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The Education Forum

E-HELP Seminars

John Simkin

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Several members of the Forum will be providing presentations at the E-HELP meeting in Toulouse later this week (17th to 20th February). Members are requested to post these presentations in this section of the Forum. Please start a new thread for each presentation. All members of the Forum are invited to respond to these presentations. In other words, consider it more a seminar than a presentation.

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An overview of the areas I will cover in my presentation can be found at: http://www.mrbelshaw.co.uk/e-help/mindmap.html

(please bear in mind that you will need Java installed to be able to view this properly, and that it might take a while to load up...)

A more prosaic version can be found here. I shall post my presentation proper as a separate thread once I return from Toulouse... :D

;) Doug

Edited by Doug Belshaw
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The use of ENA in a classroom: a case study

European NAvigator (www.ena.lu), a multimedia database on the history and institutions of post-war Europe, is the flagship service of the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe (www.cvce.lu). The objective of ENA is to offer high quality multimedia documents to the students and the teachers by means of ICT. For two years we have worked with some pilote sites to see concretely how such a database can be used in class. That is essential for us especially as the CVCE is a content producer and we want to adapt our database as closely as possible to the needs of the effective users.

The question we were however confronted with is: do the users really know what they need? Indeed many teachers are not used to introduce ICT in their courses because of an insufficient equipment of their school or because of pedagogical uneasiness. My actual challenge is to encourage the use of ICT, and especially of ENA, help the users to get rid of their anxiousness and encourage them to get innovative in their way of teaching. By reporting some of my experiences, I would like to broach the question of the complementarity or concurrence between traditional education and ICT based teaching.

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The Knowledge Foundation and the project “A new generation of school books”.


The Knowledge Foundation was established in 1994. The starting financial base of The Foundation was 3,6 billions of Swedish crowns. In the first ten years, the foundation has invested almost five billion Swedish kronor in projects related to research, competence development in industry and ICT development in the schools.

The Knowledge Foundation can be found at: http://www.kks.se/templates/StandardPage.aspx?id=84

ICT in education

In order to promote growth in Sweden over the long term, the Knowledge Foundation supports development in Swedish schools. With investments at both the national and regional level, the Foundation wants to increase ICT use, develop the school’s different ways of working and stimulate children in their desire to learn. Around 1,2 billions of Swedish crowns was invested in projects related towards these goals.

In 1996 the Knowledge Foundation commenced two programs for ICT in schools:

1. One program where schools in 55 local government communes have participated in 28 larger and 65 smaller projects with the aim of stimulating ICT development within schools.

The projects have been carried out in co-operation with the local government communes, which have partly financed the projects.

For example the answer on the question Where to teach?, was searched with the help of not so few of the 65 smaller projects. Many of them were distance learning projects equipped with modern lap tops.

2. The Knowledge Foundation has also provided assistance to approximately 94 teaching materials projects with the aim of offering ICT based teaching materials to schools.

I did work with this second project during it’s whole length therefore I would like to give a first hand account of it. The other source of my information about the “A new generation of school textbooks” as the project was officially called is based at the evaluation report published 2002.

“A new generation of school textbook” started 1996 with the budget of 120 millions SEK. The main goal of the project was to deliver to the Swedish schools on the verge to enter ICT age, multimedia school books with a new kind of pedagogy. (The secondary goal was to create the stable ground for a creation of future multimedia industry in Sweden.) The project time was outstretched throughout three years with six applications rounds. During these publishers and publishing houses, ICT companies, universities and colleges, film and theater groups, different add hoc groups consisting of writers, ICT people and pedagogue, non governmental organizations (Save the children, Red Cross …), vocational teaching organizations and schoolteachers were supposed to seek funding for their own pedagogical project.

The first round of applications was dealt with during autumn 1996. Four more rounds of incoming application were subsequently organized with two rounds each year, one during springtime and the second in autumn. The Foundation received around 1000 applications which were evaluated by a small group of “experts”. 94 projects were chosen for funding. About 20 of these 94 were history projects. The last round of application never went on. The foundation made a judgment that there weren’t any new ideas for multimedia school books around.

1999 the Foundation expressed a wish to evaluate “A new generation of school books” project. The evaluation concentrate itself at the pedagogical and economical aspects of the projects and also how the Foundation should proceed in the light of what was done etc.

