The study, carried out by Cedefop, was initiated to address to the priorities of the revised Lisbon strategy and the Maastricht communiqué. The Lisbon Strategy, relaunched in 2005 by the European Council, states the necessity to concenter among others on productivity, social cohesion and innovation. Lifelong learning is seen indispensable in this process to meet the objectives. In the Maastricht Communiqué (2004), 32 European countries agreed on the future priorities of enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training.
The aim of the study is to contribute to the Commission policy development of ICT in the Integrated lifelong learning programme and to help to prepare the ground for identifying the needs for further investigation of ICT for innovation and lifelong learning for all.
The study reports the current state of e-learning within the context of lifelong learning in five Member States of the EU (Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Finland and the United Kingdom).
In the research it was take into consideration the perspectives of individual learners, education and training organisations, and work organisations.
The primary questions of the study were:
- What are the national policies of e-learning in lifelong learning?
- How is e-learning organised in lifelong learning?
- How does networking enhance e-learning in lifelong learning?
- What are the relevant issues in future developments?
Various resources (e.g. published research and studies, European e-learning projects, conferences and seminars) were used to collect information for the study.
European e-learning policy developments
E-learning is one corner stone in the European Union's strategy of becoming by 2010 ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’ (Lisbon Agreement, 2000). The Commission’s e-learning initiative in 2000 has four main lines:
- Training at all levels,
- The development of good quality multimedia services and content, and
- The development and networking of centres for acquiring knowledge.
Furthermore the Commission's eLearning programme (2004–06) aims at effective integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education and training systems in Europe. The four action lines of the programme are:
- Promoting digital literacy,
- European virtual campuses,
- e-Twinning of schools in Europe, and
- Promotion of teacher training and transversal actions for the promotion of e-learning in Europe.
According to the information gathered and analysed in the five Member states, the study shows the promoting factors for e-learning in lifelong learning. These factors include among others:
- Broadband connections
- Supply of courses in a number of languages
- Initiatives to improve the low level of digital literacy
- Encouraging cooperation between training instituations and SMEs
- Blended learning initiatives at universities
On the other hand some inhibing factors are:
- Lack of programmes and information available in the vocational sector despite of considerable volume of training opportunities
- No quality standards set for private e-learning providers
- Lack of governmental support to promote the availability of e-learning for continuing personal development
- Culture of learning develops slowly
Furthermore, the following areas were concluded to point out the critical and important factors to enhance the use of e-learning in lifelong learning in the next few years:
- Technology: mobile e-learning; faster speeds via broadband and satellite; improved computer power and affordability.
- Courseware: improved delivery systems that are compatible across computer platforms.
- Networks: universities and SMEs creating bigger networks for the development, exchange of information and software systems.
- Literacy: governments will increase efforts to raise the basic literacy levels of EU citizens.
- Digital literacy: greater investment in opportunities for people to step on to the e-learning platform.
- Vocational training: an overall increase in the investment of developing e-learning packages for the vocational sector and especially people in SMEs.
After a transition phase that e-learning has been going through it is establishing its place in education, training and lifelong learning. However, e-learning opportunities varies in quantity, quality and accessibility in the countries studied.
An important factor when introducing lifelong learning is encouraging people to participate and “selling” the idea to the individuals directing them to realise the benefits of such learning to themselves personally. Therefore, governmental support is important and each Member State should develop a policy to promote learning for individuals and providing easy access to courses.
Apart from university courses which are widely available, there seems to be a short of accredited courses in the vocational area. The SMEs tend to hold back most the training possibilities. Thus, several pilot networks try to change this situation allowing them to share resources and reduce costs and labour. These networks can work in collaboration with universities as well.
It has not been possible to evaluate the true level of digital literacy skills. Digital literacy is actively promoted by the Commission through several projects. Key factor for digital literacy is the competence of the lecturer/teacher. This can be addressed for example with staff development programmes and introducing a standard system that would allow an easy courseware transition from one system to another.
One problem with courses available in the Internet is that there is no quality guarantee, except the ones organised by recognised organisation. One example of a standardised course is the European Computer Driving License (ECDL). The situation can be improved with the development of higher education standardisation, VET qualifications and European qualifications framework.
You insist on the fact that there is no difference between e-learning and learning. On the other hand, you want e-learning to have a real impact on learning. I do believe that we need a radical pedagogical transformation based on an externalisation of learning, i.e. the dissemination of the learning process in a continuous way throughout society. In a way, this would take us to a learning society instead of a knowledge society. After all these years of ICT-based strategy, do you think Europe is ready for a learning society?
Wow, what an interesting first question! Firstly, I believe that technology is merely a tool for learning. Perhaps we should not be blinded by the techno-wizards any longer. Technology is not a solution to learning. The effective use of it may be.
I am an enthusiast about the future potential of e-learning, as it could provide real learning solutions. But, I think we need to `put our money where our mouth is’, that is to say we must support implementation rather than new technical developments. I think this point needs to be realised at European (and national) level, especially through funding streams. eEurope seems to be mainly about access, but this will not transform our society to a learning society. We have to properly finance research to understand the impact of e-technology on learning.
In budget terms, education has suffered and continues to suffer at the expense of other Commission priorities. This does not look like it will change under the current proposed budgets. So I suppose my plea is to make sure we place education and learning at the forefront, rather than technology. Once we have done this, we will have a chance to transform our European learning society. So, to respond to the question, perhaps we are ready, but I do not think that those who make decisions understand what this implies.
I think the reality is that, in many institutions, the Bologna process is still at the stage of accreditation/reaccreditation of courses according to new guidelines imposed at European level. Currently the focus is on administration, matriculation, and top-level course content, less on teaching and learning processes, and unfortunately even less on the impending outcome.
That said, your point is, of course, valid in that Bologna offers a wonderful opportunity for reflection, renewal and change, in terms of being learner-centred. And e-learning is one of a number of media that can usefully support it. But being learner-centred demands skills that need to be developed – by learners, not just by course designers, administrators and teachers. We as educators still pay far too little attention to the vast array of skills and competencies required of current and future learners: amongst others, media and technological skills, project management, time-management and self-organisational skills, communication skills in a part-virtual learning organisation and environment. Furthermore, which skills, learning expectations and thought processes does the mobile phone, web 2.0 learning generation bring with it? How do, and should, these skills influence our current teaching and learner-centred approach and that of the future? Signposts are important but, before setting them, have we as educationalists done our homework on surveying the landscape and mapping out the routes?
You’re speaking my language. I suppose we need to be asking the right questions, not closing doors, but opening them. I don’t think we should be worried about learner skills for being learner-centred; this is part of discovering yourself in the learning environment. What concerns me is that we are wasting a lot of time and effort (and money) on administrative processes, on hoops to jump through, setting up ever more complex and bureaucratic systems. This is happening, so much so that we are losing sight of the real reason for Bologna, namely to improve the quality of the learning experience of the student. I work in an organisation where we believe the student experience is central, but even with this belief we spent many years submerged in the microscopic detail of the process, without ever really thinking about the whole picture. So, under Bologna, many courses are being redesigned, or perhaps I should say re-packaged, when Bologna should provide us with an excuse to be really creative and consider what we are trying to achieve and how we do it.
Perhaps that is because we have never had the breathing space to have a real vision and feel for the ‘process’ of Bologna. So, for example, really exciting opportunities to examine and lay down a unique ‘European dimension’ are not being followed up. Most of the academics I have met recently are struggling to see further than the paperwork that they have before them. Europeanisation was a feature under Bologna that seems to have disappeared from the agenda.
The TUNING survey was an attempt to map out the routes, but it has only been fully undertaken for some subjects and then with incomplete agreement as to the outcomes by those involved. The follow-up done has been limited also to those areas in the first phase. This is frustrating for the other disciplines. Why is this so? Does TUNING provide us with answers or more problems? Thematic networks are also a wonderful opportunity to encourage dialogue and debate, but policy prevents real longitudinal research into the impacts and outcomes of Bologna. So it is a shame that we really don’t know what the ‘Bologna-effect’ really is and have no real process or opportunity to investigate it.
What is the answer? The reality is that we have not seen the landscape, let alone even prepared the signposts. I think we should establish a really creative European ‘think-tank’ of pedagogical visionaries to provide us with leadership and guidance. They would be charged to give us the big picture. At the other end of the scale, we also need much more national (and institutional) support for reform, in order to be able to courageously transform the higher education system at grass roots level. In the UK, I am proud to be involved in the first steps towards this. Through the National Teaching Fellowship scheme and the establishment of Centres of Excellence, many outstanding colleagues have been raised on a pedestal and encouraged to explore and disseminate our ‘visions of the future’. With few strings attached. So, I’d like to see a European version of this developed, where individuals might be given the opportunity to make a difference and have some influence.
Dear Mr Donert, do you think that the learning process always has to be supervised by the figure of a teacher or do you think that, with the actual learning tools, a student can learn by him or herself? Can we get rid of the figure of the teacher? Will we substitute him or her with user-centred learning tools? Will the teachers be key figures in designing these learner-centred learning tools?
Hi Maria, maybe we shouldn’t call ourselves teachers. We are really all learners. I can honestly say that I learn so much from my own students, I tell them this but they don’t all necessarily believe me! If we keep ‘teachers as the key figurehead’, then I think we are also restricting learning opportunities. I like to think that we can all become experts, so we all have a role to play in learning. My students are far more expert than I will ever be at communicating online and a host of other things. They also discover during the course of their learning far more than I could ever teach them. So, if we encourage learners to express themselves, then we can all learn from this.
