Information technology makes it possible for children to learn in a more active and engaged way than conventional teaching methods. But good digital teaching materials are time-consuming and expensive to create, so many ministries of education have set up national repositories of resources that schools can use as they wish.
But why stop at national borders? If an animated simulation of an internal combustion engine is of value to schools in Norway, say, would it not also be useful to teachers in other countries? Small countries, in particular, could benefit from sharing resources with their neighbours.
That is the thinking behind CALIBRATE, an EU-funded project to create a continent-wide swap shop for digital learning resources. It builds on CELEBRATE, an earlier project demonstrating that national repositories of learning resources could be ‘federated’ so that schools could offer and exchange resources across national borders.
CELEBRATE ended in 2004, but so successful was it that the participating governments wanted to take it further. “They wanted to move from a demonstration project to a service that we could actually launch for schools,” says Jim Ayre of Multimedia Ventures, a consultant to the European Schoolnet consortium which is coordinating the project. “CALIBRATE provided an opportunity for us to do this.”
Resources that travel well
The core of CALIBRATE is the Learning Resource Exchange (LRE), a network of 18 content repositories, including 16 from ministries of education, that allows teachers to search for material. The LRE opened in December 2008 and a full public service is expected early in 2009. It already contains more than 128,000 items, all freely accessible through the LRE website.
A sister project called MELT is improving the ‘metadata’ attached to LRE resources, making it easier for teachers to find exactly what they want and add their own metadata or ‘tags’ to resources they have used.
Although anyone can access the LRE directly, the interconnection of repositories offers the option of using familiar national portals to find items throughout the network. Schools in Ireland can already search the LRE through their Scoilnet portal.
Thanks to technical improvements in the brokerage system that underlies the LRE, a new repository can be connected in a matter of days. As a result many new associate partners are joining the LRE federation, including OER Commons in the USA and museums such as Cité des sciences et de l’industrie in Paris.
“We are in active discussions with more than 15 organisations which have expressed interest in becoming LRE associate partners,” Ayre says.
But can something created for use in one country be used successfully in another? Despite differences in languages and curricula, many resources do “travel well,” he points out. “They tend to be more visual, more interactive, with a minimum of text – Flash animations rather than text-heavy lesson plans or worksheets.” By studying how teachers use these resources, European Schoolnet hopes to develop criteria for what will work best on a European level.
Toolbox for teachers
A second achievement of CALIBRATE, which was funded under the ICT strand of the Sixth Framework Programme for research, is a ‘learning toolbox’. “We thought it would be useful to have some sort of authoring tool, so teachers could both adapt resources found in the LRE and create new ones,” says Ayre. “So another focus in the project was the development of a collaborative learning platform called LeMill that was designed as a web community where teachers could find, author and share learning resources.”
LeMill is maintained by the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland, and has become the hub of an online community approaching 4000 members dedicated to the production of teaching materials.
One stumbling block that has hindered the transfer of materials between LeMill and the LRE is differing understandings of how the Creative Commons licences used for open educational resources can best be applied.
“Most ministries want to share content and make it as open as possible but they also tend, almost instinctively, to apply a licence which prevents any commercial use of their resources,” Ayre explains. “This makes it impossible to remix these resources with others that have a more open licence and can actually work against ministries’ longer-term objectives.”
Licensing is one issue that is being investigated in the new European Schoolnet ASPECT project to develop standards and specifications for digital learning resources. Another project, INSPIRE, will use LRE resources to support the teaching of maths, science and technology and encourage students to start scientific studies.
“There is still a lot to do before we have a fully featured LRE service, but I think what we’re doing is quite strategic,” says Ayre. “If we can get a sufficient amount of quality content in the LRE system that travels well across borders we could have quite an impact.”
Christian Nielsen | alfa
Equipping form with function
23.06.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity
23.06.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology