for ICT implementation in Multigrade teaching
- Methodological approaches for Multigrade learning
- Educational material or a data basis of relevant titles.
- Tools (software) for production of original educational material
Cooperation with local organizations. Cooperation with local institutions, bureaus and organizations is essential for the best possible function of a Multigrade school. Municipality can support Multigrade school with funding for maintenance, extra personnel occupation, ict infrastructure etc According teachers’ opinions regarding this issue, funding from the central qualified offices of the ministry is not sufficient.
Training issues. What is worth while mentioned in this paragraph is that during tertiary education there is no special Multigrade training. When teachers are firstly appointed in a Multigrade teaching environment, there is not even a previous seminar training them in special Multigrade teaching conditions. Teachers’ advisors, that visit schools in regular interspaces, are not regularly specialized in Multigrade teaching. So Multigrade teachers most of the time needs to solve their teaching problems on their own or by being advised by other experienced Multigrade teaching.
Cultural and social issues. Since Multigrade schools are most of the times located in isolated areas, a Multigrade teacher is also expected to function as a socializing factor for the local inhabitants. Most often, Multigrade teachers in Greece, organize competitions, training seminars for adults in ICT, theatrical plays with the contribution and participation of locals, sports organization and more, trying to offer the community a variety of chances to keep in touch with civilization and education.
Teachers’ distance training. There are several training projects that aim to train Multigrade teachers in situ, that is without their needing to leave school and attend training away from school. University of Aegean has participated and completed a number of distance Multigrade teachers (MUSE COMENIUS, DIAS, NEMED, RURAL WINGS). In that way Multigrade teachers can gain the train necessary to teach using best practices in methodology and ICT implementations. Great role in Greek Multigrade teachers’ needs analysis plays the training on using software which allows them to develop their own digital educational material. That is easily explained if we remind the reader that there are no specially designed books for Multigrade schools in Greece.
Multigrade teacher’s opinions about the institution of multigrade schooling. The majority of primary education teachers are women. On the contrary, the majority of multigrade schools’ teachers are men. Multigrade schools’ teachers often need to cover great distances to reach their school unit. They all tend to believe that a multigrade school position is not sufficiently motivating.
Some of the motivations that multigrade Greek teachers themselves suggest are the following:
- Increase of multigrade teacher’s wage
- Improvement of multigrade schooling working conditions
- Expenses coverage
- Extra bonuses
In spite of the Multigrade teachers also state that Multigrade schools offers certain positive qualities:
- Environment where Multigrade schools lies are more natural, with less traffic and pollution. So it is more healthy and less tiring
- Relations between students are warmer and more essential
- Relations between students and teacher are warmer and more essential
- Relations of the total school community and the local community are stronger and more effective when a problem rises.
Main disadvantages are reminded to be the following, as mentioned again in this archive.
- Teaching time that corresponds to each student is less
- Often changes of personnel
- Lack of competition between students
The authors work in NEMED project. NEMED (Network of Multigrade Education) is a transnational network supported by the Comenius 3 Action of the Socrates Programme of EU. NEMED brings together educationalists and researchers from ten European countries, who share an interest in researching, enhancing and supporting multigrade education, in their countries and at the European level.
“eTwinning represents a new and complementary approach to European action in education”, said Jàn Figel’, Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Multilingualism. “The eTwinning action differs from our other education programmes because instead of funding individual projects, it provides an infrastructure, tools and services, to make it as easy as possible for schools to form all types of partnership, from short term projects to longer term cooperation, in any subject area. The service is free, and there are no burdensome administrative procedures. It is a very effective way to foster the use of ICT, language and intercultural skills in school education.”
eTwinning brings innovation into teaching and motivates pupils to learn. Pupils, teachers, headmasters, librarians and other school staff use eTwinning to add a European dimension to school life. Using the Internet, they work together in many varied ways with peers in other countries: they chat, send emails and exchange ideas and learning materials. Thérèse Hagberg, a teacher at lower secondary level in Sweden said, “eTwinning has contributed to increasing our European contacts and has opened our school to the surrounding world”.
Prizes for the best eTwinning projects will be awarded for the first time in January 2006. Schools wanting to compete for a prize are invited to submit their project results before 27 November via the eTwinning portal. The prize-giving ceremony will then take place at the eTwinning conference on 13 January 2006 in Linz, Austria.
For further information about this action, please consult the European Commission eTwinning portal.
