State of Play of Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion: A Review of the Literature and Empirical Cases
This report presents the 'state of play' of knowledge of how digital games can work as empowerment tools to support social inclusion processes and policy.
The report brings together for the first time a review of theoretical and empirical research in a variety of disciplines, especially from learning, social inclusion, e-inclusion and innovation studies to build a framework to help understanding of the potential of games for inclusion and empowerment. It uses this framework to analyse seven well-documented case studies from across the spectrum of digital games for empowerment and inclusion to understand between the factors contributing to their success or failure. It draws conclusions as to the principal challenges, identifies knowledge gaps, and recommends potential action by stakeholders to address these challenges.
The analytical survey “Recognizing the potential of ICT in early childhood education” involved a literature review and comprehensive analysis of theoretical approaches to early childhood education (ECE) and the methods of ICT application to child development and early learning. Innovative practices are illustrated by case studies based on experience observed in kindergartens and child development centres in various countries. Analysis of different aspects of ICT use in kindergartens, with due recognition of the advantages and risks, made it possible to reveal the opportunities that creative integration of ICT opens for more advanced development of children. The survey suggests strategies for the development of ICT capability of ECE centres and recommendations, which should be helpful for educators, parents and school policy decision makers in their efforts to adapt the child development process to the continuous evolution of the digital universe.
The E-Learning Awards were set up in 2005 to honour the best that e-learning can offer - the programmes, projects, teams, individuals and strategies which have enjoyed the greatest success. The 16 categories have been revised and refreshed for 2011
Now in their sixth year, the E-Learning Awards are firmly established as the primary source of recognition for best practice in elearning. The eLN plays an important part in the awards, establishing the criteria by which the entries will be evaluated and carrying out the judging.
Criteria & Judging
The E-Learning Awards for 2011 will be judged against a set of criteria which can be seen below. The shortlist will be determined by a panel drawn from the membership of the eLearning Network as well as invited guests. The E-Learning Awards are unique since much of the judging will be open, transparent and verifiable. As well as assessing the submissions against the award criteria, the judges will be looking for demonstrable evidence to support the application. This evidence will be available for anyone to inspect at a later date. All submissions will be considered and a shortlist produced. Those on the shortlist will be invited to present their submission to the judges in person and a winner will be selected from these presentations. Some categories require evidence from learners or users which may be followed up by the judges. In these cases please ensure that your submission includes evidence from your client and include contact details.
New technologies involve new methods of teaching, learning and training. However, the universities lack well-defined structures to accomplish it. Who should teach/train e-teachers?
Good question. The normal practice is to establish a Teaching and Learning or Professional Development centre with experts on pedagogy and educational technology. However attendance at workshops organized by these centers is usually voluntary, and often the professors who need it most don't come. Some faculties/academic departments delegate a 'respected' academic within the department to be responsible for professional development of their colleagues, particularly newly appointed young professors. These are both what I would call weak approaches, although better than nothing.
What is really needed (and won't happen) is for professors to be formally accredited following training in teaching. This would best be done by radically reforming the post-graduate training to include training in teaching as well as research as part of the Ph.D. process.
Is the scientific research now a hybrid process (in terms of using the informational resources)?
I believe that in knowledge-based societies, all teaching and research needs to include the use of information technology, because this is how knowledge is now being created, stored and organized.
What is the role of learning paradigms and how have they been modified by elearning environment?
I believe that instructional design (I prefer the term: design of learning environments) is an absolute requirement for quality teaching with technology. Technology raises the skill level for teaching, because to use technology well, you need to know its strengths and weaknesses with respect to face-to-face teaching, and this requires an understanding of how people learn as well as the potential of technology for teaching. Unfortunately in most applications of e-learning, there is no change to the learning paradigm. The technology is added on to the existing classroom paradigm. 'True' blended learning requires a re-design, to ensure that the unique benefits of the classroom/campus are combined with the unique benefits of asynchronous learning. Students can spend much more time ‘on task’ with well-designed digital learning materials, thus freeing up professors’ time for direct or online interaction with students.
What is the role of didactic discourse in e learning environment?