Now we come to the issue of ‘teachers as assessors’. If we are the only ones that make judgements on the value of the learning outcomes, then we remain at the centre of the learning process. Maybe we inhibit achievement through this. The concept of ‘unintentional learning’ and its assessment came up in a recent forum debate I was involved in. If it was not intentional, do we discount it, as it isn’t one of the proposed learning outcomes? A ‘Catch-22’ dilemma for Bologna, if the core of Bologna is learning outcomes! I can just imagine the problems this might cause if the bureaucrats were to get hold of it. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to deal with this? Do we need to think of the ‘level’ or quality of achievement, as opposed to what is achieved?
What do you think about the future of mobile learning? Can this be a ‘real’ choice compared to classical ‘e-learning’ tools (such as a computer and multimedia-rich training programme either with or without internet support)? What is the applicability of m-learning tools (whilst taking care of the increase in smartphone capabilities)?
Hmmmmm …. mobile learning – this is where the kids could be today. But we are not really ready for it institutionally. I haven’t really had much experience with this apart from a few ‘learning bytes’ through pod-casting. What I do feel, however, is that the challenge is to engage the learner at the right time and in the right place for him or her to learn. As we are all different, we need to establish the availability of flexible and usable learning opportunities. So we don’t want to create a recipe book approach, more opening some doors and encouraging learners to step through them and into their preferred learning environment; instead, we have to encourage them to step outside their ‘comfort zone’. So the key might be simple, yet flexible learning tools and resources that encourage thinking – rather than simply activity. Note – I do believe in active learning.
Comment: Nothing special anymore about ‘e’! In my view, what is now important is the creation of the environment for continuous innovation - integrating digital devices and digital media into the curriculum - and expecting that so-called 'disruptive technologies' are becoming the norm. [For example - we are working with teachers and very young school pupils with digital video, editing, pod casting, use of Skype, etc. The possibilities are endless. It does not matter much who 'creates' the content; it could be the teacher or the pupil! But the teacher plays the vital role of mediating the curriculum. Higher education is light years behind in terms of innovative pedagogical practice! Have a look at www.fis.ie
Hi Jim, I couldn’t agree more. Yet I think ‘e’ should stand for environment. The person mediating (I won’t call this person a teacher as it isn’t teaching) has the responsibility of letting the learners loose and keeping them moving forward. A bit like shepherds I suppose! But do we need to actually know where we are going? Hmm…
I also agree that higher education urgently needs to look at other education sectors and the learning experiences there and especially the exciting things happening with learning being undertaken by very young children. I suppose we really need to support cross-phase actions that allow this type of sharing to take place. I think there is much innovative in higher education – but it is drowned with the search for research assessment and funding.
- Do you agree that broadband high speed Internet is actually what we need in order to attract students and have a real breakthrough in the educational process?
- To what extent do you think that universities in the EU are prepared for a day-to-day distant learning service and online tutoring? Isn't it really a problem that educators urgently need e-education?
- No, I think broadband just enables access to learning materials. It could also provide a technologically blinding haze that hides the sort of transformative learning change that learners need to experience. So we must reject the opinion that technology provides a solution. It doesn’t. It certainly doesn’t affect the education process unless we think how to use it effectively.
- EU (and other) universities are looking for solutions. They find it hard to deal with the individual, they don’t understand that learners cannot be produced through a conveyor belt system and maintain quality and excellence. I am not sure that distant learning services can do this either. Therefore, unless the tutors are encouraged to understand the learners, the services are not likely to suit their real needs. We spend too little time thinking/reflecting on the impact of the learning space created on learners.
Educators need e-education … an education in the real E-xperience of the learner.
- Is e-learning effective for mass education using current technology, whether in developed or developing countries?
- How does one compromise with the fact that, in spite of all the high tech tools available, almost all of the schools in the world are still using paper/printed homework or textbooks for their daily work?
- Equipping each school in a country with 50 computers or so is quite an achievement for many. But how can 2,000 students use 50 computers for 7 to 10 subjects? This would give each student no more than 9 minutes a day.
I am from Malaysia, and I have been pondering about this for years, and yet nothing seems to improve. Tons and tons of paper are still used every day. If you want to see my solution, check it out at www.visualgram.com. Perhaps my ideas will provide food for thought on how to overcome such inhibitions.
- I suppose we should discuss whether mass education is a desirable goal here. If we are seeking to increase the proportion of students who enter and complete higher education, or to extend the education potential to achieve learning for life, then current technology (and I include media – news, TV, etc. in this) is a very rich and powerful resource. In our open learning environment, we are bombarded with lots of information. Mass education thus needs to be about how to help the learners make the right choices and decisions in their learning and in their lives, based on the stimuli that are available to them (stimuli = learning objects, activities etc.). So the technology doesn’t matter at all. It is what we do with the information we have and the learning we experience. Technological solutions should not be a holy grail! Learning solutions should be. But they are less sexy and so attract much less money!
- No matter how ‘high’ and how ‘tech’ we get, teachers still think traditionally and they think they are at the centre of learning. The fountain of knowledge! That is the real issue, not the technology. I repeat here that I think there is little vision of ‘the experience of learning’. We mainly concentrate on the experience of teaching. Have you also thought that books and paper might be a ‘lowest-common denominator’, providing a mass education that does not challenge learners? Do we want to create thinking and questioning citizens? So if we wanted to change the goal, we could change the system.
- I agree with this; in fact, I said precisely this several years ago at a major national geography conference! I still don’t believe we should be using computers in school unless it is for highly specialist and relevant things and for suitably lengthy periods of time. The most valuable computer-based learning needs time for the learner to discover, think, reflect, respond and participate in the learning. Having school classes that end after 40-60 minutes when the learners have just warmed up means that we are just wasting the potential of our technology in schools. I’d really like to see us concentrate on using ICT in learning beyond schools and to re-structure the school day to enable creative and constructive learning.
I have often wondered why young (and less young) sit and concentrate deeply on cartoons or computer games for hours with seeming to get tired or bored, yet they switch off within minutes in a classroom. So what types of environment are we all captivated by? We enjoy stimulus, interaction and excitement to engage us, so why can’t we develop such strategies to create deeper and more meaningful learner-centred experiences?
Following a recent meeting with Mrs. Viviane Reding, the newly appointed EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, the European eLearning Industry Group (eLIG ) has published a set of 10 recommendations which it considers necessary to make the Lisbon target of improved economic growth and more and better jobs a reality. The eLearning Industry Group (eLIG), a consortium of 43 leading ICT and eLearning content providers, both private and public, believes that if the EU is to achieve its objective of being the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010, there is a need to actively support the widespread deployment and adoption of new content publishing and management technologies throughout Europe, in education and training, in the home and in industry and especially among SMEs.
The eLIG Manifesto lists 10 recommendations intended to help European central and local governments, public authorities and content industry players to contribute to, and benefit from, the emerging global society of knowledge. The European content industries are facing the challenge of convergence of media related technologies in a situation of fragmentation and localisation - on the other hand the cultural diversity, and the multi-lingual situation represent the core strengths of Europe. The transformation of the content industries has only begun - the challenges are huge and range from the protection of investments, to establishing standards for truly interoperable content. eLIG considers this as a key subject for advancing the Lisbon process.
1. Better balancing of public investment
Pedagogical resources, software and services have in most cases been neglected in public investments. Achieving a world-class broadband infrastructure is a pre-requisite of the Lisbon Strategy but public investment should better balance the four key elements of an eLearning public policy (infrastructure, open standards, quality content and services, teacher training) in order to maximise the benefits to the end users.
2. Supporting Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity
It is highly desirable, for social and cultural reasons to promote linguistic and cultural diversity, but the European content industry cannot achieve this objective without public support to help recover the extremely high fixed costs of producing multilingual contents serving various pedagogical models and curriculums. More significant resources must be allocated to the development of pedagogical content and tools to generate, maintain and access that content. The next generation of IST programmes should include significant action lines for the production of quality multilingual eLearning materials.
3. Managing Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing Conditions
ICT deployment public policies should combine funding and appropriate licensing conditions regarding the purchase of educational resources. Funding should not be viewed as a substitute for licensing. Urgent action is needed to give publishers further incentives to invest in digital materials. Proper digital management of Intellectual Property Rights solutions (DRMs) should include identification of rights, description of content packaged in an interoperable format and technological protection measures preventing unauthorized use. DRMs based on these specifications are market-enabling solutions. There is no evidence that specific IPR legislation is needed in the education environment.
4. Maintaining fair competition while exploring new business models based on PPPs
Public sector broadcasters in Europe (such as the BBC) often hold a unique position in the eLearning market, having been granted permission (and in some cases, strongly encouraged) to produce quality editorial materials distributed on a commercial basis. Public-private partnerships including public and private sector publishers should be encouraged. We do not support another view expressed1 in favour of a public-sector strategy for educational content creation.
5. eContent for all: take-up by all citizens and enterprises
In order to build a European Knowledge Society which is accessible to all, there is a need to provide basic ICT training to all citizens especially the less advantaged and to promote the benefits of ICT, including eLearning amongst all citizens and enterprises. The EU and its Member States need to invest heavily in these areas.