Some of the conclusions of evaluation report:

ICT in schools was at this time (around 1999-2000)believed to be necessary and important pedagogical tool to achieve a new way of learning as it was described in the Swedish Educational directives. Nevertheless there were only scattered amount of teachers who supported this vision. The ICT based pedagogy seldom made it into schools everyday pedagogy.

The pedagogical interaction between traditional school text books and the new multimedia school books was at the start seldom debated later neglected. The Foundation lacked strategy for the schools choice decision between the traditional text books and the multimedia textbooks.

The criteria for new multimedia school books and how they should be used in every day’s pedagogy was never discussed in an exhaustingly way.

The marketing of the new multimedia schools books were neglected mostly because the production groups put most of the energy into productions. In too many cases the producing group didn’t have any knowledge about dissemination of the product into the schools.

The market for the multimedia school books was worth of around 25 millions Swedish crowns a year. This market could not absorb additional 40 millions a year of new products. The publishing houses and other professional’s providers of educational material withdrew their support.

The Knowledge Foundation stimulated and funded individual actors striving to produce products without engaging itself in long-term strategy of developing knowledge and competence about how these products could be used in the future.

The quality of products funded by The Knowledge Foundation was not good enough when compared to similar products elsewhere around.

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I think this posting from Dalibor is very useful for people in other countries. The background to the Knowledge Foundation is that Sweden introduced Employee Investment Funds in the mid-1980s. These involved the transfer of a percentage of company profits to a publicly-held fund, which was intended to be used to stimulate the Swedish economy.

The Funds were widely hated by the parties of the Right, and their abolition was carried out in haste in the dying days of the Conservative government of 1991-1994. The bodies which were set up to handle the money in the Employee Investment Funds were deliberately set up as trusts, with nominated board members (many of whom were politicians from the right), in a way which would prevent public accountability.

The Knowledge Foundation was one of these. Its first chairman was widely disliked in the IT and education sectors and it took a long time to get rid of him. As Dalibor has shown, huge amounts of public money were disbursed by the Foundation … with rather meagre results.

I'm one of the people who deliberately avoided applying to them for funds (as soon as I'd seen how they worked), since I couldn't really understand how they could be making the investment decisions they were making. The whole procedure looked like a way of spending budgets (and making sure they were spent on the right people) than a way of promoting IT in education in Sweden. I remember once standing on a square in Stockholm with one of the key decision-makers from the Fund, observing him disburse 15 million kronor to a mate of his who happened to come by on his bicycle! OK, the real story was a little more structured than that, but the basic problem was that you stood the best chance of success in being awarded funds if you lived in Stockholm … which people usually stood the least chance of success in actually achieving anything. IT is by its very nature a de-centralised, autonomous beast, and the people in the centre are often the ones who understand it least.

Good work has been done by the Knowledge Foundation … but hardly in a way which has been proportionate to the amount of money which has passed through its hands.

One of the recurring themes (which has been duplicated all over the world) is that content tends to come last in favour of heavy investment in hardware and flash-looking programming.

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Governments are pretty good at wasting public money. The UK government is pouring money into ICT in education, but its impact is debatable. Here are just a few examples:.

Curriculum Online: http://www.curriculumonline.gov.uk - A funding initiative, whereby schools get special funding for buying ICT resources. It’s a dreadfully bureaucratic initiative, and relatively few schools seem to search its database of resources. Most schools use Google.

ICT in Schools - http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/ictis/

The e-Learning Strategy Unit - http://www.dfes.gov.uk/elearningstrategy/

Languages ICT - http://www.languages-ict.org.uk - A new initiative managed by CILT, the National Centre for Languages. Includes a discussion forum. This may have an impact in the longer term – but lets see…

BECTA (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency): Tends to be very “techie” and overlaps with lots of other initiatives, e.g. the National Grid for Leanring: http://www.becta.org.uk

I was recently invited to contribute an article entitled "Aspects of technology enhanced language learning: a UK perspective". This forms part of an international report commissioned by UNESCO (edited Anthony Fitzpatrick) entitled "An Analytical Survey on Information and Communications Technologies in the Teaching and Learning of Foreign Languages: State of the Art, Needs and Perspectives." You can access my article here:


The whole report should appear on the Web later this year.

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