Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How to get research infrastructures into schools?

The European Distance and e-Learning Network, short EDEN, is a network of academics and practitioners that has been promoting open and distance education for many years now. This year’s annual conference, EDEN 2012, which took place 6-9 June 2012 in Porto, Portugal, was themed “Open Learning Generations: Closing the Gap from “Generation Y” to the Mature Lifelong Learners”.

Although the conference had this clear generational focus the event was well attended by representative of project that aim to enhance science teaching in schools. In GLOBAL excursion e.g. we aim to improve science teaching by provided access to scientific resources and eInfrastructures. Grid computing is one of the topics for which we want to provide engaging content and interactive teaching scenarios. During the conference we presented our participatory design approach by which a design partnership between all stakeholders is established, incl. teachers, scientists, developers, etc.

One of the prevailing didactical models that were presented at the conference for an improved science teaching is that of inquiry based learning. The main idea behind this model is that students get engaged by interacting with scientists and scientific material themselves, thus performing inquiry based learning activities, that allow the students to explore for themselves. 

Other projects with a similar approach that were present at the conference are e.g. the PATHWAY project or Discover theCOSMOS. These projects also offer access to research infrastructures following an inquiry-based learning approach.

While it seems that students react very positively to innovative teaching approaches offered via these projects the main target group for these projects to work with are teachers. They are the key to successful inquiry-based science teaching. One of the main constraints for teachers is the strict curriculum they have to adhere to and the lack of time for additional activities. Overall, there was an agreement that if we want to make science teaching exciting and give students access to research infrastructures teachers need to be granted favourable conditions. 

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