Again, this is important in most subjects, although it does reflect a particular view on education – that learning is socially constructed – that not all professors share. Again, in an online environment, to ensure that discussion is focused and academic, rather than incoherent and shallow, the instructor/teacher has an important role to play, ensuring that the discussion stays on topic, that content/learning materials are drawn on to support the discussion, and the discussion operates at an academic level. There are several good books on this (e.g. Paloff and Pratt, Salmon, Harasim, etc.)
All the education systems raised around libraries from oldest times to the present. The library had the mission to form to inform and now we can say that it is a real provider of electronic resources for users on and off campus. They have to up to date with the new learning curricula and provide information resources according to it. What is in your opinion the role of the university library for e learning?
University libraries are critical for successful e learning, but their roles and ways of working are changing. I believe that all courses should have a librarian as part of the course team, both to help with identifying and organizing online resources, and for providing student help in locating information digitally. Education in information literacy and especially on evaluating the quality of source material, as well as how to find, analyze, organize and apply digital information linked to subject area needs should be a joint activity of teacher and librarian.
Does the course presence and virtual teaching change the type of education (distance or e learning)?
Every teacher now has to make a choice: where on the continuum of e learning should this course or program be? Just supplementing my classroom teaching; true blended learning; or fully online? The answer to the question depends on two factors: what kinds of student am I trying to reach? What is the nature of the subject material? Full-time students coming out of high school probably need more face-to-face teaching than full-time, mature working graduates who want updating or post-graduate courses. Some things are quicker and easier to do face-to-face; others are better done online, depending on the subject matter. However, it should be possible to design a course that meets all these needs.
We can not study medicine or arts in e-learning environment;one need practice and skills and the other talent. Is this a forbidden territory for elearning or elearning “fits” better to training for this fields?
No. In fact, medicine is one of the areas where e learning is used most in my university (UBC). A lot of medicine is digitally based and it is essential then that this is built into the curriculum and integrated within an e-learning environment. E learning is a critical component especially of the clinical placement of students in their third year, as they and their proctors (local doctors) are linked back to the university through the Internet.
What are in your opinion the great barriers in elearning set up?
In order of importance:
- Fear and loathing on the part of more senior professors due to their lack of understanding of technology and pedagogy.
- Senior management of universities who do not understand the changing requirements of knowledge-based societies and the importance of ICTs within all professions, and when they do recognize this, their failure to set and implement strategies to support the integration of ICTs within teaching throughout the university, which usually requires finding new or reallocating existing resources to make this happen. Too often it is left to individual professors to innovate without organizational help and support.
- In some countries lack of access to and/or high cost of technology.
Should the specialists analyze deeper the importance of independent learning?
There should be a progression from dependent to independent to inter-dependent or collaborative learning. This should be built into the design of whole programs, so that students progress through these stages in a supported manner
Is media literacy teaching and learning a serious condition of the elearning pedagogy?
Depends what you mean by media literacy. Most youngsters have enough media literacy when they come to university (the professors often don't). Students’ ability to use technology needs to be built on and modified to meet academic requirements.
What is the e-teacher status comparing to the “old/traditional” one?
Still poor, I guess, because without re-design, they have to spend more time teaching and hence less time on research (or family). Also there are no rewards (appointment, promotion, etc.) for doing elearning.
The access to these internal markets could promote new modalities of e-Learning among students and increase the consciousness of media education in their approach to contents.
Rapid e-learning is able to answer the need of creating synchronized digital contents and blending different kinds of materials into one format compatible with common VLEs. Therefore, if used as Web 2.0-like tools, rapid e-learning software can grant the e-learner autonomy to produce self-made contents and the possibility to use a tool which helps e-learners to re-interpret and share more complex resources implying a higher level of understanding and re-building. To do this it is necessary to partially modify Salmon’s model, in such a way that the e-learning path is compatible with an informal approach based on the use of rapid e-learning tools, provided that students will discuss the results of their self-production within classical VLE.
1. eLearning and SMEs
Some years ago, the introduction and use of eLearning in small and medium sized companies (SMEs) has been seen as unproblematic and, in fact, as a “royal path” to answering training needs in SMEs (Sun Microsystems 2003). It was assumed that managers of SMEs would recognize the problem of meeting adequately the continuous training needs of their staff for innovation and that the updating of professional knowledge and skills could be supported by eLearning, as cheap, just in time training taking place on-line and/or at the working place.
