Using ICT for special subject distance learning in multigrade schools Minerva
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Τετάρτη, 22 Αύγουστος 2018
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About the Project

CTI
HOU
Warwick
Chydenius
Nttc
PI Cyprus
 

Overview

The MuStLearnIT project targets primary schools in different European countries operating under special conditions such as multigrade and remote schools, where a few teachers (or even a single teacher) are responsible for teaching a small number of pupils of different ages and grades a variety of lessons and where often there are no  “subject specific expert” teachers for a number of lessons, as opposed to larger “standard” primary schools where several teachers of various specialisations cater for classes, each of which consists of pupils of the same age and abilities.

The project’s major objective is the design, development and application of an integrated distance learning model for learning, in the aid of multigrade primary schools by sharing resources such as teaching staff (local and remote) and by taking the utmost advantage of the existing technical infrastructure. Thus, remote multigrade schools will be affiliated with regular, “central” supporting schools, preferably in the same region, whose teachers will be willing and able to “tele-include” some pupils of the remote multigrade school in their regular classes. The model is supported by ICT and is applied in synchronous and asynchronous modes using videoconferencing and other Compiter Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) tools and specially designed educational activities based on appropriate educational software.  Accompanying reference material on the various aspects of its design and application in several European countries will remain as the further legacy of the project. 

MuStLearnIT brings together a wide range of expertise from educational institutions, educational technology experts, educational administrators and lastly but most importantly schools that require further support in order to offer better educational conditions to their pupils.

 


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Output

The outputs described in this section will serve not only to document the progress and results of this project, but may be also used outside this project and past its completion by educational agencies/teachers/schools who might be faced with the same needs and are looking for a means to deal with them.Thus the main outputs envisased for the project are:

- The model itself, described in detail from a pedagogical and technical aspect, the reports on its implementation and application, and the results thereof will remain as an outcome of the project. Specifically, educational material (legacy) for further utilization which will be produced through this project includes:

  • A Teachers Guide: to instruct teachers in understanding and using the model (addressing both specialized teachers and multigrade school teachers).
  • A technical guide describing the model and the infrastructure used for the application in this project, from the technical point of view. This will facilitate its integration into existing frameworks in the different participating countries and potentially others, which maintain and support local school networks [e.g in Greece: the Greek School Network (www.sch.gr), in Finland the Peda.net e-learning network (www.peda.net) and the VERKOKE project network (www.kase.fi/verkoke/) ].
  • A collection of ICT based educational activities using existing infrastructure and educational software for the special subject lessons under the distance learning scheme.
  • Examples of good practice: describing the implementation of the model in the partner/user countries for the teaching of specific specialized subject domains, including the educational material that was used.
  • Evaluation Report: concerning the implementation of the model in the participating schools in the partner/user countries, including a sustainability strategy and extensibility issues in the design and use of the model.

- A community of teachers and pupils who will have cooperated in teaching and learning a specialized subject and who will have acquired experience in ODL and ICT skills. Although of a small size, the fact that this community is geographically dispersed, yet educationally cohesive is of significance.

- Technological and Educational experience in using ODL educational techniques and in using ICT in the classroom and exploiting educational software activities.

- Information Days:

  • Extended meetings organized by each partner in the participating countries inviting teachers, educational institutions and authorities in order to present the model, share experiences and discuss further activities with the model.
  • A conference organized by the coordinator inviting teachers, educational institutions and authorities in order to present the model, share experiences and discuss further activities with the model.

Dissemination material: e-leaflets, posters, video, etc. regarding the implementation of the project and its results.

 

 

 
Expected Results

It is expected that the impact this project generates will include the following:

  • On an educational level it will reinforce the teaching of special subject lessons for which a relevant "expert" teacher is not available to small/isolated multigrade primary schools. In the cases where there was previously no opportunity to teach the special lesson, now there is a prospect for these pupils to be provided by instruction in this lesson. In other cases, a chance is provided to upgrade instruction in lessons for which the teacher currently responsible is not suitably qualified.
  • An interest in the concept of sharing resources among schools, be it personnel, educational material or infrastructures, all with the support of ICT
  • On a social level teachers and pupils will feel less isolated and excluded from the school reality of larger "standard" central schools and the opportunities/facilities/etc. they offer their pupils.
  • Teachers will broaden their experience and outlook on using ICT within the particular conditions their small and/or multigrade school environment imposes.
  • The reuse of all outputs by a larger number of schools and countries due to the flexibility of the model (including its application to cover a wider variety of subject lessons).
  • The project may serve as a sound research resource for Universities ad research institutes.

 

 
The Learning Method

With the intention of facilitating multigrade primary schools and small rural primary schools facing difficulties in terms of providing a wide breadth of teacher expertise in order to meet their curriculum requirements this project aims:

  • to provide ICT supported distance learning schemes for enhancing learning in isolated primary schools by enabling teachers and pupils to use appropriate educational resources beyond those that are presented to them at a local level. We envisage a comprehensive scheme, supported by ICT in the classroom, involving in the process local schoolteachers and remote specialized teachers teaching their regular classes, as well as specially developed educational material (using educational software, Internet facilities, etc.), in synchronous and asynchronous modes. Transferability and sustainability issues will be taken into account, mainly by a) sustaining minimum technical requirements and costs and b) capitalising on the existing infrastructures.

