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The use of ICTs in the classroom: ENA a case study


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#1 Isabelle Voegeli

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Posted 22 February 2005 - 12:56 PM

The use of ICTs in the classroom: ENA, a case study

Introduction

The European NAvigator knowledge base, or ENA, is primarily aimed at use in secondary and higher education. ENA provides pupils, students and teachers with thousands of documents on the history of Europe from 1945 to the present day.

From the outset, ENA has been developed together with teachers. In particular, they have been involved in content development, in interface and feature evaluation and, more recently, in assessing the various methods of using ENA. In this presentation, I would like to focus on this last point. I shall also be sharing with you the experience that we have aquired as a producer of multimedia content.

In the late 1990s, a first version of ENA, which was at the time still ‘off-line’, was installed at several pilot sites, including the University of Luxembourg, the University of Cergy-Pontoise and the European University Institute in Florence. Tutors at these establishments intended to integrate ENA into their lectures in various ways. Accordingly, at the University of Luxembourg, ENA was the primary teaching aid used during a lecture course, whilst the University of Cergy-Pontoise and the European University Institute opted for the more selective use of ENA for practical work.

Since 2003, ENA has been freely accessible on the Internet at www.ena.lu. Since this point in time, we have conducted a systematic information campaign to promote the use of ENA in secondary schools in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This campaign, backed by the Luxembourg Ministry of National Education, has also been an opportunity to make teachers aware of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the classroom in general and in particular for the teaching of history and civics.

Key issues and problems

Over the past two years, we have held meetings with a large number of history and civics teachers in Luxembourg. These points of contact have enabled us to give presentations of ENA in schools or as part of in-service teacher-training programmes.

The initial reaction is generally very enthusiastic. The very idea of having so many documents, film recordings, maps, cartoons, etc. freely accessible on the Internet is seen as a valuable addition to the use of conventional textbooks. However, once the presentation is over, most teachers continue to use ENA on a personal basis, but very few actually bring ENA into the classroom. Why is this so?

Firstly, it is a question of IT equipment. Several teachers blame the lack of suitable IT equipment in their schools. It is certainly true that disparities in the provision of IT equipment between schools are wide, but, as we will see, this is often a pretext for another underlying problem.

IT skills. Among the teachers that I have met, most had no trouble using a mouse and keyboard. They are used to using word processing for preparing texts and the Internet for finding information. Only a small minority of teachers still seem to take refuge behind pen and paper.

The teaching environment. Until now, the textbook has always been the most widely used teaching aid in schools. Teachers’ experience of multimedia is often still limited to the occasional showing of video films in order to illustrate a given topic. Very few teachers have tried using CD-ROMs; nor do they appear particularly keen to introduce the Internet into the classroom. Apart from the reasons given earlier, some teachers seem to feel uneasy about the different methods of using ICTs in the classroom.

Unlike teaching from a book, generally done using a linear approach, when using information and communication technologies, the teacher must adopt a modular and thematic approach. It is no longer possible to define learning in terms of the number of pages to be learned and understood, but rather in terms of subjects to be studied. The ENA knowledge base gives less emphasis to the chronological and narrative character of the history of Europe in order to present it using a more cross-curricular and comparative approach.

In order to help teachers adopt these new teaching methods, we felt that teaching assistance needed to be introduced. These training personnel could only be provided in cooperation with other institutions specialised in teacher training.

Training the trainers

In order to encourage teachers to take up the challenge posed by the use of ICTs — and in particular ENA — in the classroom, we have developed close cooperation with the University of Luxembourg and the Ministry of National Education.

The ‘Teacher-Training’ Department at the University of Luxembourg, which is responsible for initial teacher training, is currently developing a new module on methods of using ICTs in secondary education. In Luxembourg, in-service teacher training is managed by the Service for the Coordination of Pedagogical and Technological Innovation and Research (SCRIPT). Cooperation with this Service of the Ministry of National Education has made it possible to organise several lectures aimed at assisting teachers with the use of ICTs in the classroom. During training, teachers are provided with a presentation of the ENA knowledge base, an introduction to features available on the site and a talk on methodological ICT guidelines given by a teacher trainer. Finally, participants were required to take on the role of pupil and complete the various tasks set by their ‘teacher’ and then comment on the experience as a ‘pupil’, in particular concerning the contribution of ICTs to conventional teaching tools.

Through the strengthening of links with the national education portal, mySchool, it has been possible to establish an ENA community. On www.myschool.lu, pupils and teacher are kept regularly informed about new material introduced in ENA. They may also consult various documents and may exchange their experiences in an area of the site reserved specifically for this purpose.