Research carried out in different European and national studies (i.e. Attwell et al., 2003) and in projects (e.g. ARIEL, financed within the eLearninginitiative – www.ariel-eu.net; Beer et al., 2006) show that eLearning is used ever since mainly in big companies. SMEs use Internet and eLearning predominantly for product advertising (particularly through web sites) and only 7 % for human resources.
These studies and projects (Hamburg et al., 2004; 2005) also show that the low use of eLearning in European SMEs is mainly due to:
- Training culture within the SMEs which is often dependent on trainer and conventional training methods; skills needed for a more independent approach and the use of new media for learning are missing. There is a lack of “long-term” vocational strategies for the staff based on deep analysis of their qualification needs – another used learning strategy in SMEs is “learning by doing”.
- SMEs managers have not enough knowledge or are not convinced of the effectiveness of eLearning. The Staff has a lack of time and motivation to test new learning methods.
- Appropriate software and contents for SMEs are missing. The major part of commercial eLearning software is modelled on the requirements of big enterprises or higher education and SMEs can not afford to pay tailor-made ones. The existing training offers in supporting specific business needs of SMEs are often inadequate and/or unattractive. A continuous cooperation between eLearning-developers, -providers (eLearning market) and SMEs which could improve this situation is missing.
At present most European SMEs act alone in facing their training problems. For future development it is necessary to strengthen cooperation with other SMEs, with large enterprises, with training providers and public institutions (e.g. Chambers of Commerce). One suitable solution for SMEs is to build communities of practice (Palloff et al., 1999; Johnson 2001; Wenger et al., 2002) to share knowledge, to apply best practices in technology-enhanced learning and to develop business-oriented models of eLearning for them. Such forms of co-operation could stimulate new experiments, new actions and new directions for learning.
The European Commission and almost all European Member States provide support in some form or other to the fostering of eLearning in SMEs, but in many countries education and training are fragmented with responsibilities in different policy areas and agencies. As a result there is a lack of integrated support services for SMEs in which learning, and in particular eLearning, is a key component in the portfolio.
2. Examples of training strategies for SMEs based on eLearning
Based on the results of ARIEL and other projects, the European project SIMPEL started this year within eLearning initiative (http://www.simpel-net.eu). It is aimed at improving the eLearning use in SMEs by participative development of sustainable eLearning based training strategies and models. These strategies and models will be developed and disseminated including also good practices in eLearning for SMEs. One of the activities within the project is the organization of workshops and seminars in all partner countries with representants of SMEs, eLearning developers and providers, trainers, eLearning experts, regional authorities and researchers. The first meetings were used to discuss different eLearning based training strategies and for searching ways to convince SMEs about the advantages of eLearning. The tasks for next workshops and seminars are the development and dissemination of training models for the most suitable strategies.
Two general strategies for introducing eLearning to be followed by the companies discussed on the German workshop within SIMPEL are the following:
A) The strategy of minimal change e.g. introducing of new media and training concepts should involve only minimal changes in the structures and processes of the company. Through a latent implementation the acceptance of the new media by trainers will be assured and the staff is automatically introduced to the new tools and learning methods.
B) In contrast to the minimal change strategy active change includes a review of the organisation, its infrastructure, learning culture and business strategy as appropriate to the new learning objectives, concepts and methods.
For more efficiency, strategy B should be followed. For reasons of acceptance often the starting point is, however, strategy A. Actors concerned with the introduction of eLearning ought to be conscious of the fact that the minimal change approach may be suitable as long as eLearning is seen as a first experiment. As soon as a serious commitment is made to eLearning any conception has to rest on active change.
Another discussed problem at the workshop was the starting point in developing and implementing a training strategy for SMEs based on eLearning. Firstly, the business objectives of the companies should be analysed, the existing problems and needs which can be solved by improving the training strategy of the company and by the use of eLearning. The introduction of eLearning should be integrated into the whole qualification programme of the company and supported by technical and organisational measures. The advantages of eLearning should be known by managers and staff (i.e. in rapport with the competitors) and evaluation procedures should be carried up regularly for the eLearning programmes. Knowledge about eLearning market and a “long term” cooperation with an eLearning developer/provider are necessary.