6. EU level harmonization: towards a Common Core of Content
The European Commission should explore the possibility of a Public-Private Partnership-based approach to define a Common Core of Content (in terms of skills) needed to achieve the Lisbon goals. Yet, public support and funding should remain focused on the traditional approach where pedagogy and skills depend on subject, language and curriculum-specific contents. The Common Core approach could complement the traditional approach.
7. The importance of interoperability and open standards for content repository, exchange, re-usability and re-localization: more R&D is needed on these topics
Important unsolved R&D topics in technologies and standards for content remain. We recommend that publishers are involved in that standardisation process. Additional funding should be dedicated to research and supporting activities aimed at delivering workable solutions to improve content design and storage with a view to automating reusability and facilitating re-localization based on licensing conditions.
8. The issue of Granularity: impact on personalisation features
There has been much confusion between a demand for flexibility and a misconception of granularity. The aspiration for flexibility needs to be weighed against the reality, and the desirability, of the majority of teachers having limited time and will to select and aggregate content. It is important for any eLearning Strategy to acknowledge and work into its plans the fact that publishers already offer a range of tools to support customisation, at the level that most users want, as well as packaged solutions supporting a high level of flexibility.
9. How to measure and improve quality of learning materials?
Where e-learning public policy focuses on the development of low-value, low cost and poorly standardised nuggets designed by amateurs or service providers as promotional material, with limited public commitment or support, there is no incentive for publishers to heavily invest in the production of quality editorial content. However, there has been a growing demand for quality assurance for digital pedagogical content. We are firmly convinced that the best way to achieve quality assurance for content is the editorial process, which should be stimulated so that commercial success can nurture a virtuous development cycle.
10. Need for advanced broadband for the development of rich content
True broadband is needed for the development of rich and interactive education content. The broadband picture in Europe remains fragmented. Broadband penetration is higher in those countries with competitive infrastructure but remains very low in many countries, with entire areas with no access to broadband. Also, the focus in Europe remains on “quantity” of broadband and not on “quality”. There is no focus on the need to deploy next generation broadband facilities providing high speeds, which will enable the creation of richer and more innovative education content and services. International developments in parts of Asia show that next generation broadband facilities are being deployed, and these developments are triggering new and richer content education products and services. Achieving a world-class broadband infrastructure that supports high quality and fast communications, which will enable rich education content development should be a corner stone of i-Europe 2010.
Article extracted from eCompete
La Harvard Business Review (HBR), revue de renommée internationale considérée comme une référence majeure en matière d’étude de conjonctures économiques, distingue six phases successives dans l’évolution de la théorie de la gestion au cours des dernières décennies1:
- Gestion scientifique (~1922 à ~1932)
- Réglementation gouvernementale (~1932 à ~1946)
- Marketing et diversification (~1946 à ~1960)
- Stratégie et changement social (~1960 à ~1972)
- Exigences de compétitivité et restructuration (~1972 à ~1988)
- Mondialisation et connaissance (~1988 à ?)
Par conséquent, si nous acceptons que la connaissance est aujourd’hui le moteur des économies, son carburant est donc l’apprentissage. C’est pourquoi l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie est le grand enjeu de ce nouveau siècle, aussi bien pour les individus que pour les organisations (organisations apprenantes).
Cependant, dans la chaîne des valeurs – données/informations/ connaissance/apprentissage – il manque le dernier maillon, celui qui produit réellement de la richesse (pour un individu comme pour une organisation), à savoir la création de sens2.
La connaissance acquiert dès lors de nouvelles connotations : elle est polysémique, régie par des critères non fragmentaires, construite subjectivement et non matérialisée objectivement, et sa compétitivité réside dans le corpus tacite de connaissances tirées de l’expérience. La gestion du savoir est inséparable des personnes qui le créent, l’enrichissent, le diffusent et lui apportent de la valeur ajoutée sur la base de l’utilité de la connaissance.
L’apprentissage fait également l’objet d’une importante transformation. Au niveau individuel, le nouveau type d’apprentissage peut être suivi à tout âge, en tout lieu et sur quelque durée que ce soit. Au niveau de la sphère organisationnelle, la gestion stratégique privilégie les entreprises « biologiques », c’est-à-dire celles qui « apprennent » au moyen de l’évolution et de l’adaptation – par opposition aux organisations « mécaniques », qui continuent simplement à répéter leurs actions comme dans le passé. Dans ce nouveau mode de management, l’esprit de cohésion, la valeur du capital social, les réseaux de partenariats, les relations de confiance et les communautés de pratique constituent des tremplins essentiels pour le développement. Ce nouvel apprentissage, tant au niveau individuel qu’organisationnel, redonne le premier rôle à l’individu.
Dans ce contexte, le principal sujet d’étude et de débat pour le siècle qui commence est celui de la gestion des personnes et des communautés.
En réalité, les organisations sont composées de personnes "sentipensantes"3 vivant en communautés d’intention et de sens, qui constituent le véritable tremplin essentiel pour la création de valeur, la production de richesse et le progrès des nations : nous ne transformons en connaissance que les informations que nous pouvons intégrer dans des modèles congruents, et nous n’apprenons vraiment que ce qui a du sens.
Le capital intellectuel4, qui apparaît aujourd’hui comme le moteur des économies, est par conséquent le fruit d’une sage combinaison de capital humain et de capital structurel permettant de favoriser la création de valeur pour les organisations. Les nouveaux réseaux et les nouvelles chaînes de valeur, principales sources de richesse et de compétitivité, se fondent, d’une part, sur le savoir et les compétences des individus et, d’autre part, sur la capacité des organisations à intégrer efficacement ces ressources immatérielles de façon à innover et à se démarquer de la concurrence.
Il n’est donc pas étonnant que le gouvernement de Singapour, premier pays du monde en matière de tests de connaissance standardisés recommandés par les organisations internationales, structure sa nouvelle stratégie de développement autour de quatre des aspects fondamentaux de l’apprentissage5:
- Capital de connaissances : réduction du programme scolaire de 20 % afin de permettre aux élèves d’explorer des problèmes complexes et interdisciplinaires.
- Capital imaginatif : promotion de nouveaux écosystèmes favorisant l’innovation et l’esprit d’entreprise.
- Capital émotionnel : création des conditions de stabilité émotionnelle et de tranquillité capables de retenir dans le pays les cadres les plus performants et le capital international.
- Capital social : poursuite de l’emploi durable et de la densification des réseaux communautaires de base.
Nous traversons une nouvelle ère, à la fois complexe et stimulante. Et cette nouvelle ère, comme c’est le cas depuis au moins 250 ans, a été le fruit de la technologie.
Carlota Pérez évoque de façon très convaincante la leçon que nous devrions tirer des "régularités historiques"6. Ses recherches sur les révolutions technologiques des 250 dernières années l’ont amenée à conclure que chaque nouvelle ère économique est engendrée par de grands bonds technologiques qui se manifestent de deux façons :
- L’apparition de puissants clusters de nouveaux produits et services, ainsi que de nouveaux réseaux d’infrastructure.
- La consolidation d’un nouveau modèle techno-économique caractérisé par de nouvelles technologies génériques de large envergure, de nouveaux principes organisationnels, différents modes de management et des équipements permettant de réduire les coûts (avec pour conséquences des bonds quantifiables de la productivité).
Selon Carlota Pérez, l’humanité arrive aujourd’hui à un « tournant » dans la dernière révolution technologique. La période de mise en place des technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC), qui s’est étalée sur les trente dernières années – avec pour séquelles la « création destructrice » et la généralisation d’un nouveau modèle social, la société de l’information et de la connaissance –, pourrait être suivie par une période de mise en œuvre et de prospérité à plein régime de ce nouveau modèle triomphant. Pour Carlota Pérez, la période de transition dans laquelle nous vivons – le « tournant » – est marquée par l’instabilité, l’incertitude, la fin des bulles de spéculation et la réorganisation institutionnelle.
Si cette interprétation se confirme, nos « vénérables » institutions – école, université, gouvernement et entreprises elles-mêmes – seront soumises, incessamment, à la pression du défi urgent d’un réajustement structurel et d’une vaste réforme.
La création de nouveauté dans les domaines de la connaissance et de l’apprentissage dépend de la capacité des personnes à innover, gouverner, travailler, communiquer et créer de la valeur en utilisant les nouvelles technologies.
Aujourd’hui, l’e-learning et le b-learning (apprentissage mixte) sont de précieux outils pour créer de la valeur chez les individus et accélérer l’apprentissage et l’innovation au sein des organisations. Les nouvelles connaissances et les nouveaux apprentissages, avec le soutien solide des nouvelles technologies de la communication, constituent le fil rouge qui nous permettra de sortir indemnes des changements vertigineux qui nous attendent.
C’est pour cette raison qu’émerge aujourd’hui, au lieu de visions du problème segmentées selon telle ou telle technologie, le grand défi de repenser tout l’apprentissage à partir d’un modèle différent, autrement dit de penser en termes de nouvel apprentissage, de new learning.
La mythologie de la Grèce antique nous dit que c’est grâce au fil d’Ariane que Thésée, après avoir tué le Minotaure, a pu retrouver son chemin pour sortir du labyrinthe et sauver ses compagnons qui s’y étaient perdus.
Aujourd’hui encore, tout comme dans le passé, le fil d’Ariane peut nous sauver.
Universidade Católica Portuguesa
- "75 Years of Management - Ideas and Practice 1992-1997", Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, Boston, 1997.