Close cooperation with the National Committee for Civics Programmes has led to the introduction of ENA in civics lessons alongside the textbook published by the Ministry of National Education. In order to assist civics teachers in finding material of particular interest to the national curriculum, we have put together a selection of approximately 200 document references. This list has been distributed in a paper version to all civics teachers and is accessible on the national education portal www.myschool.lu and on the site of the CVCE.

Developing interdisciplinary cooperation and teamwork

Most pupils are accustomed to using computers for personal use. We therefore decided that it would be interesting to encourage cooperation and foster team spirit between teacher and pupils in order to encourage the use of ICTs in the classroom. From this came the idea of a competition on Europe.

This competition, called EuropaR@ce, which is currently in progress, has been organised jointly with the national education portal, mySchool, and the European Commission Representation in Luxembourg. Until April, several questionnaires on the history of, and recent developments in, Europe are in turn being made available online on the portal. Classes are required to reply collectively to the questions on the site with the help of their teacher. On 9 May, the winning classes will be awarded a prize.

Details of the competition. This competition was not publicised by sending official circulars to schools but instead by designing posters and postcards aimed at capturing the pupils’ attention. This promotional material was distributed both in secondary schools and in trendy cafés, cinemas and discotheques. The aim was to ensure that participation was not based on the teacher’s initiative, but rather to encourage pupils to approach their teacher and ask if they might take part in the competition. In this way, the teacher cannot refrain from participating, even if the competition is based entirely on ICTs in so far as the questionnaire is to be found on the mySchool portal and the replies need to be researched on the Internet, particularly on the ENA and Europa sites. We were hoping that at least 20 or so classes would take part. In the end, more than 80 classes signed up. And what is even more surprising: not just history or civics classes have subscribed, but also other classes such as languages or science. This recreational approach that relies on a sense of class spirit is therefore an indirect way of inciting teachers to use ICTs.

The balance between traditional training and ICT training

Many of the teachers we have met are accustomed to conventional teaching and are reluctant to review their methods. They appear to believe that the introduction of ICTs in the classroom includes a recreational dimension that would be detrimental to real learning. Surprisingly enough, some pupils seem to be of the same opinion. Following a lesson conducted using ENA, we arranged for a debate to take place among pupils and their teacher on the integration of ICTs in the classroom. Several pupils confirmed that the lesson was entertaining and interesting, but failed to deliver in terms of what had been learned. In the space of two hours, the breadth of the subject studied did not correspond to that which could have been covered during a lecture of the same length using conventional teaching tools. The issue therefore arises of competitiveness between the two approaches. Personally, I believe that, far from being in competition, these two approaches can quite easily be complementary, provided a suitable methodology is developed.

Conclusion

The integration of ICTs in the classroom may take place in several stages. However, in order to do this, we need to convince teachers that ICTs really can provide scope for a wide range of versatile teaching activities. We therefore intend to develop the integration into ENA of new features and new means of accessing content. We will also be making activities prepared by teachers available online and we are keen to take part in other projects along the same lines.

Isabelle Voegeli
Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe
isabelle.voegeli@cvce.lu

#2 John Simkin

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Posted 22 February 2005 - 03:38 PM

This website has tremendous potential for use in UK schools. It is a great idea to have such a large amount of source material in one place. Especially as these sources come in so many different forms from a wide variety of countries. As a result, they would be great for “historical interpretation” exercises.

My fear is that when teachers arrive at the site they might not realize the wealth of material available. For example, I am not convinced by the index system that is being provided. I went to your website looking for materials on the Hungarian Uprising. I looked under Historical Events: 1950-56. This provided me with a list of topics. I selected Central and Eastern Europe. This appeared to only have two documents, a brief narrative of the subject and a newspaper article on the death of Stalin. I assumed that the website had nothing on the Hungarian Uprising. However, when I did a search I did find several documents on the subject.

I would have thought it would have been better if you collected the documents together under topic titles that teachers would likely to be looking for. So many of the topic titles are very vague. These should also be collected together by language.

These materials are also more likely to be used if the site had teacher notes on how they might be used. This will probably need to be done by teachers from the various European countries that are likely to use the site. I know this would be expensive but it would considerably increase its use.

#3 Isabelle Voegeli

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Posted 23 February 2005 - 06:23 PM

The initial idea of European NAvigator goes back to the debates around the treaty of Maastricht. The idea was to make the pupils and students familiar with the history of the European construction that means from the birth of the community of Europe with the creation of the ECSC to the current European Union. Knowing the history of united Europe would allow them to understand the stakes of present debates. So Marianne Backes, the initiator of the ENA project, submitted the idea to Gilbert Trausch, at that time Professor at the University of Liège, Director of the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Robert Schuman and historian of international repute who decided to support the project. From that moment on, Marianne Backes, Gilbert Trausch and a teacher, Jean-Marie Majerus, started to work out the structure. On the suggestion of Gilbert Trausch we didn’t limit ourselves on questions about the Common market but introduced content unities about events which have influenced its evolution even if the focus remains on the European integration.