Within SIMPEL a European community of practice was initiated to promote models of eLearning good practices and to attract staff who are engaged in support, training, design/development, use, consulting and policy formulation concerning eLearning in SMEs in the European Union, starting with the countries, where SIMPEL partners are active. The community will provide professional support for SMEs in using eLearning. Access to documents and discussions are supported by a Moodle-based platform offering accessibility and flexibility (Hargadon, S., 2006; Busse et al., 2007). The choice of Moodle was based first on an analysis of some open source virtual learning environments referring sustainability and viability (that influence the costs for adoption and further developments of the system) and of the pedagogical rationale of the environment. Secondly, we decided to use Moodle because some of the partners already have good experience and competence with this environment.
At the moment the active part of the community is in Germany. It starts the activity of adaptation the frames for the development of training strategies by using eLearning (which have been developed within SIMPEL and which can be use in Europe) to specific situation of German SMEs.Representatives of German SMEs and eLearning experts/producers are contacted to join the community.
The language used is German and the community works more virtually but also face to face meetings are planned. The experience gained in Germany will be used in all partner countries.
In order to work efficiently in new upcoming contexts SMEs are required to improve their learning strategies. eLearning can contribute to the achievement of needed competences and at the same time can meet the pronounced needs for flexibility in SMEs.
Experience gained by authors in this context within national and European projects (e.g. ARIEL www.ariel-eu.net, SIMPEL www.simpel-net.eu) shows that it is important, to help SMEs to design, implement and evaluate suitable models of training for them based on eLearning i.e. within communities of practice because many SMEs have not always the resources and knowledge to do this alone.
Important aspects to be considered are re-examination of SME’s current position and business goals, development of solutions to improve their situation, a professional establishment of vocational training needs of the staff in this context and to include eLearning as a part of the company training plan that addresses and resources infrastructure, development, media and a didactic approach.
Attwell, G., Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L., Fabian, P., Kárpáti, A. & Littig, P. (2003). E-Learning in Europe – Results and Recommendations. Thematic Monitoring under the LEONARDO DA VINCI Programme. Report. Impuls 010. Bonn.
Beer, D., Busse, T., Hamburg, I., Mill, U. & Paul, H. (2006). e-learning in European SMEs: observations, analyses & forecasting Münster, Waxmann ISBN 3-8309-1631-0.
Busse, T., Hamburg, I. & Engert, S. (2007). Improving collaboration and participation in E-Learning for SMEs by suitable models supported by virtual learning environments, presentation at the “Moodle 2007”, March 28-29, 2007, University of Duisburg-Essen.
Hamburg, I. & Lindecke, Ch. (2004). E-Learning für kleine und mittlere Unternehmen: eine Untersuchung europäischer Projekte. In Pangalos, J., Knutzen, S. & Howe, F. (Eds.) Informatisierung von Arbeit, Technik und Bildung: Kurzfassung der Konferenzbeiträge; GTW-Herbstkonferenz, October 4-5, 2004. Hamburg: Techn. University, 159-162.
Hamburg, I. & Lindecke, Ch. (2005). Lifelong learning, e-learning and business development in small and medium enterprises. In Szücs, A. & Bo, I. (Eds.) Lifelong e-learning: bringing e-learning close to lifelong learning and working life; a new period of uptake: proceedings of THE EDEN 2005 Annual Conference, June 20-23, 2005, 79-84.
Hamburg, I. & Engert, S. (2007). Competency-based Training in SMEs: The Role of E-Learning and E-Competence. In Proceedings of the 6th IASTED International Conference "Web-based Education", March 14-16, 2007, Chamonix, France. Anaheim: Acta Press, 189-193.
Hamburg, I. (2007). Shifting e-Learning in SMEs to a Work-based and Business Oriented Topic. In European Distance and E-Learning Network: New learning 2.0? Emerging digital territories – developing continuities - new divides; THE EDEN Annual Conference 2007, June 13-16, 2007, Naples. CD-ROM. Budapest: EDEN, 4.