In the e-learning business in Finland, there are around 160-170 companies that provide elearning solutions. The total turnover was around 140 million euros and it employed nearly 2000 people in 2003. This does not however reflect the digital learning solution markets as a whole, since the figures of the companies providing only partly elearning solutions, universities and other public institutions are not included. The companies are mainly small.
A part of the companies export and take part in international development projects.
The e-learning markets are mainly between companies and institutions. The business of institutions is developed with the help of digital medias. Big consumer markets are still to come, since they require for example proper distribution chains and changes in the buying behaviour of education.
Typical services in e-learning business sector are personnel, product, customer, partner, distributor and change management training. The benefits of these services are pace, savings in costs and time, the unique context and quality and possibility to multicentralized exchange of expertise and interactive discussion.
According to the latest barometer of Federation of The Finnish Information Industries (8/05) there is an upswing in ICT business and nearly half of the companies expect business to grow in the future. According to this study the employment has continued well and new employees have been hired.
The expectations for the autumn are positive and personnel will be recruited even more.
E-learning in Finnish schools
More and more education which include e-learning is given in Finland.
Upper secondary school can be passed entirely by studying in the internet and in many comprehensive schools e-learning ensures the possibility to study also rare subjects. Different kinds of networks between schools enable producing the contents.
The purpose of the basic education is that the teacher utilises information and communications technologies in his work and is able to guide students to reach the basic level in information and communications technology. This means practical skills in work, skills in data systems, co-operation and interactive skills and understanding data security and ethical issues.
The projects of the Post-comprehensive school education and adult education have created dozens of good development networks. Virtual schools have been networked both regionally and nationally. In the project networks there have been developed solutions for e-learning, searched answers to problems caused by new studying methods and produced services. The technical solutions and infrastructure of the e-learning are in quite good condition except that the number of computers in upper secondary level schools needs to be increased. The context produced in the networks could be utilised more efficiently. The self provided teaching is found cheaper than one bought from the network.
The present context of teachers´ education is more teaching of the pedagogic models and developing teaching methods, not that much teaching of the software anymore.
There is also a lot of self studying material available for education. Education is given to wider group of people, which means all who will need e-learning in their work. In Finland many schools offer studies which lead to graduation including e-learning. Häme Polytechnic launched this autumn as a first institution offers fully virtual education for teachers.
Experts of e-learning are being trained in almost all units offering supportive education such as eOppimaisteri by the University of Joensuu, e-skills by Häme Polytechnic and Ota-e by the Helsinki University of Technology.
Active research of eLearning
There are 52 higher education institutions including 21 universities and 31 polytechnics in Finland. In all of them there are e-learning related development projects. Universities and polytechnics have both built a virtual consortium, which offer virtual studies for the students, but also a lot of information about developing virtual teaching, work of quality and research. Many fields of business are offering possibilities to study and graduate fully or at least partially virtually.
The research focuses on e-learning including media reading, multicultural phenomena, competences of teachers, usability of learning objects, usage of simulations in teaching, controlling practises of smart mobile device, usability of teaching technologies, using common educational material and management of e-learning. The studies result in thesis, articles, conference performances and also international conferences.
The studies have generated many in national and international contacts and there are several international co-operative projects going on.
For example in the University of Helsinki, which is the largest university in Finland, educational environments were used only about 200 students and teachers in 2000. In October 2005 there were around 17000 users. At the same time the supply of educational contexts have grown from less than 200 to 1200.
There is still lack of good contents all the time. Therefore, University of Helsinki is taking part for example in EU eContent programme in EURES project, which aims at creating European multi lingual teaching portal, which is a unique way of producing and delivering materials.
This could be the future
E-learning has become a part of everyday life whereas the meaning of technology has moved backwards. E-learning is one developed procedures in supporting learning and it is available for everyone. The equipment are easily available, they can and will be used creatively and when needed.
Technical environments and equipment belong automatically to the different processes. The electronic web will connect actors, functions and fields of business tightly and in real time.
Tailor-made teaching has increased and modular type learning objects based on individuality or learning trays are everyday life. Increased supply of educational material and connectibility prevent also withdrawal.
E-learning offers a totally new learning culture. It requires breaking down the previous role models, giving up from being tied in place and time and absorbing new models of interactivity. The change should be based on competence of an individual and flexible practises should be offered for the development of individuals.
The key for professional growth is not individual skills but collective skills that offer flexible procedures for individual development. Common data building is power. Organisations focus on right targeting of resources, which includes directing, control of time and priorising issues.