Afterwards we started to research documents. For practical and linguistic reasons, we started to research documents in the closest countries, especially in Belgium, France and Germany. Gradually we enlarged our researches mainly to the UK, to Italy and to the Netherlands. And even there we have still a lot of work. We are completely aware that we created a kind of distorted, occidental view of Europe and that the content unities, for the moment, are not of equal quality. That explains why you have only found a few documents under the unity about the Hungarian Uprising and I must admit that I’m surprised that you found further material spread on other places. But we had to start somewhere within the limits of our human and financial resources. We had to accept it or to abandon the project from the beginning. Our aim however is certainly to enlarge the content to create a real European view, including documents coming from every country and going back over the historical events and particularities of every country obviously including the states of central and oriental Europe. But we cannot do all these researches by ourselves. That is why we are looking for content collaborations and that is really essential for the future of the project.

Concerning the structure, we could discuss about its relevance, but such a structure always has a part of subjectivity. As it has been initially conceived by historians, we use it as working basis and cannot change its general logic. If however some titles seem unclear or incomplete we can of course reword them. The access to the content by the structure presupposes a good knowledge of the history of the European integration and certainly also a sense of deduction. That is the reason why we decided to create different entries in the content.

You can for instance use the search engine and automatically replace the document in the structure. As an example you can introduce Churchill. Among others you will get one document called Speech of Winston Churchill (Fulton, 5 March1946). Once you opened the document, you can click on the third icon, called Enter into documentary Resources. The database will automatically place itself in the unity of the structure where the speech of Churchill is stored. You can also access to the content by the media library and on every document you will again see this icon that permits you to access to the right place in structure.

Another way to enter in the content is the thesaurus. Our thesaurus is based on Eurovoc, the multilingual thesaurus of the European Union. Eurovoc covers the fields in which European Communities are active and provides a means of indexing the documents in the documentation systems of the European institutions. It is currently used by the European Parliament, the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, national and regional parliaments in Europe, national government departments and certain European organisations. We adapted Eurovoc to our specific historical needs. Every document of ENA has been indexed using the keywords of the adapted Eurovoc thesaurus. And you can accede to the documents leafing through the thesaurus.

So much about the background of ENA, its framework and its constraints. So, coming back to your suggestions. Indeed we could probably think about some more specific entries for teachers and you are completely right if you say that currently they might not realize the wealth of material available and, as we have seen in Toulouse, they may encounter difficulties in using that content further as a personal information source. But I believe that it is really a great ICT challenge to work out new methods and functionalities to help the use of ENA in a classroom in the future.

As we already did for the content and for the technical development, we would like to develop partnerships to work out these methods and functionalities. Indeed we don’t see ENA as a site that we create and you use but we would like to build collaborations and let ENA evaluate towards an open project where the user could also, if he wants so, give his own input.

#4 Juan Carlos

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 07:11 PM

[QUOTE]My fear is that when teachers arrive at the site they might not realize the wealth of material available. QUOTE]

This a major problem. Probably, most of the teachers, when visiting ENA web site, will feel excited and surprised by the wealth of resources, but, at the same time, they will probably feel puzzled by the same reason.

Isabelle, Are there didactic sequences, learning packages, webquests... based on your site's resources available on the internet? When I visit ENA website I have always the feeling of being in the doorway of a "gold mine" but I would like to have some itinerary to get into it.
Maybe, setting up some sort of webquests based on ENA could be one of the possible tasks in our project.

#5 Terry Haydn

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Posted 03 March 2005 - 10:16 AM

I found it a very interesting presentation and thought that the site was a stunning resource, and a powerful demonstration of the power of ICT to build a collection of material which would enable history teachers to teach an important topic more powerfully and more effectively. (You could also easily someone doing a whole PhD study, just using this resource.

However, I don't think that resources like this are unproblematic. Much of the material seemed as if it might be quite 'dense', and easier to use with undergraduate students rather than pupils in schools. Perhaps something is needed to provide accessible and purposeful 'pathways' through the materials, similar to the 'Shapes of Time' site which has been put in place to help history teachers make best use of the Pathe archive.

One other point - how effective the use of maps is to demonstrate change over time (as in the Korean War animation). Her Majesty's Inspectorate in the UK have commented that teachers don't make as much of maps as they might, ironic as ICT has now made the format and scope of historical maps much stronger than ever before.

#6 D Letouzey

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Posted 06 March 2005 - 09:19 PM

Very few teachers have tried using CD-ROMs; nor do they appear particularly keen to introduce the Internet into the classroom.




In order to help teachers adopt these new teaching methods, we felt that teaching assistance needed to be introduced. These training personnel could only be provided in cooperation with other institutions specialised in teacher training.