Hargadon, S., (2006): Interview with Martin Dougiamas, Creator of Moodle, retrieved August 28, 2007 from http://www.stevehargadon.com/2006/10/interview-with-martin-dougiamas.html.
Johnson, C.M. (2001). A Survey of Current Research on Online Communities of Practice. Internet and Higher Education, 4, 45-60.
Kerres, M. (2001). Multimediale und telemediale Lernumgebungen. – Konzeption und Entwicklung, München, Oldenbourg.
Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K. (1999). Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace: Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Sun Microsystems (2003). E-Learning Framework, Technical White Paper February 2003, retrieved August 28, 2007 from http://www.sun.com/products-n-solutions/edu/whitepapers/pdf/framework.pdf.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R. & Sydner, W. (2002). Cultivativating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
This report provides the views of those students involved regarding this experiment. We have a sample of 243 students from seven different courses, and from them, we learn that:
a) Students are not prepared to use new media effectively to learn, and they prefer plain text in order to work; the digital literacy of our students is not sufficient to access knowledge from digital media;
b) Online communication between students and teachers is more common by e-mail than by other tools (forums, notice boards, etc.), and on-site learning is not valued sufficiently by both parties;
c) Students have positive views on ICT, but they are not completely enthusiastic about them;
d) They have not increased their use of computers following this experiment, but they have improved their use of ICT tools;
e) People in higher education understand that ICT involves more than one learning resource, a resource to work, and they attach a great deal of importance to the possibility of working with these technologies in degree programmes;
f) One of the most important sources of problems regarding working online is the nature and features of the LMS used.
Finally, through this report, we have understood that the most relevant element when it comes to improving ICT implementation in higher education is the pedagogical methodology to be used in courses. This has become the new frontier, and it should be explored in depth.
Maruja Gutierrez-Diaz: "Lifelong learning is a powerful concept, indivisible from the knowledge society"
Which aspects of the Lisbon Strategy do you find the most challenging in relation to education?
The “triangle of learning”. This is acknowledging clearly that education, research and innovation are the three pillars for European socioeconomic progress and growth. I would add that education is all the more important, as it is at the source of the other two. Research flows naturally from education, but also innovative talent is grown and muscled by education. Fostering a really dynamic and open interaction between the three points of the triangle, between academia, research and industry, is the most important challenge.
With the re-launch of the Lisbon Strategy, how is the European Commission ensuring the balance between reaching the economic objectives and achieving the educational goals?
Human capital is the red thread. Reaching the economic objectives in a knowledge-based economy is a matter of human capital. You just tell me how human capital can be built and nurtured without quality education and training. Furthermore, I would say that both the European Commission and Member States are convinced that there is no fundamental trade-off between economic and social development. There is a communication in the pipeline called “Efficiency and equity in European education and training systems”, which develops these issues in depth. I would advise reading it when it comes out in early October.
What are the key improvements of the new Integrated Action Programme (2007-2013) regarding e-Learning?
The fundamental improvement of the new programme is the mainstreaming of ICT. We should not forget that the full title of the e-Learning Programme is “a multi-annual programme for the effective integration of Information and Communication Technologies in education and training systems in Europe”. Effective integration is a short and good definition of mainstreaming. In the new programme, it will not be possible to place ICT outside “true education”, to consider it as something apt only for the technologically minded. ICT should become invisible, a “learning facility”, as essential and embedded as reading or writing.
For many years, lifelong learning was used to define informal adult education; how would you define this concept nowadays? How would you define the role of ICT in this context?
The definition of lifelong learning given in the 2001 Memorandum is a good one, and I would not attempt to change it. Lifelong learning is “all learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence, within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective.” Lifelong learning is a powerful concept, indivisible from the knowledge society. Sometimes words get used and abused, and they become so familiar that they lose some of their charisma. Lifelong learning has become a mantra – but maybe this is not a bad thing, as lifelong learning is the most important thing we can think about. Lifelong learning is central, and it is natural.
We all like learning – if you have any doubts about it you need only look at people’s faces when they learn something of interest to them. But often, formal learning obscures the joyful roots of learning. It is a fact that the further you develop your learning, the more you have to work at it. For many people in society, this can be very hard, maybe too hard. Getting the lifelong learning paradigm to life means providing everybody with the skills, the competences, the tools, the interest and the opportunities to keep up learning, about whatever they need or wish to know. Like school, but more and better and longer.
