24 Αυγ 2013

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31 Μαρ 2013

SimAULA: Training our teachers through innovative methodologies based in serious games

SimAULA is a European Lifelong Learning Programme project aimed at offering a virtual medium for initial and lifelong teacher training. The project’s originality lies in the tool that its participants have designed, a simulation of the serious game variety which enables users (teachers in training, in this case) to put their skills into practice in an environment that faithfully recreates the reality of teaching. Additionally, as a simulation, SimAULA makes it possible to avoid the negative consequences that teachers’ actions could have in the context of a real classroom. Possibilities for SimAULA’s future development include enabling users to customise teaching scenarios, so that classroom activities can be steered towards work related to different values or ethical or social issues of interest within a given curriculum.
When using the SimAULA platform, the teacher in training controls an avatar that interacts with student avatars (controlled automatically by SimAULA) in a virtual classroom, where lessons are taught and a series of situations liable to arise in a face-to-face environment are played out. By way of a specific example, the first version of SimAULA features a simulated biology class in which the teacher avatar has to help student avatars fulfil various learning goals.
As might be assumed, SimAULA requires a model for its student avatars’ behaviour and reactions to the teacher avatar’s decisions. Another factor in the platform’s complexity is its scope for applying different teaching strategies, assessment types, classroom structures, resources, etc. All those elements made it necessary to carry out an in-depth initial study of pedagogical and psychological aspects in play in classrooms. Even so, given the tremendously complex nature of human psychology and the practice of teaching, the resulting model represents only a small range of the possibilities that exist in a classroom.
The vital role of the teacher in facilitating values in the classroom
Undoubtedly one of the main functions of the teacher is related to the formation of knowledge, skills and competencies in students, i.e. – their cognitive development. Explicitly or implicitly, however, the teacher is a facilitator to construct the public and own values in the classroom environment and with his/her role models has a significant impact (positive or negative) on the emerging personalities of pupils. The important question here is whether universities prepare future teachers adequately in order to play their role of values facilitators in a way, which positively influences the formation of good and moral citizens. 
The study, carried out within the SimAULA project on the key issues of practical preparation of future teachers showed that the value aspects of pupils’ personality development are not in the focus of the practicing students when teaching in the classroom. The priority objectives for them lie in the cognitive area and their main efforts are focused on the knowledge transmission. Objectives related to the values/character formation of the pupils appear to be the most difficult to implement in practical environment.
The research revealed that some serious issues and difficulties are experienced in the practical preparation of future teachers who rank the formation of pupils’ values as the least of the priorities in their practical preparation. On the one hand, the formation of values is an important mission for each teacher while on the other, the way that teachers’ practical preparation is structured and takes place do not allow teachers to learn the appropriate strategies for the formation of the pupils’ personality and be role models for transmission of values.   
In this sense it is logical to seek new approaches for the development of such teacher skills, role models and strategies. In this aspect, what functions can take a virtual learning environment such as SimAULA to support development of such skills having in mind the complexity and invisibility of the nature of human values and their formation?
SimAULA’s potential and specific uses of SimAULA and other serious games for work related to values
The current version of SimAULA is intended to demonstrate that it is possible for part of teacher training to take place via a virtual platform based on a serious game. The aim is not to virtualise the lifelong teacher training curriculum in its entirety, as some of the learning that such training involves stems from direct contact with students and the experiences that arise therefrom. The current version of SimAULA thus has a number of limited functionalities, basically enough for the purpose of such demonstration. The platform’s envisaged evolution encompasses a whole further range of possibilities that develop the initial concept behind SimAULA, paving the way for greater openness, customisation, control and collaboration. Work related to values takes on particular significance in the light of all our ideas for continuing to develop the platform, as a future version must enable any user to configure their own classroom scenarios by introducing their own curriculum, teaching strategy, student characteristics, etc. The ways in which our platform has the potential to contribute to work on humanistic and social aspects in the classroom are listed below.
  • Customising learning scenarios
  • Reducing the need for physical presence in classrooms
  • Interoperability with other virtual training systems
  • Introducing different types of teaching content and goals
  • Increasing the complexity of behaviour, the student modelisation, etc.
  • Creating and testing new teaching strategies
  • Collaborative platform, exchange of best practices
  • Proposing a Multiplayer mode
  • Working on interculturalism
  • Including ‘singular students’ in classrooms
  • Exchanging best practices among teachers
  • Playing with pedagogical strategies or settings created by other teachers
  • Training for teachers who live in remote locations or are unable to travel to placements for work or health-related reasons
  • Training teachers around the world
  • Assessing the performance of teachers in training
Authors:
Carles Fernandez has a Degree in Pedagogy by the UAB (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and a Master in Multimedia Design by the UPC (Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya). Since 2001, he has been working at the UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) developing several roles in the e-learning field, namely that of researcher, project manager, instructional designer, online teacher, e-learning consultant, project coordinator in several European projects and other International projects, etc.   He has a large number of publications in several journals, conference contributions and chapters in various books. Currently, he is participating in European projects (Alice, SimAula, UptoUs, etc.) and other UOC funded projects. He is a member of the UOC Research group in Affective Learning (e-learning and emotions).
Associate  Professor Roumiana Peytcheva-Forsyth is a lecturer at the Faculty of Education, Sofia University in Educational technology and online pedagogy. She is a Head of Elearning center of Sofia University since 2009 year. She is involved in several international and national projects in the field of Elearning and ICT in education. (phone: 359 896 72 50 60; e-mail:R.Peytcheva@fp.uni-sofia.bg).