- Carneiro, R., « La educación, el aprendizaje y el sentido », in Encuentro Sentidos de la Educación – Cultivar la Humanidad, OREALC/UNESCO, Santiago, Chili, 2005.
- Terme inventé par Eduardo Galeano dans Le Livre des étreintes (1989) pour définir une manière de réfléchir croisant sentir et penser, intuitions et réalités.
- Stewart, T., Capital Intelectual: A Nova Riqueza das Organizações, Ed. Sílabo, Lisbonne, 1999.
- Carneiro, R., « Informação, Conhecimento e Pessoas », in Caixa em Revista, CGD, Lisbonne, 2005, pp. 26-29.
- Pérez, C., Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2002.
- "75 Years of Management - Ideas and Practice 1992-1997", Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, Boston, 1997.
- Carneiro, R., « La educación, el aprendizaje y el sentido », in Encuentro Sentidos de la Educación – Cultivar la Humanidad, OREALC/UNESCO, Santiago, Chili, 2005.
- Terme inventé par Eduardo Galeano dans Le Livre des étreintes (1989) pour définir une manière de réfléchir croisant sentir et penser, intuitions et réalités.
- Stewart, T., Capital Intelectual: A Nova Riqueza das Organizações, Ed. Sílabo, Lisbonne, 1999.
- Carneiro, R., « Informação, Conhecimento e Pessoas », in Caixa em Revista, CGD, Lisbonne, 2005, pp. 26-29.
- Pérez, C., Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2002.
“eTwinning constitue une approche nouvelle et complémentaire de l’action de l’Europe dans le domaine de l’éducation”, a déclaré Jàn Figel’, commissaire en charge de l’éducation, de la formation, de la culture et du multilinguisme. “L’action eTwinning se distingue de nos autres programmes en matière d’éducation en cela qu'au lieu de financer des projets individuels, elle fournit aux établissements scolaires une infrastructure, des instruments et des services dans le but de leur faciliter autant que possible la création de tous types de partenariats, depuis des projets à court terme jusqu’à des projets en coopération de longue durée, dans n’importe quel domaine. Les services sont gratuits et ne nécessitent aucune procédure administrative lourde. L’action eTwinning est un moyen très efficace d'encourager l’utilisation des TIC et l’acquisition d’aptitudes linguistiques et de compétences interculturelles dans l’enseignement scolaire.”
L’initiative eTwinning génère de l’innovation dans l’enseignement et motive les élèves à apprendre. Les élèves, les enseignants, les directeurs d’établissement et les autres membres du personnel scolaire utilisent les services eTwinning pour ajouter une dimension européenne à la vie scolaire. Au travers de l’internet, ils travaillent ensemble de maintes manières différentes avec leurs pairs dans d’autres pays, ils bavardent en ligne, s’envoient des courriels et s’échangent des idées et du matériel pédagogique. Thérèse Hagberg, professeur dans le cycle secondaire inférieur en Suède, a reconnu que “l’action eTwinning a contribué à augmenter nos contacts avec le reste de l'Europe et a ouvert notre école au monde qui nous entoure ”.
Pour la première fois, les meilleurs projets eTwinning seront récompensés en janvier 2006. Les écoles qui souhaitent concourir sont invitées à soumettre les résultats de leurs projets avant le 27 novembre par l’entremise du portail eTwinning. La cérémonie de remise des prix aura lieu le 13 janvier 2006, au cours de la conférence eTwinning à Linz, Autriche.
Pour de plus amples informations sur cette action, veuillez consulter le portail eTwinning de la Commission européenne.
How is the Internet governed today?
The internet governance controversy in Tunis turns on the question of who manages a key part of its infrastructure – the domain name system (DNS), i.e. the rules that computers and networks use to find each other. These rules are currently managed by the California-based not-for-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), under a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Commerce Department.
In effect, this arrangement gives the US government the sole right to decide when a new Top Level Domain (TLD) can be introduced into cyberspace, whether it be a new country code (.uk, .fr, etc) or a new “generic” TLD, such as .com or .eu.
The fact that the internet has become a strategically vital part of most countries’ communications infrastructure, and one that directly affects economic growth and social development is prompting many to question whether one government alone should supervise such an important part of the infrastructure. Many countries see the internet as a global resource, and some even argue that all nations should have a role in setting policies through a multilateral institution. Internet Governance has therefore become an issue which is debated at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis.
What is the Commission’s position on internet governance? The 25 nations of the European Union will speak in Tunis with one voice, expressed by the UK Presidency and supported by the European Commission. The EU view has been repeated many times in the past months and has remained essentially unchanged in recent years. The EU advocates a free, stable, democratic Internet that is open to the world.
The EU believes, first of all, that ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is doing a very good job. The privatisation of the technical management of the world-wide domain name system in the hands of the California-based non-profit organisation ICANN was strongly supported by the EU in 1998. The Commission believes that one should not try to change this successful example of management in private hands. ICANN carries the trust of the global Internet Community.
Secondly, the EU believes that governments should not have a say in the day-to-day management of the Net. To involve governments in this work could create unnecessary burdensome structures and could even endanger the Internet’ stability. The EU therefore supports an approach to Internet governance that even further removes government control from ICANN.
For many years, this objective was also shared by the US administration. Such an approach would also allow complete the privatising of the day-today management of the Net by phasing out the oversight functions of the US Department of Commerce over ICANN.
Thirdly, the EU believes that on important policy issues concerning the functioning of the Internet – such as spam, cyber crime and, most important, ensuring access by all citizens to the freedoms offered by the Web – a new "cooperation model" is needed, in other words: a light and transparent mechanism for deliberations between governments. The Commission welcomes the fact that the US has already expressed their interest in a closer cooperation with other governments to address public policy and sovereignty issues concerning the country code top-level domains. The Commission takes the view that in these discussions, we should bring all nations to the same table and not exclude anyone. Only in this way will we spread the understanding that freedom of expression on the Internet is the starting point not only for a democratic development of societies, but also for their prosperity.
However, for such deliberations, we do certainly not need to establish new structures or even to call in the United Nations. We can instead build on the existing structures, in particular on ICANN. With regard to the new model of cooperation proposed by the EU, Commissioner Reding could envisage the following: “If governments around the world are genuinely committed to a free, stable, and open Internet, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN could be a suitable body to help putting elements of the new cooperation
model proposed by us Europeans into practice.”
How can information and communication technologies help developing countries?
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) – which include everything from old-fangled telephones and broadcasting equipment to the latest smart, do-everything devices – are vital to any country’s long-run economic competitiveness, social cohesion, good governance and quality medical care. National research and education networks play a strategic role in enabling schoolchildren, students, businesses and citizens to use these technologies productively, in ways that overcome the inadequacies of existing markets and public services.
ICTs need infrastructure, but hardware alone does not make an effective information system. To make the hardware useful, international co-operation schemes also support energy supply, training, policy and planning, and ICT applications development. These schemes are helping many developing countries to skip older generation ICTs and access newer, cheaper and more useful ones directly.
As developing countries’ economies liberalise, so a growing share of telecommunications infrastructure investment must come from the private sector. To attract this investment, governments, with donor support, may provide low-interest loans or risk guarantees. At the very least, they need to ensure that regulation fosters enterprise and competition.
Where the market cannot meet development needs, e.g. because providing connections to poor and rural areas would be unprofitable, governments may help through innovative public-private partnerships, incentives, or public provision. Donor support is often important in launching and expanding such initiatives.
To harness the development potential of ICTs, the EU works with international aid programmes coordinated by inter-governmental or non-governmental agencies. The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD, and the European Development Fund (EDP) – an initiative for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries – are all important partners in investing in ICT for development.
For example, around €110 million from the 9th European Development Fund for ACP countries goes to ICT-related aid. Most developing countries view ICTs as an integral part of their development plans, and ICTs form a significant part of many EU-funded projects.
How are EU-funded information and communication technology (ICT) projects contributing to development worldwide?
Research and education
- GÉANT2, the high-speed pan-European research and education network, connects European researchers with colleagues in North America, Japan, Latin America, the Asia-Pacific rim, North
Africa and the Middle East, South Africa, Caucasus, and Central Asia. Because research is inherently global, GÉANT2 strives to offer a seamless worldwide service enabling researchers to share knowledge and co-operate, irrespective of which specific network takes data to the individual scientist.
GÉANT2’s geographic coverage, technology skills and services attract interconnection requests from all over the world.
- ALICE (America Latina Interconectada Con Europa) connects Latin American national research and education networks to GÉANT2 via a Latin American regional research network, RedCLARA. ALICE is 80% funded by the European Commission (@LIS Programme), and has 4 European partners (France, Italy, Portugal and Spain) and 19 Latin American ones, including the Latin American research networking association CLARA. ALICE has greatly enhanced the ability of researchers in Latin America to join in research projects around the world.
- The EUMEDCONNECT network infrastructure serves research and education communities around the Mediterranean – currently Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey and is 80% funded by European Commission (EUMEDIS Programme). Before EUMEDCONNECT, there were almost no internet links among Mediterranean countries, and very few research and education links between these countries and Europe.
- TEIN2, the Trans-Eurasia Information Network, is providing a regional backbone network for research and education within 10 Asia-Pacific countries (including 6 developing countries which directly benefit from 80% funding under the European Commission’s - Asi@ICTProgramme). TEIN2 facilitates scientific collaboration within the Asia-Pacific region, with its neighbours (e.g. Australia and India), and with Europe (via GÉANT2).