What makes me passionate about ICT for learning is that I see ICT as an unbelievably strong support to personal learning capacities and possibilities. Developing this human potential is the core challenge of ICT for education. In our times, I simply cannot see lifelong learning happening without ICT.
What are the projects you expect to take place under this new programme?
We have seen a lot of interest and creativity under the e-Learning Programme, as well as under Socrates-Minerva and the IST education and training lines. We hope that all these good ideas will find their place under the new programme. In particular, we expect e-Twinning to go on as a simple and user-friendly school cooperation tool; we expect virtual campuses to become a fundamental part of the European Space of Education infrastructure, and we expect digital literacy and digital competences to develop as basic literacy at all levels. Under the transversal sub-programme, we will do our best to continue addressing core common concerns. For example, issues related to digital contents production, interoperability, and distribution. We will also go on supporting evaluation, documentation and the exchange of good practices and policies.
What do you expect to be the most significant outcome of the e-Learning Conference 2006?
This conference is very timely, and it will provide precious input for the preparation of an important policy paper, which will be our reference framework for the years to come. It is a communication on ICT and innovation and lifelong learning for all, which should be adopted by the Commission in November 2006.
Looking at what has been done and what will be done, are you optimistic about the future of ICT in European education?
People who know reasonably well school and university but have –in average- no serious knowledge or experience of what ICT can do for education, and tend to privilege the reproduction of existing national logics –sector by sector (so invalidating –defacto- the “integration” principle of the very concept of Lifelong Learning) and the beloved student mobility- that will anyhow affect a small minority of European students, most frequently already privileged from an economic and social perspective. Why virtual mobility should not be seriously considered to offer all European students a chance to have an international learning experience? And why isn’t it a structured component of Erasmus Mundus? Probably not many -at the decision making table- have a positive image of eLearning and LLL, nor see their intimate connection.
2. Everybody accepts that in a knowledge society education and lifelong learning have a key role to play in guaranteeing innovation, economic growth, social cohesion and practically all the desirable achievements of the adapted Lisbon Agenda. Now, why isn’t educational research a priority in any niche of the 7th Framework Programme, nor in most National Research Plans? Re-organising and re-thinking educational research is necessary, making it accountable to societal needs is indispensable, but these are not excuses for not paying sufficient attention and resources to a renewed, interdisciplinary and socially responsive research on learning systems innovation.
3. Accumulation and utilisation of available knowledge does not happen, in the education field, at the level of effectiveness and efficiency that one can observe in other service sectors such as health or transport. Several factors may explain, but not justify this situation: the “not invented here syndrome”, the limited effort done by “innovators” to transfer results of their experiences, the limited awareness/attention of many policy makers, the objective difficulty of implementing large scale innovation in systems that have few resources to activate change levers. Sometimes even non “user friendly” ways to promote innovation from the top policy level, disregarding the achievement of grass-roots initiatives and ignoring the bottom-up option to diffuse innovation, may play a role.
4. The culture of support to innovation is not a characterising element in European education and training systems: innovators are there, both at grass-roots and at policy making level, but innovation plans are implemented at a very slow pace, and sometimes are abandoned before they can be finally implemented. Support to innovation does not mean only vision and funding, it requires long term commitment at the top level of policy making and institutional leadership, reward to innovators, capacity to learn from mistakes, correct and fine-tune rather than abandon a plan if anything goes wrong or different leadership is installed. A too quick turn over of innovation plans –and substitution of key words- may damage innovators and the concept of innovation more than legitimate resistance to unconvincing innovation. The terms “fashionable” and “innovative” may then risk to be understood as synonyms, while innovation may need a long life-cycle and several adaptations of the originating ideas to become widespread. The case of eLearning is there to demonstrate this statement.
So, if a conclusion can be derived from these considerations, that are also inspiring the 3rd ODL Liaison Committee Policy Paper, presented this month, this is that if the culture of support to innovation does not materialise within education and training systems, we cannot expect our society to become innovative.
"The use of technological media in education is due as much or more to the goals of industry as to educational aims"
I believe that the greatest progress achieved at Spanish schools has been with regard to increased computer networking and Internet connection. The greatest advance in terms of availability is in the ratio of pupils per computer with broadband Internet connection, which has now dropped to below ten. There has also been a significant increase in something considered important for improving educational results: the number of pupils with computers available to them in the home.
The programmes launched by the Spanish public administration with the aim of bringing the information society into education seek not only to improve average access figures, but also to find a balance amongst the different Spanish regions and to increase the number of homes with Internet access amongst pupils from the less privileged classes. Another important goal is to encourage pupils’ parents to use the computer services provided by schools.
Some initiatives and approaches to eLearning have not been as effective as was hoped at first in bringing ICTs closer to society as a whole. Which ones do you feel have failed, and why?
Many policies and strategies aimed at introducing the new technologies into education have been applied in Europe since the 1980s. There has always been insufficient experimentation and research leading up to the launch of these policies, in a technological environment which is changing so rapidly that we get the feeling that both school and society are moving permanently.
The use of technological media in education is due as much or more to the goals of industry as to educational aims. The content and services most used in schools were first used in business, and in the best case were only slightly adapted.
Methodological development has been held up by the inertia characteristic of education systems, and technological advances have taken place quicker than it has been possible to include them in the curriculum. It is still a complicated affair to use the new technologies in courses preparing pupils to take university entrance examinations, in which qualification is still closely linked to traditional content.
A large proportion of teachers have welcomed all this with open arms, accepting the extra work load required in introducing the new resources and making the necessary methodological adaptations. It would not be realistic to say there has been a 100% positive response, however.
You run a public institution that provides access to online products and teaching and training initiatives to a wide community of users. What are the most important lines of action or initiatives that you have developed to ensure the integration of ICTs in education?
The broad working lines education providers follow in Spain are similar to those followed in other EU Member States: firstly, to try to keep a good balance in the use of resources for provision, communication, maintenance, teacher training, content and digital services development, research and dissemination of models and education practices. Secondly, updating and adapting curricula (goals, content, assessment systems), the teacher’s role and education spaces and times, making them as flexible and cross-cutting as possible, are indispensable measures without which no progress can be made. In close cooperation with the autonomous communities, we promote all these lines of action as part of the Spanish government’s Aula y Avanz@ (Classroom and Progress) programmes, extending the education environment beyond the school walls, particularly into the domestic arena.
How will learning be in the near future (2010)?
The process of integrating the new technologies into the classroom is still at its initial stage in most European schools. We are talking about a process of transition in which the technology is introduced firstly as tools to support tried and tested methodologies, well known to all, making this a more quantitative than qualitative change, increasing the efficacy of these methodologies and extending them. If we look at the main line of action behind eLearning 2004-2006, School Twinning, its basic goals – cooperative learning, interculturality, greater emphasis on learning other European languages, better teacher training, etc – had all been pursued before, though without the support of the new technologies. Now we have Internet, which enables instant, easy communications between European countries, and allows inter-school working groups to be formed, sharing tools and resources. In a few years’ time we will have created a huge database on which most European schools will be registered, greatly helping us to develop joint projects on any theme, in any area of knowledge.
This is a huge step forward, but we expect even more from the new technologies through the development of new methodologies created specifically to make full use of the support provided by communication technologies, helping us to progress more in areas such as training assessment, individualised training, everyone’s contribution to the task of educating our young people, ensuring they get the best preparation for life-long, autonomous learning. We expect that by 2010 all pupils will have computer access, both at school and at home, and that a huge majority of teachers and pupils will have the instrumental training necessary to use the tools available, making it possible for methodological changes to be speeded up.
Progress in the use of the new technologies for methodological innovation continues to be made more slowly than we would like, much more slowly than technological advances or the introduction of ICTs in industry, trade and leisure. The problem is that, in education, we still have to do a lot of research into how learning processes take place before we can bring the full potential of these new tools to bear. Although this seems to us to be a time of huge technological advances, we still know little about our how brains work and about the huge differences that exist between one brain and another, and how these differences affect the way we acquire different types of knowledge and learning.