Edited by D Letouzey, 06 March 2005 - 10:27 PM.


#7 Dalibor Svoboda

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 07:59 AM

My students who does to cope with around 12 subject a year and who in every subject do have to cope with school book with around 300 pages each plus not so few reprinted newspapers articles very often behave in bewildered way when I do show them the web place similar to ENA.

“Do you really want us to work with all this?” “It’s not even written in Swedish!” are two very common students’ expressions in these situations.

I do believe that they feel that school books do offer to them learning continuity but Web pages like ENA are more subjects specified. Their conclusion is then that this is an additional load the teacher put at them.

Very few of them does then deliver worthy paper even if I only asked them to check a few documents and answer a few questions written by me.

I often feel that if I do not have my students rallying behind me and my tasks I do them disservice.

Do you have any experience and feed-backs from students outside Luxembourg where ENA had been used in everyday pedagogy at some school?

#8 Isabelle Voegeli

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Posted 21 March 2005 - 03:34 PM

[quote name='Juan Carlos' date='Feb 25 2005, 07:11 PM']
[QUOTE]My fear is that when teachers arrive at the site they might not realize the wealth of material available. QUOTE]

Are there didactic sequences, learning packages, webquests... based on your site's resources available on the internet? When I visit ENA website I have always the feeling of being in the doorway of a "gold mine" but I would like to have some itinerary to get into it.
Maybe, setting up some sort of webquests based on ENA could be one of the possible tasks in our project.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

[/quote]

At present, you won’t find didactic sequences, learning packages, webquests … about ENA. But I agree that we should give priority to the development of such “pathways” to the material. After technological development and documentary research, that will surely be the next gorgeous challenge. The question is how to take up this challenge. Reading the different contributions, I’ve got a lot of ideas of activities but I’m convinced that the ideal way to proceed would be to work in concrete terms with teachers. I’m currently looking at the different options how to organise such cooperation on a national and international level. I would also certainly be delighted to find a way to work together.

#9 Isabelle Voegeli

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Posted 21 March 2005 - 03:50 PM

However, I don't think that resources like this are unproblematic. Much of the material seemed as if it might be quite 'dense', and easier to use with undergraduate students rather than pupils in schools. Perhaps something is needed to provide accessible and purposeful 'pathways' through the materials, similar to the 'Shapes of Time' site which has been put in place to help history teachers make best use of the Pathe archive.


<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I’m sure you are right about the pathways through the material and we will work on it. Terry, could you please give me the address of the “Shapes of Time” site which would interest me. Generally, if somebody of you is used to consult a site with interesting didactic material or knows about sites which are really interesting in this respect I would be grateful if you could give me the addresses so that I can see what kind of didactic sequences you might need.

#10 Isabelle Voegeli

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Posted 22 March 2005 - 02:28 PM

Do you have any experience and feed-backs from students outside Luxembourg where ENA had been used in everyday pedagogy at some school?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

[/quote]

Indeed I believe that the use of a database such as ENA needs a very close support of the teacher. Most of the teachers that I met don’t unfortunately do it in a very interactive way. They print a document, especially cartoons or newspaper articles, and ask their pupils to comment the document or to answer questions about it. They told me that they appreciate such documents because in their schoolbooks, critical material is often lacking. There is another advantage of ENA over schoolbooks. You might use the same schoolbook over years and have to use the same cartoon printed in your book all that time. In a database such as ENA, you can find various cartoons on a same subject and use every year a different document.

Another way some teachers used ENA, has seemed quite interesting to me. They prepared a series of questions about one aspect of the European integration, for instance the beginnings of the European construction in the fifties and their students, sitting in couples behind computers, had to look for the answers on ENA. Afterwards, the students had to write an article about the first steps of the European community and give references of documents that they considered as especially representative and interesting to illustrate that time. Finally they had to give a talk on it and argue their choices. In the future we will continue to develop the accesses and the ways of using ENA.

As regards the language, most of the documents have an English translation and it is quite interesting for a student to discover for instance a soviet cartoon even if he has to make the effort to understand the English translation.

In the context of the Luxemburg’s presidency of the European Union, I recently participated to a symposium on “The changing Classroom – The Potential of plurilingual Education”. A basic point on the symposium was a presentation and a discussion about the Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) which refers to “any dual-focused educational context in which additional language … is used as a medium in the teaching and learning of non-language context”. Thus the idea is to enhance the learning of an additional language through another subject, for instance history and vice versa. This approach should commonly be realised by teachers of foreign languages and by history teachers. As ENA offers many original documents in over ten languages, the database could be an interesting support to launch a project on the methodological integration of languages and history.

#11 John Simkin

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 05:23 PM

Isabelle Voegeli's presentation can be found here:







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