Motivating, good arguments and encouragement and support will ease up the change.
The basis for good reaction for change in organisation is open flow of information and transparency of actions.
The business in the e-learning field will be segmented and focused. E-learning products and services will be integrated more tightly in developing competence in companies in general. Cost efficient and risk free solutions will be underlined in solutions for customers. The market will grow at least the following five years. The business will become global. Alongside the globalisation, companies will operate on genuinely global markets in the far networked global economy. In the pressure of efficiency, the companies are highly specialized and most of their actions are outsourced, but on the other hand, new products and services enabled by technology and networked economy and new concepts of business will give companies chance to find their way to the new markets.
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre (NGO) promotes the use of eLearning and digital education solutions in Finnish companies and organisations. The purpose is to develop and increase the skills and knowledge of eLearning in education, teaching and business operations.
The Association is a national meeting point, providing networking links. It helps to create contacts to both, companies, organisations and individuals. The Association co-operates with the best experts and provides up-to-date information about research, development, trends and experiences of eLearning.
The Association works together with several companies, polytechnics, universities and training institutions. It is also a networking organisation for the numerous Finnish eLearning projects and regional clusters.
We provide contact information for international organisations and experts interested in co-operating with Finnish eLearning experts, organisations and projects.
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre
Tel +358 3 651 5255
Fax: +358 3 621 5200
- Tietoalojen liitto: Suhdannekyselyn tulokset / Elokuu 2005
- Lith P. Digitaalisen median toimialaselvitys 2005, Digitaalisen median, sisältötuotannon ja oppimispalvelujen osaamiskeskuksen julkaisusarja
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
When should we start the process of introducing children to computers? Is the technology good or evil for the learning process? Joel Josephson from Kindersite Project gives some insight on this topic.
2 years, 3 years, 6, 8, 12, 15, never, when do we start the process of introducing children to computers? Educators, parents, even gray-haired and learned professors cannot agree. The second question that then arises is whether computer based content positively or negatively affects the learning process. I can hear the screams of protest and support in full interactive, multi-media, broadband enhanced detail even as I write. Meanwhile millions of dollars are being spent to bring computers and the Internet to elementary schools around the globe. The only area all agree on, well maybe, is that all students should be taught how to use computers and the Internet eventually. As all will need an understanding of technology to enjoy the products of technology and in many cases within the future work environment. In this article I will try to summarize some of the arguments for and against technology in early education and finally to make a synopsis of how I believe we should address this vital issue. Firstly lets take a look at the arguments for early introduction.
Future Needs: The use of computers and an understanding of how to use the Internet are already critical to modern society today in manifest directions. These include, the work environment, information gathering for work orpleasure, shopping, communications etc. and if true today, how much moretomorrow. The Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment predicts thatthe computer industry will continue to show the greatest growth of any industry in the USA. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than half of all workers used a computer on the job in September 2001. And nearly three-fourths of those workers connected to the Internet or used e-mail.
Early Skills Acquisition: As with all fundamental skills, the earlier the education system allows students to become familiar with technology the greater will be their depth of understanding and effectiveness in using it. It is immaterial to argue that skills acquired today by a five year old will not be relevant later in life because technology will develop beyond comprehension. This is because skills acquired can focus on an understanding of what computers can do rather than just how to interact with today’s computers. In addition, once the initial ground work has been obtained the potential for adaptation to a dynamic system can be incrementally updated in the same way as adults have to adapt to new technology.
Personalization: Computer based content allows a level of individual engagement and interactivity that comparative learning systems fail to deliver. By its nature learning with the computer is a one-on-one experience or at worst, small groups. This alleviates the paradigm of large classes with minimal personal intervention.
Learning Levels: Computers allow users to individualize their speed of attainment to suite their personal needs and capabilities. The speedy are not held back and those that need greater repetition are not passed over. Additionally special groupings can be more easily and effectively catered for.
Wide Distribution of Quality Teaching: Computer based learning allows the maximum effectiveness and distribution of the best quality teaching and content. A great teacher is not limited by the classroom but can reach out across the Internet to thousands either through building digital lessons or distance learning software and programs. Most distance learning systems today can be configured as live broadcasts with high levels of interactivity with the teacher. Now, here are the equally strong arguments against.
Accessibility and Suitability: If an individual does not have access to a computer or does not understand the content through a language deficiency or cultural differences, they will be relegated to the digitally divided, 44 million at the last count just in the USA according to Professor Howard Besser, The Next Digital Divides.