- The regional ALICE, EUMEDCONNECT and TEIN2 network infra-structures are linked via GÉANT2 to:
- research and education networks in more than 30 European countries,
- the major research networks in North America Abilene CANARIE">CANARIE, ESnet">ESnet ) and Japan (SINET">SINET),
- the South African research network, TENET">TENET,
- the research networks on the Caucasus and in Central Asia (via the SILK">SILK and SPONGE">SPONGE projects), and
- access to the commercial internet (optional service, terms and conditions apply).
- BEANISH is an EU R&D project that networks European and African countries to develop ICT applications to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS. It enables governments, universities, private firms and NGOs to tailor open-source software to specific local needs, and train people to use it.
- T@lemed is a project that combines medical diagnostics with network technology to deliver advanced clinical expertise from large hospitals to remote rural communities in Brazil. Medical data and images are transmitted via network infrastructure provided by the ALICE (America Latina Interconectada Con Europa) or RedCLARA">RedCLARA networks. RedCLARA links researchers across Latin America, and enables them to exchange medical data and opinions with European colleagues via RedCLARA’s European counterpart, GÉANT2">GÉANT2, using a transatlantic link.
Upgrading networking technologies for the worldwide web
- 6NET, a European project with 35 partners from academia, research and private industry, has demonstrated the viability of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), which is needed to upgrade the worldwide web’s carrying capacity and support its exponential growth. 6NET has developed tools and expertise for migrating from today’s IP4 to IPv6 networks and tested a range of IPv6 applications. Its findings, including a comprehensive user manual, have been made available worldwide. In the southern Caucasus and Central Asia, the SILK">SILK and SPONGE">SPONGE projects used European Space Agency (ESA) equipment to supply a satellite-based IPv6 service. Many other IPv6 or dual IPv4/IPv6 networks are now being rolled out around the world, enabling developing countries to skip several technology generations and access the latest, high-performance networks directly.
How does the EU contribute to information society policy making worldwide?
The European Union strongly supports international cooperation in the ICT field. In line with the WSIS Declaration of Principles, the programmes and projects supported with the least developed countries and regions aim to fight poverty and to empower citizens by helping them to access and use ICTs. International cooperation takes place at three levels:
- political - the EU and its Member States work with non-EU countries and international organisations to promote policies in which ICTs play a key role. Examples include: a joint ACP-EU position on “Information Society for Development” (adopted at the WSIS-I meeting in Geneva in 2003); the EU-China Information Society Dialogue and Information Society Week and the Euro-India Co-operation Forum,
- regulatory - the EU works with international partners to ensure that each country’s rules governing ICTs are mutually compatible. This helps to ensure that ICT systems are interoperable, which in turn facilitates international trade, and
- scientific and technological - the EU has been taking part in international scientific and technological cooperation schemes for over two decades, during which has gradually opened up EU research programmes to players from all over the world. Its monitoring of international research developments also provides early warning of new technology trends that may make it necessary to update rules governing ICTs.
Vehicles for international information society cooperation include:
- the EU-Meditarranean programme EUMEDIS">EUMEDIS, which runs Information society projects in the areas of healthcare networks, electronic commerce, tourism and cultural heritage, industry research and innovation, and education,
- the EU-Latin American programme @LIS">@LIS (Alliance for the Information Society), which supports ICT applications for local e-government, e-education and cultural diversity, e-public health, and e-inclusion. @LIS also provides -discussion fora for EU-Latin American networks of regulators and researchers, and in addition promotes open and international standards, and
- the EU-Asia (Asi@ICT) programme, which promotes trade and technology ties between Asia and Europe. Asi@ICT covers ICT applications in agriculture, education, e-governance, environment, health, and transport. The EU also has bilateral agreements with China and India (see www.eurochina-it.org).
“E-learning is a teaching and learning method that involves the formative product and process. Formative product means every type of material or content made available in digital format by means of computer or network channels. Formative process means the management of the entire didactic itinerary that involves aspects of distribution, fruition, interaction and evaluation” (ANEE, E-learning Observatory, 2003).
E-learning constitutes a broad sector with many facets. The themes to be taken into consideration vary and knowledge of the complexity of the issue is fundamental in order to have a global vision. It would be a mistake to consider this kind of education from a purely technical point of view; nor should one deal with it by limiting oneself to the didactic and methodological aspects.
Although one often makes the mistake of thinking that, for this form of education, it is sufficient to obtain, and concern oneself solely with, platforms, learning management systems, learning objects, etc. (thus delegating educational strategies to technical instruments), experience has shown that, in order to accomplish successful e-learning, it is essential to carry out an in-depth restructuring of educational processes, maintain a constructive and collaborative approach to e-learning, and re-think the roles, placing the student at the centre of the educational process.
It is clear that didactic and methodological issues should always remain in the foreground; nevertheless, keeping an eye also on the instruments and following the technological developments that accompany e-learning from a purely technical point of view is a necessity, if not an obligation. This is fundamental in order to innovate education, taking the best advantage of everything that technology makes available to improve, integrate and strengthen the learning procedure.
The biblio-webliography is sub-divided into the following themed areas, which have been separated in order to deal with the various constituent elements of e-learning with greater clarity:
- GUIDELINES: Research and National Governing Guidelines• TECHNOLOGICAL ELEMENTS: Platforms, Standards, Learning Objects, Open-source.
- EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT: Production/Planning of Contents, Instructional Design
- EDUCATIONAL PROCESS: Methodological Aspects, Collaborative Approach, On-line Tutoring
- FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS: Integration with KM, Mobile or Wireless Learning
Key terms: Research and National Governing Guidelines.
With the aim of providing valid support to deal with the problems resulting from innovation processes in Italy, a number of bodies and associations (including the CNIPA, ASFOR and ASSINFORM) have become involved in creating documents either to operate and provide guidance in the sector of distance learning, or to understand the terminology and methodology within.
There are a number of key texts that are of interest in terms of having a full view of the situation concerning e-learning in Italy.
- ASFOR Lettera Asfor n.3/2002. “The e-learning planet and the Asfor proposals: from Guidelines to Glossary”, in ASFOR, 2002 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
A full glossary with a further 450 terms, the objective of which is to constitute a reference point for the entire public and private education sector. The aim of the ASFOR initiative is to offer clarity in the somewhat confusing sector of e-learning, starting with the terminology itself, often hostile, which is used in this field of activities. ASFOR is the Association for Management Education Development, and has also created the guidelines for the on-line Master’s accreditation process.
- CNIPA (a cura di). “Vademecum for the execution of e-learning educational projects in public administrations”, in CNIPA, 2004 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
An extremely useful, complete and accurate publication drawn up by the CNIPA (National Centre for Information Technology in Public Administration). It contains guidelines for educational e-learning projects in public administrations, with the aim of promoting the correct use of new methodologies and technologies for education. The section dedicated to the organisational and methodological aspects of management of an e-learning project is of note, and particular attention is paid to the numerous and diverse roles and professional figures involved.
- Liscia R. (2004). E-learning: stato dell’arte e prospettive di sviluppo (E-learning: state of the art and development perspectives) Milan: Apogeo.
The ANEE (National Association of Electronic Publishing) of ASSINFORM (National Association of Producers of Technology and Services for Information and Communication) carried out the E-learning Observatory 2004 in order to study the current trends in the Italian market and provide an up-to-date scenario of the sector. The study revealed that the e-learning sector in Italy has grown steadily for the third year in a row. The study was carried out under the aegis of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology and with the collaboration of companies and universities operating in the distance learning sector (including Microsoft, Banca Intesa, Sfera, Telecom Italia Learning Services, Isvor Fiat, the State University of Milan and the Polytechnic of Milan).
Key terms: Platforms, SCORM Standard, Learning Objects, Open-source.
The section presents texts concerning mainly technical issues such as the e-learning standards (SCORM – Shareable Content Object Reference Model), learning objects and the diverse types of software (open-source). Nevertheless, the majority of the texts could also be of use to those who have less expertise, from a technical/technological point of view, or to those who need not deal exclusively with technical issues, because it provides an overall framework in relation to the world of e-learning.
Those involved in instructional design, or those needing guidance in the choice of technological solutions for the definition and organisation of virtual learning environments, will undoubtedly find it useful to go into greater depth with regard to certain essential technical concepts (for example, the importance of metadata, the possibilities that the standards offer or the consequences of the adoption of a specific instrument, be it synchronous or asynchronous, on the type of approach of the on-line course, etc.) and thus perceive the way in which the technological environment can restrict or increase the learning and methodological possibilities of distance learning.
- ADL Initiative. “The SCORM Implementation Guide: A Step by Step Approach”, in ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), November 2002 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
This text may be useful for the practical application of SCORM and may be considered a good starting point for instructional designers. It is a practical guide that provides interesting and precise ideas for the organisation of a SCORM project. Four main phases may be noted: analysis (needs, content, target); planning; content development; and verification and testing. This is a document under continuous development.
- ADL Initiative. “Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) 2004 2nd Edition”, in ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), July 2004 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
The text, which is in its second edition, provides an overall view of all of the documentation regarding the SCORM particulars, the main characteristics of which are illustrated in the latest version (SCORM 2004 or 1.3). Although this is an overview, the language used is technical. Further information regarding the technical details of SCORM can be found in three other documents: CAM (Content Aggregation Model), RTE (Run Time Environment) and SN (Sequencing and Navigation). The ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) is one of the main organisations to advance the initiative for the e-learning standards, and is sponsored by the Department of Defence (DoD) of the USA. This is a collaboration programme between the government, industry and universities, the objective of which is to define how to make the learning instruments and contents interoperational.