The model we propose, in terms of its design and implementation, includes the following activities (Figure 2):

  1. Pupils will be “assimilated” by video conferencing in the classroom of a “central” school and will follow the special subject lesson, as this is normally taught by the special “expert” teacher in this school (synchronous mode of distance learning).
  2. Pupils will work on their own using appropriate educational material and software on the school’s computers, while at the same time they will be supported by a remote “study support” teacher (synchronous and asynchronous mode of distance learning)
  3. 2-3 times within the school year they will be visited by a specialized “expert” teacher and will enjoy a regular class, where they can directly interact by discussing in person with the teacher.
  4. In some cases (e.g. when the special subject lesson is Foreign Language Learning, and/or the language coincides among the schools in more than one country), ODL sessions between the multigrade schools in the different countries can also be held within the school year.

During 1, 2 and 4 the local primary school teacher is present in the classroom and she/he will be able to assist the pupils in using the computer and the relevant educational software.

Thus the model combines in a comprehensive way the presence of the teacher in the classroom and in the remote “central” school, at the same time involving the active participation of the pupils in using the computer and the appropriate educational software as learning tools.

A suitable distance learning platform supporting the functionality of a “virtual classroom” via video conferencing is the technical method to be used as this best simulates the “real” classroom. It supports interactivity among teachers and pupils. This makes it especially appropriate for young children when they communicate “class to class”. However, it can be a costly and high-maintenance option. For this reason, the project also includes point ii above, exploiting ICT in the pupils’ own classroom and the on-line presence of a remote “study support” teacher.

""

Figure 2: MuSTLearnIT Model Unit

The remote “study support” teacher will assist and guide the pupils while they do their homework activities in school.

Special software tools (e.g. chat, e-mail, whiteboard, application sharing) included in the distance learning platform supporting the project will be used for this collaboration. This teacher must be available during school hours and in particular, during hours allotted for special subject learning in multigrade schools. She/he will also visit the schools at regular intervals in order to better monitor the pupils’ progress for the specific subject lesson she/he supports them in. In the case of very young pupils it is best that the “central” school teacher and the “study support” teacher are the same person.

Regarding the approach in implementing the model in the multigrade schools of the partner countries it is expected that there will be variations on account of parameters such as: 

  • different needs for different subject lessons, this necessarily ties in with different educational material to be used (software and activities) 
  • different educational curricula 
  • the selection of particular central schools to participate in the project, in terms of their subject lesson expertise, in order to optimally cover the need of the multigrade schools in the specific country
  • differences in the existing technical facilities in the schools

that may lead to the application of a subset of the activities proposed in the model (1-4 above).

However, the strong point of the model is that it is flexible enough to accommodate such differences in implementation.

In fact, the variance in implementation presents an interest of its own, and we anticipate insightful feedback at the end of the project, in using such a model at a European level.

 
Objectives

With the intention of facilitating multigrade primary schools and small rural primary schools facing difficulties in terms of providing a wide breadth of teacher expertise in order to meet their curriculum requirements this project aims:

  • to provide ICT supported distance learning schemes for enhancing learning in isolated primary schools by enabling teachers and pupils to use appropriate educational resources beyond those that are presented to them at a local level. We envisage a comprehensive scheme, supported by ICT in the classroom, involving in the process local schoolteachers and remote specialized teachers teaching their regular classes, as well as specially developed educational material (using educational software, Internet facilities, etc.), in synchronous and asynchronous modes. Transferability and sustainability issues will be taken into account, mainly by a) sustaining minimum technical requirements and costs and b) capitalising on the existing infrastructures.

In the process of achieving the above, the project’s activities also lead to fulfilling the following educational and social objectives:

  • To increase the awareness regarding issues concerning multigrade and small rural schools
  • To make pupils and teachers of the target schools feel less isolated and excluded from the school reality existing in “normal” schools
  • To promote the concept of sharing resources present in larger and better equipped schools, thus exploiting existing assets and gaining financial benefit for less privileged schools.
  • To contribute to the utilization and exploitation of existing ICT infrastructure, in fact addressing real problems/ needs.
  • To contribute to new ideas regarding methods of distance learning and exchange teaching tips and materials. For example: to identify and document the particular educational needs of target schools that ICT can facilitate at a transnational level; to identify and record the issues concerning the development/adaptation of suitable educational activities, (based primarily on educational software) for this application, etc.
  • To explore innovations (e.g. individualizing and differentiating teaching) and  make recommendations concerning  multigrade teaching policy, curriculums and practice (since the ICT distance learning scheme to be developed will be easily portable for any interested multigrade primary schools)
  • To make known the results to a wider educational community including teachers, teacher training institutions, public educational authorities, in order to promote the further, long-term use of the model in multigrade/remote schools.

Thus, this project puts a precise focus on the advantages that distance learning and ICT will provide to pupils and teachers of small and isolated schools. Besides, the project also contributes to familiarizing teachers and students with ICT and encourages them to use it in their daily learning process using pupil-centered approaches aiming also to improve the attractiveness of learning.

 



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