Interfering with Natural Development: Young children should be utilizingtheir natural propensity for physically based activity rather than be ‘stuck’ infront of a computer. They already spend damaging amounts of time glued to televisions, as researchers have discovered, that impairs development. Our children, the Surgeon General warns, are the most sedentary generation ever.
Lack of Depth: Computer based content is a long way from offering the depth, flexibility and tried and tested results that a trained, dedicated and experienced teacher can offer children. In addition, the interaction with a sophisticated adult allows critical advanced vocabulary and personalization skills.
Quality of Content: Most digital content is overly simplistic in its structure. For example, a sum can only be wrong or right. The content will not explain to the student why the sum was wrong. A real teacher will mark a piece of work and offer the essential logic reasoning for the decision that will enable the student to gain a fundamental understanding of the system behind what constitutes correct/incorrect.
Health Hazards: Computers pose health hazards to children. The risks include repetitive stress injuries, eyestrain, obesity, social isolation, and, forsome, long-term physical, emotional, or intellectual developmental damage.
Safety: Children must be protected from the dangers of the Internet, stalkers, adult content, hate and violence. Filtering software is notoriously inefficient.
By no means am I attempting to articulate all the arguments or cover them inreal depth but just to raise some of the issues we all face. In my opinion both the Pros and Cons are very strong arguments all of which need serious consideration and answers.
Now to put this in to an importance perspective, digital technology is invading virtually every aspect of modern society and its impact is becoming fundamental to how we work, play and learn. Technology within education also has a huge role to play but its’ effectiveness and impact has not been studied in the depth and breadth that such a fundamental development requires.
In the work environment, mistakes in the use of technology are paid for inmonetary terms. How much less can we afford to make mistakes with introducing technology to our children, mistakes made here cost far more than damaged business, with education we are talking damaged lives. At the moment we just seem to be ‘throwing’ computers and the Internet at teachers and children, as I state above, without any real understanding of what we are actually doing to the children or should I call them ‘guinea pigs’.
The logic seems to be, at least on the governmental level, that we cannot afford for the coming generation not to be computer enabled, as this ability will be critical for a country to be economically competitive. In fact every country is being driven to ensure it’s digital competitiveness. At a governmental level this logic is difficult to fault but it is our job as educators and parents to ensure thatthe effectiveness of the headlong plunge is in the best interests of all the children.
My opinion is that large-scale research in to the issues needs to be carried out. Not on the scale of a few dozen subjects over weeks as many examples of current research do, but thousands or even tens of thousands of subjects over years.
These subjects need to be from 2 years to 8 years old. They need to bewidely dispersed geographically. Come from all levels of the social andattainment spectrum. In fact technology and the Internet is a perfect platform to carry out this type of research. I founded the Internet based Kindersite Project to enable researchers to accomplish this type of wide-scale program.
I believe that only significant research that studies thousands of subjectchildren over a long-term, years probably, will allow the educational community to really gain full and meaningful answers to the questions such as:
- Does the early introduction of digital content positively or negatively affectyoung children?
- What should be the parameters of the introduction (if any)?
- What content types should be employed within the introductory process?
- What constitutes 'good' or 'bad' content and why?
- What parameters define 'good' or 'bad' content?
As a result of sustained and profound research, guidelines should be drawn. These guidelines should offer teachers and parents tried and tested parameters for the use of computers for their children at each age level. It should include areas such as; how long should a child use a computer over a period, maximum and minimum attainment levels to be expected for each age group based on set proficiency standards, how digital content should be integrated in to standard lesson plans in a similar way that other media isused.
Most importantly, set standards for educational content providers must be laid down that they must adhere to if they wish to produce educational content utilizable by educationalists.
In addition all young childrens’ content, educational or leisure should be labeled with its appropriateness for each age group. These standards should be defined by the research.
In conclusion, it is fairly obvious that computer based educational content is becoming a feature of schools, whether we like it or not. In the home we see increasing evidence that even the smallest children are gaining access to computers either with parents or through watching older siblings. It is unreasonable to expect to turn back the clock and bar children below a certain age from computers, this is unenforceable and ineffective.
It is our duty to ensure that clear usage standards are set, content guidelines are drawn and sites rated at a governmental level so that children, parents, caregivers and educators have a clear and safe basis for using computers and the Internet with their charges. Anything less is an abrogation of all our responsibility.