- Barritt C. / Alderman Jr F. L. (2004). Creating a Reusable Learning Object Strategy. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
An introduction manual that highlights all of the problems regarding the implementation of a strategy of learning objects in organisations and companies. It analyses the life cycle of the reusable content and is based on real corporate experiences. It is characterised in particular by costs and the increase in ROI (Return Of Investment). It is not very useful from a didactic point of view, in that it does not deal with issues regarding didactic strategies but limits itself to economic and organisational matters.
- Carnegie Mellon University. “SCORM Best Practices Guide for Content Developers”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab), 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A guide aimed at content creators and instructional designers, a valid support for the creation of materials compatible with the SCORM standard, or even to convert existing material. It contains advice and techniques for the implementation of particulars, but it does not substitute the other official, more technical, documents. Document edited by Learning Systems Architecture Lab (LSAL) of the Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA).
- Carnegie Mellon University. “Simple Sequencing Templates & Models”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab), 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A document illustrating the main sequencing rules of the didactic contents that provide the learning object designers with control over the learning process. For example, by means of the setting of certain rules, it is possible to establish a minimum number of points to be obtained in a test as a requisite in order to be able to go on to other contents, or even make it obligatory to consult certain materials before being able to move on to other sections of the course. The objective is to have a universally shared sequencing model.
- Fini A / Vanni L. (2004). Learning object e metadati. Quando, come e perché avvalersene. (Learning objects and metadata; when, how and why these should be used). I quaderni di formare n. 2. Trento: Edizioni Erickson.
An excellent, complete and clear book; above all, it is correct in its approach to learning objects. It provides a number of practical examples regarding instruments, as well as the various experiences on a national and international level regarding the application of standards. The chapter on “Questions, critiques and problems” is of particular interest, as it provides a useful overview of the debate under way which, for some time now, has offered encouragement to researchers and students in the sector with regard to the true didactic value of the learning objects and the possibility of using them effectively.
- Fontanesi P. (2003). E-learning. Milan: Tecniche Nuove (New Techniques).
These texts put forward a brief and concise framework from a theoretical point of view (what e-learning is, main definitions and characteristics), as well as from a technological point of view and in terms of the changes under way in the sector. The market standards are illustrated and explained in a simple manner, even for non-experts. The guidelines to choose an e-learning system are of great use, as is the section devoted to practical examples of available instruments and platforms. Besides these, it is a practical resource for novices who intend to embark on an e-learning project and who, therefore, require certain basic notions, this book also takes a look at the future of distance learning, highlighting the potentials and fields of application of mobile learning.
- Pasini N. “What content developers & instructional designers need to know: an overview of SCORM concepts”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab). 2002 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A presentation (PowerPoint) produced by Nina Pasini, from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA) that provides an outline of the advantages of contents in standard format: the contents become reusable (it is possible to reuse them in a number of learning contexts), interoperable (they can be used with diverse instruments and in various platforms), durable (they will resist technological developments), and accessible (it is possible to individualise and access the available contents in various places). Of particular interest is the section devoted to the impact of SCORM on the design of e-learning processes and therefore on instructional design. Although this is a presentation containing a content outline, the author clearly explains certain fundamental concepts and stresses that the instructional designer should not be responsible for including all of the technical details of SCORM, but should concentrate mainly on the design of effective content.
- Pettinari E-L / Rotta M. “Ambienti sincroni in Open Source” (Synchronous environments in open-source), in Form@re Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The article presents an overview of how the environments for synchronous communication in a didactic sphere are considered. The importance of synchronous communication instruments (such as chat, audio/video conference, etc.) has been safely proved in constructivist-type courses, which see interaction as the key to the construction of knowledge. Nevertheless, the open-source world, unlike what is currently taking place with owner software, still offers a limited number of solutions of this kind. After giving an outline of the main characteristics of synchronous spheres, the authors illustrate some of the instruments of this kind that are currently available, and often little known; for example, platforms, chats and shared blackboards. The authors conclude with a presentation of a number of experiences and specific cases. This is an interesting contribution in order to understand the state of the art regarding the use of synchronous environments in the didactic sphere and the possibilities, unfortunately little known, made available by open-source.
- Rotta M. “L'accessibilità e l'usabilità delle piattaforme Open Source” (The accessibility and usability of open-source platforms), in Form@re – Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The problem of accessibility by differently-abled subjects remains unresolved in the majority of e-learning platforms. Their architecture often makes it harder and more complicated to adjust to the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) standards. The author shows that there is still a great lack of attention devoted to the issue, although research groups and specific projects (such as the Commonwealth of Learning or the MIUR Technological Observatory) are dealing specifically with the issue. Part of the problem stems from the fact that there are still too many barriers in e-learning, not only technological ones, but above all cognitive ones, concerning the planning and bad organisation of educational plans. The barriers with cognitive implications are still such a huge problem that they overshadow the technical barriers. One potential solution is the possibility of making open-source type platforms accessible since, given their nature (the possibility of accessing the source code), they can be modified and adapted to specific requirements. This is a task that undoubtedly requires time and work, but it is possible.
- Rotta M. “Open Source e scuola: alcune riflessioni” (Open Source and school: some reflections), in Form@re – Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
This interesting article by Rotta offers an in-depth framework regarding the perception and aims of the use of open-source software in schools. The author stresses that, although this has been talked about and debated for a while now, one often mistakenly thinks of open-source mainly as a means of breaking up the Microsoft monopoly, or to obtain free software. This is not correct, since the situation is actually complex, whereby the types of license vary and the scenario is constantly evolving. Rotta criticises the fact that, too often, the technological choice prevails over the didactic one (hardware and software are, in fact, only instruments of an educational strategy) and that insufficient attention is devoted to the learning project. Dwelling too much on the ideological debate under way regarding open-source does not appear to be very useful in relation to schools, which should also take into account the fact that, besides CMS and platforms, there is a great deal of specific software (text editors, graphic, sound and animation editors, etc.) that can be used for didactic purposes.
- Sinform - Sinergie per la formazione (2003). Gli standard internazionali di produzione dei contenuti didattici: il modello SCORM (International production standards for didactic content: the SCORM model), project financed by the region of Emilia Romagna.
A complete and in-depth report on e-learning standards. It deals with technical issues, such as the Content Aggregation Model (specifics to define data and content in XML for learning objects) and Run Time Environment (specifics that enable communication between objects and LMS) in a simple and accessible manner, even for beginners. The issue of metadata is explored in depth in an accurate way. Also of interest is the section on conformity and LMS and content certification, an issue about which little information is found in networks and literature on the standards.
- Whiley D. “Learning Objects, a definition”, in Wiley, 2002 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
For the creation of reusable content, the SCORM model is based on Learning Objects (LOs). One of the most recognised and used definitions of learning objects, also because of its flexibility and indefiniteness, is that which can be found in this document by Whiley: a learning object is “every digital resource that can be used to assist learning”.
Key terms: Instructional Design, Content Design.
Instructional Design is the application of learning principles and theories and teaching for the development of formative participation. The instructional designer is responsible mainly for the organisation of the on-line education course, defining the instruments, the technological architecture and the storyboard, with the objective of creating effective learning experiences.
- Bruschi, Barbara / Perissinotto, Alessandro (2003). Come creare corsi on line (How to create on-line courses) Rome: Carocci Editore.
This guide contains practical advice and methodological indications for those who intend to create on-line courses. It is particularly useful from a practical point of view, in that it offers good suggestions in relation to basic issues, such as the use of images, the usefulness of speakership, music, videos and animations, the strategies to use for the construction of texts, from formatting (graphical form and text arrangement) to the type of language (brief, schematic, syntactically simple and attractive). Also of note is the part relating to the structuring of the didactic learning objects which, according to the authors, should have an initial evaluation, an introduction, a set number of content units, a summary or conclusion of how much has been learnt and a closing learning assessment. The section on learning objects is not dealt with from a technical point of view, but a methodological one: the authors show a certain sensitivity in terms of the Italian learning situation, and indicate a different approach to the one suggested by those who drew up the standards. Indeed, it is often difficult to believe in the real combinability and standardisation of the learning objects and the possibility of applying a model of this type in a humanist environment. Therefore, methods that are more in keeping with the Italian education system and the cultural traditions of the country are put forward.
- Calvani, A. (2001). Educazione, comunicazione e nuovi media, Sfide pedagogiche e cyberspazio (Education, communication and the new media, pedagogical challenges and cyberspace) Turin: Utet.
In this book, which deals with the main problems related to the use of technology in educational contexts, a number of interesting concepts emerge, such as “media ecology” and “didactic ergonomics”. The former regards the mechanisms to be borne in mind in learning environments, such as avoiding an overload of information, finding a balance between direct and indirect learning experiences, integrating and measuring out more learning channels, and using simple technologies. The latter concept concerns a discipline that is placed mid-way between the ergonomics and education technology, the object of which is the safeguarding of the cognitive commitment in the subjects involved, to prevent a levelling-off of the cognitive functions during the subject-technology interfacing.