Muuvit: Move to learn, Learn to move

Muuvit is aiming for a balance between health and learning. This project encourages children to be physically more active whilst taking them on a virtual adventure around the world with educational contents and interaction.
Children gather ‘Kilometers’ through various physical activities of at least 10 minutes, whether in school or elsewhere. Once enough ‘Kilometers’ have been collected to move forward, the class is “travelling” around the world on the map and learns about specific themes and subjects.
Muuvit encourages collaboration with friends while achieving the goal. Through its network, children have opportunities to interact with other students worldwide.
This free interactive education tool can be applied for different subjects, such as arithmetic, environment, geographic, etc. It makes learning more flexible, creative and fun. Muuvit is appropriate for classes from 1 to 6 and all types of schools. It is currently available in eight languages.

Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning

By Lisa Marie Blaschke , Oldenburg University and University of Maryland University College (UMUC)
Heutagogy, a form of self-determined learning with practices and principles rooted in andragogy, has recently resurfaced as a learning approach after a decade of limited attention. In a heutagogical approach to teaching and learning, learners are highly autonomous and self-determined and emphasis is placed on development of learner capacity and capability with the goal of producing learners who are well-prepared for the complexities of today’s workplace. The approach has been proposed as a theory for applying to emerging technologies in distance education and for guiding distance education practice and the ways in which distance educators develop and deliver instruction using newer technologies such as social media.
The renewed interest in heutagogy is partially due to the ubiquitousness of Web 2.0, and the affordances provided by the technology. With its learner-centered design, Web 2.0 offers an environment that supports a heutagogical approach, most importantly by supporting development of learner-generated content and learner self-directedness in information discovery and in defining the learning path.
Based on an extensive review of the current literature and research, this article defines and discusses the concepts of andragogy and heutagogy and describes the role of Web 2.0 in supporting a heutagogical learning approach. Examples of institutional programs that have incorporated heutagogical approaches are also presented; based on these examples and research results, course design elements that are characteristic of heutagogy are identified.
The article provides a basis for discussion and research into heutagogy as a theory for guiding the use of new technologies in distance education.
The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (www.irrodl.org)

A parent's guide to 21st-century learning

Discover the tools and techniques today's teachers and classrooms are using to prepare students for tomorrow -- and how you can get involved.
What should collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking look like in a modern classroom? How can parents help educators accomplish their goals?
This guide helps bring more parents into the conversation about improving education.

Publications by UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education

The UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE) published six new policy briefs during the past year, in order to disseminate new achievements, teaching methodologies and concepts in the field of ICT in education. One publication that has received special international attention and recognition, deals with different computational techniques for the analysis of learner data, now becoming more and more available to educators and policy makers. Other publications focus on Alternative Models of Education Delivery, ICTs in Global Learning, ICT and General Administration in Educational Institutions as well as on How Technology Can Change Assessment. Here, researcher, policy makers and educators alike, can find not only evaluative information but also specific and practical recommendations for the use of ICT in the educational work.
Latest Policy Briefs by IITE:
Learning Analytics (Nov12): iite.unesco.org/publications/3214711/
How Technology Can Change Assessment (Oct12): iite.unesco.org/files/policy_briefs/pdf/en/how_technologies.pdf  
Alternative Models of Education Delivery (Sep12): iite.unesco.org/files/policy_briefs/pdf/en/alternative_models.pdf
ICT and General Administration in Educational Institutions (May12): iite.unesco.org/files/policy_briefs/pdf/en/ict_and_general.pdf
ICTs in Global Learning/Teaching/Training (Feb12): iite.unesco.org/pics/publications/en/files/3214713.pdf
List of policy briefs: iite.unesco.org/policy_briefs/
Other publications by IITE: iite.unesco.org/publications/

28 Φεβ 2013

Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn to code


“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer
because it teaches you how to think.” 
— STEVE JOBS, THE LOST INTERVIEW