- Lucchini A. “E-learning e scrittura professionale” (E-learning and professional writing) in Mestiere di Scrivere, 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
Lucchini is a business writer and is involved in professional writing courses. In this MdS (Mestiere di Scrivere, in PDF format) notebook, the author analyses (based on his own experiences and specific cases) the use of e-learning for education courses on writing, demonstrating the advantages of distance learning. The author dwells on the issue of the sense of isolation and coldness that can be experienced in a computer learning situation and, in this respect, puts forward methods of experimentation in order to increase the active and emotional involvement of the students and collaboration among them. He cites, for example, the CREAM method (Control, Relevance, Emotion, Action, Multi-sensory environment) proposed by Patrick Dunn (a learning strategist from DigitalThink UK Ltd.). The author comes to the following conclusive reflection: “… we can anticipate for the coming years a development in the profession of the e-learning writer. Not a simple extension of the web writer, or the technical writer, but a professional who, besides writing skills, requires the understanding of the psychological and didactic mechanisms that govern and promote learning”.
- Ranieri M. (2005) E-learning: modelli e strategie didattiche (E-learning: didactic models and strategies). I quaderni di Form@re n. 3. Trento: Edizioni Erickson.
After providing an introduction to the concept of industrial design and the differences between the two main directions (instructivism and constructivism), the text illustrates the main types of e-learning that can be developed from the methodological point of view. This can be summarised in the following categories: content and support, the content being the central element, learning is individual in type and interaction with peers is scarce; wrap around, whereby content is less structured, learning is individual and in small groups, with the support of a facilitator; and integrated model, a form of e-learning that focuses on the group and in which there is a great deal of interaction between peers. After dealing with the problem of e-learning design and the factors that have an impact on this (use, objectives, content and infrastructure), the author stresses the role of the instructional designer and the importance of models and didactic strategies that can be implemented in networks.
- Guerra T. & Heffernan D. “The Guerra Scale”, in Learning Circuits, March 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2004).
A very original point of view in terms of e-learning content is that defined by Tim Guerra and Dan Heffernan: the “Guerra Scale” describes the possible levels of interactive experience of the student in a scale that goes from one to ten, where the first levels are made of the simple reading of on-line PDF files or internet pages that are interconnected, and the final levels represent simulation scenarios attended by experts in the field and virtual realities. This is a very useful representation in that, going up one level in the scale, there is an increase in complexity, functionality, development times, programming capacity, course design capacity and the attention of the experts in the field.
Key terms: Collaborative Approach, On-line Tutoring.
This section presents a number of fundamental texts regarding network communication mechanisms, the various types of on-line interaction and the most effective methods for e-learning. If one wishes to conduct distance learning courses or devote oneself to tutoring activities, it is necessary to have a certain familiarity with the communicative dynamics of distance learning and be able to manage learning situations that respond to rules that differ greatly from those related to traditional forms of teaching.
- Anzalone, Francesa / Caburlotto, Filippo (2003). E-Learning. Comunicare e formarsi online (E-learning. Communicating and learning on-line). Milan: Lupetti – Editori di Comunicazione.
A brilliant text that focuses on certain points of extreme importance where communication, methodology and the management of on-line learning courses are concerned. From the reflections of the authors, the following concept is clear: e-learning differs from the traditional didactic approach in that it is possible to use networks as a collaborative means, where virtual space becomes a space for growth and interaction between the on-line communities and the network is no longer understood as a computer network, but as individuals’ networks. Learning is stimulated through belonging to the group and it is precisely the ongoing confrontation with the group, the exchange of experiences and ideas among those participating in the learning experience that contributes to the acquisition of notions by the individual, increasing motivation and thus also encouraging the growth of the entire on-line community. The roles of the figures involved and rapports within the virtual classes are undergoing a genuine revolution. The introduction of new information technology instruments influences the type of communicative model that is installed: teachers and tutor are no longer at the centre of the communicative process and no longer constitute the only source of knowledge. Furthermore, the student is no longer limited to a mere receptive and passive role, but takes on an active role and has greater autonomy in the construction of the learning course itself (learner-centred approach). The main task of teachers and tutors is to stimulate, motivate and enable the flow of knowledge, guiding and monitoring the progress of the pupils.
- Calvani A. e Rotta M. (2000). Fare formazione in Internet. Manuale di didattica online (Learning via Internet. On-line educational manual). Trento: Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson.
This is a fundamental publication in order to gain a complete idea with regard to distance learning, starting with its history and ending with the most efficient and up-to-date applications. After a first part, in which the main mechanisms of “presence” and “absence” communication are analysed, the text concentrates on more practical issues, such as the design and preparation of on-line courses, presenting the main problems involved. The manual concludes with a series of in-depth charts, a reasoned bibliography and network resources.
- Mabrito M. “Guidelines for establishing interactivity in on-line courses” in Innovate on line, 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
The objective of the article is to enable an understanding of the importance of interactivity within on-line courses. There are three possible types of interactivity: 1) student-teacher interaction; 2) student-student interaction; and 3) student content interaction. The author provides a series of practical advice in order to increase interactivity, an element that contributes greatly to the success of the courses. Diverse studies show that on-line courses are particularly effective when the students manage to be active participants and learn through a collaborative approach: collaborative interaction is the key to the knowledge creation process.
- Trentin G. (2003). Gestire la complessità dei sistemi di e-learning (Managing the complexity of e-learning systems). Taken from the minutes of the Didamatica 2003 annual convention, pp. 1-8.
In this interesting article, Trentin underlines the importance of defining above all the e-learning model that is to be implemented. It is fundamental to be aware beforehand, in order to organise the project as well as possible. For example, for a model based on self-instruction, and therefore on the use of structured materials, professional figures and specific technologies are necessary for the production of e-content; however, for an approach based on learning groups, it is necessary to consider specific professionals (such as on-line tutors) and technologies with ad hoc functionalities for group interaction. It is therefore evident that the choice of model has a decisive influence from a didactic-pedagogical point of view, but also from a purely operative point of view (human resources for the design and management of the educational project, technologies and organisational order). According to Trentin, future studies should concentrate on the problems preventing the dissemination of the proposed models. From his conclusions, it is clear that “the key is to acquire knowledge regarding the demand for a change in paradigm in confronting the issues of continued learning, moving away from the learning on the job logic to that of learning is the job”.
Key terms: Integration with KM, Mobile or Wireless Learning.
A number of authors illustrate the possible developments of e-learning in the near future. On the one hand, a close integration of platforms (Learning Management Systems) with other platforms that are currently used for a number of purposes is forecast, until knowledge management is reached through a single integrated structure. On the other hand, there is greater talk of mobile learning (m-learning) or wireless learning, a learning method that takes advantage of the possibilities of wireless networks, such as those in wi-fi systems, mobile telephones or palm systems. Some of the studies presented in the section demonstrate how these instruments can encourage learning during one’s free time, effectively representing the possibility of learning any time, anywhere.
- Attewell J e Savill-Smith C. “Learning with mobile devices, Research and development”, in LSDA (Learning and Skill Development Agency), 2004 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
An interesting set of studies on the possible applications of mobile devices for learning. Topics discussed include the effectiveness of m-learning, costs, content development methodology, the type of design necessary, the learning potential of games, and the role that mobile learning may play in increasing social inclusion.
- Giacomantonio M. “Il futuro dell’e-learning” (The future of e-learning) in WBT (Formazione in Rete), (in WBT, web-based training). March 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
After a brief overview of the various aspects that characterise e-learning, such as the role, the sectors (content, communication, support, management), the instruments and technologies, the author questions the future of distance learning. Having overcome the adaptation to the standards phase (already in operation for a number of years and at a satisfactory stage) to eliminate the link to certain technological solutions, e-learning will undergo an integration with many diverse applications, thus reaching a more mature phase, to border on more evolved and mature sectors such as KM (Knowledge Management), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), becoming an integral part of HRM (Human Resource Management).
- Giacomantonio M. “Dove vanno le piattaforme di e-Learning” (Where the e-learning platforms are headed), in WBT (Formazione in Rete) in WBT (Web-based Training), September 2004 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The author presents an in-depth analysis of the current LMS characteristics, their evolution and future developments. His conclusion is that the current trend is that of converging e-learning platforms with other technological instruments for content management, document management and project management, in order to attain complete instruments for integrated knowledge management. Indeed, even today, on-line learning activities are no longer reduced to simple structure courses; one learns through working in groups, connecting to the Internet and managing projects together with other people. Therefore, new modules with new functionalities will be integrated within the platforms.
- Prensky M. “What Can You Learn from a Cell Phone? Almost Anything!”, in Innovate online, June 2005 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
Mobile devices, particularly mobile telephones, are becoming increasingly small and powerful. Although they are still considered instruments to be used prevalently for telephone communication or, more recently, for recreational purposes, mobile telephones have now become genuine computers. Like any information technology communication instrument, mobile telephones can be used for learning, bearing in mind the fact that they have a huge distribution, particularly among young people and students. After illustrating how to take advantage of the various characteristics of mobile phones (voice, SMS, graphic displays, download functions, Internet navigation, GPS, etc.), the author concludes the article by suggesting, particularly to those who continue to seek to ignore the phenomenon, that this learning mode be seriously considered, and advising a flexible reconsideration of how to design content and activities for mobile learning.
The proposal for an integrated programme for lifelong learning (ILLP), currently under negotiation, encompasses all lifelong learning provisions by integrating in the same structure the previous programmes devoted to education (Socrates) and vocational training (Leonardo). It is structured around four specific sub-programmes (Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci and Grundtvig) and complemented by a transversal programme including four key activities (policy development, language learning, Information and communication technologies, dissemination and exploitation of results).
The transversal programme aims to provide the Community with a more effective instrument for pursuing activity that cuts across two or more "traditional" fields of activity, notably across the sub-programmes mentioned above.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) issues will be mainstreamed in the four sub programmes Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci and Grundtvig. This might be either through actions specifically focused on the development of innovative pedagogy in a certain segment of education and training, or through actions which have other objectives but are supported by ICT and innovative pedagogical models. Besides, a specific Key activity in the transversal programme will be dedicated to ICT and innovative pedagogies. The Key Activity will support innovation in learning and the achievement of the lifelong learning paradigm by focusing on projects which cut across several sectors and address issues of a horizontal nature – eg content, standards, innovative pedagogy, etc. As such it will build upon the current work under the transversal action line of the eLearning Programme. The new ICT action of the Lifelong learning programme like its predecessor the eLearning programme, will focus on the needs of today’s society. Although it will have a technology base, its focus will be on the practice, the pedagogy and the impact of ICT on lifelong learning.
In the last years a shift in emphasis could be observed at both the European and national level. Policy initiatives are placing less and less emphasis on the pursuit of e-learning, per se, as a goal in itself. Rather they are focusing more on the benefits that technology has to offer and the pressing needs of the economy and society. Hence a focus on innovation, on competitiveness and on inclusion..
This change in emphasis - from the mechanism to the goals - also occurs at a time when the discussion on e-learning is enlarging. The definition most commonly applied to e-learning is one of distance learning using the Internet. This is clearly an important example of how ICT is being used. However, it misses out many other important examples, such as the use of electronic whiteboards in schools, the use of simulation tools in laboratories, the use of mobile learning devices by workers. It is therefore necessary to think beyond e-learning and to emphasise the real added value of technology use, such as collaboration, communication, simulation and cooperation.
In the context of the FILTER project respondents in different European countries were asked to reflect on how learners with special needs are assisted in accessing their virtual communities, what barriers exist and what solutions are available. The respondents were asked to review a website in their country or region, and to identify any potential barriers such as ‘missing text equivalents’ or ‘inaccessible online forms’. The reviewed websites are amongst others: www.open.ac.uk, www.kennisnet.nl, www.ou.nl and www.universitet.no. Some respondents explained how the reviewed site helps people who are blind to use the site, or that in some cases there are no text alternatives at all. Most reviewed sites however do offer text alternatives. Some country specific experiences arising from the FILTER study are discussed below.
United Kingdom: The Open University
The Open University in the United Kingdom (OU/UK) is very advanced in this respect and has a policy to deal with students with a wide variety of special needs. The University has its own Center for Assistive Technology and Enabling Research (CATER). CATER supports the development of an accessible curriculum through a number of ongoing projects. It also provides ongoing staff development together with the development of enhanced technology based services for people with special needs.
The OU/UK website (see www.open.ac.uk) has a large range of facilities for students who are disabled: including those who are blind or partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing, people with restricted mobility or manual dexterity, with dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties, with mental health difficulties, with specific medical conditions, or with impaired speech. Adaptations of the curriculum include the tape-recording or videotaping of course materials, the conversion of printed texts into e-books thus enabling texts to be read on screen with the aid of a screen reader, as well as the use of particular programme applications to suit the needs of users with impaired mobility.
The preferred method of teaching can be discussed with the tutor by e-mail. If the student does not feel able to go to tutorials, copies of tutorial materials can be sent to the student. The possibility of an individual tutorial or extended correspondence tuition can also be explored. The Study Support or Disability and Additional Requirements Team in the student’s local Regional Center can also deal with any queries a student might have. In addition, the Evening Advice Line is available out of office hours. Some Centers have additional facilities to provide ongoing support.
The OU/UK has a Learner’s Guide Services for Disabled Students website at http://www3.open.ac.uk/learners-guide/disability/index.htm. More than 8,700 disabled students – a figure higher than the entire student populations of some UK universities – currently benefit from the Open University’s pioneering work in transforming higher education into a better place for learners with special needs. The OU/UK is a guide for other institutions. About 8000 tutors can transfer their knowledge to others. In the UK each university is required to be pro-active in the field of special needs policy.
Denmark: ”Tilgængelighed til uddannelse”
”Tilgængelighed til uddannelse” http://tilgaengelighed.emu.dk is a Danish educational portal containing advice and guidance about education and aid to people with disabilities. The providers of this portal have ensured that their own portal is accessible for people with disabilities.
However, as far as access to online forms is concerned, the reviewed websites failed to observe the design guidelines. The result is that users with disabilities are unable to complete online forms and therefore may be filtered out of benefiting from what the site is offering. Furthermore, respondents were asked about ‘inaccessible device restrictions’ for example those interactions that are only available using a mouse, and hence interactions that any user with either a motor or visual disability would be excluded from performing.
However, many web sites are designed in such a way that certain interactions are only available via a mouse. When asked if the reviewed website had inaccessible device restrictions, only one respondent noted that there was an alternative (tab and enter) to using the mouse for interacting with the site.
The Netherlands: Drempels Weg
In the Netherlands a project has been launched by the Ministry of Culture and Education entitled Drempels Weg (translated: Delete Barriers). The purpose is to enhance the accessibility of websites for people with disabilities. Drempels Weg makes organizations and the public in general more aware of the potential access problems faced by people with disabilities and assists organizations in making their sites more accessible.
The website www.sonokids.com enables children to create their own website. One of the games is the RaDaR soundgame where children learn to e-mail, chat and can even build their very own, accessible, website. The mole, the bat and the dolphin are animals that share one common attribute, that is that they do not use their eyes. These animals are the major characters in the game, see also www.sonokids.nl/radar.
Another initiative Netwerk ff contact :0] (www.ffcontact.nl) includes different websites for different target audiences and age groups. Netwerk ff contact :0] has been developed to enable children that suffer from long term illness to chat with each other. Some children are excluded from school and friendships for a long time. The site Sterrekind (www.sterrewereld.nl) gives them the opportunity to get connected with and communicate with children in similar circumstances. There are communities for small children (3-5 years), as well as for older children and teenagers where they can listen to music or watch a movie together. Sterrewereld originated in the hospitals of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague and has now been launched on a national scale. Even a song contest was launched recently.
On another site of the Stichting Artsen voor Kinderen (www.artsenvoorkinderen.nl), children can address a question to a medical doctor, and the site Diabeter (www.ysl.nl or www.diabeter.nl) focuses on education. Other Web initiatives are launched for children with muscular diseases, and the Foundation Rob facilitates imagephone calls for children that are in hospital and want to communicate with their friends or family.
Ireland: accessibility for all in website access.
In recent years the European Commission has been actively developing action plans and policies in relation to access to Information and Communication Technologies for all Europeans (cited in Irish National Disability Authority (NDA) Accessibility Guidelines, nd). While it is not clear how far these objectives have been achieved within individual Member States, it does appear that the Irish Government has taken steps to try to ensure accessibility for all, particularly in relation to website access.
For example, the Irish National Disability Authority outlines proposals by Government in 1999 in its ‘Report of the Inter-Departmental Implementation Group on the Information Society’ which recommends that “Websites should be designed and operated in accordance with the needs of users” and “the key principle underlining accessibility is that websites should be easy for everyone to use, including people with a disability” (NDA, nd). However, an extensive survey carried out by McMullin (2003) and mentioned earlier in this article, analyzed over 159 Irish websites. The survey found that 100 percent failed to meet the professional practice WCAG-AA accessibility standard; 94 percent failed to meet the minimum WCAG-A accessibility standard, and at least 90 percent failed to meet minimal conformance with other generic technical standards for web interoperability. (Information relating to WCAG [Web Content Accessibility Guidelines] is available from the World Wide Web Consortium’s website listed at the end of this paper in the reference section).
Spain: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
New teaching technologies can help people with disabilities to make progress both within the educational field and within the wider social and economic world of work and play. “Project FOTEUMIDIS, initiated in 1997, draws on all of Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia’s (UNED) media to deliver audio and video instruction through the Digital Network of Integrated Telephone Services (RDSI) public line” (García Aretio, 1998). This university-level teaching is directed towards those affected by different types of disability. The objective is to make it possible for individuals with a disability to study via multi-video conference through RDSI and so obtain the maximum results with the least amount of effort. Collaborating with UNED in this project are the Ministry of Work and Social Affairs (INSERSO), Telephónica, the ONCE foundation, IBM, Alcer Murcia, and INSALUD (García Aretio, 2001).
Belgium: the Wai-Not project
Jointly with some European partners the project Wai-Not has developed computer applications that are beneficial to children with a wide range of special needs, particularly those with developmental or learning difficulties, (see www.wai-not.be). In addition to encouraging Internet access by children with special needs, Wai-Not also investigates if access to activities on the Internet by these groups of people has the potential to enhance their social integration into society.
One of the tools used on the website is an Internet playground with creative, recreative and informative content. A combination of written text, spoken text and pictograms are presented, thus accommodating the needs of users with many different types of disability. Wai-Not shows that people who find reading and writing a challenge are able to use the Internet. Wai-Not originated from some Belgium schools for children with disabilities and was supported by the European Commission under the Minerva programme.
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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.