iTEC (Innovative Technologies for an Engaging Classroom)
iTEC (Innovative Technologies for an Engaging Classroom) is a four year, large-scale project that takes an informed look at the potential classroom of the future.
Starting in September 2010, iTEC will bring together policy makers, researchers, technology suppliers, other technology-enhanced learning experts and innovative teachers in order to design and build scalable learning and teaching scenarios for the future classroom with recognition of the realities of pace of the educational reform process. Rigorous testing of these future classroom scenarios in large-scale pilots will then be carried out in order to significantly increase the possibility that innovation can be mainstreamed and taken to scale when the project ends.
With 27 project partners, including 14 Ministries of Education (MoE), and funding from the European Commission of 9.45 million Euros, iTEC will provide a model describing how the deployment of technology in support of innovative teaching and learning activities can move beyond small scale pilots and become embedded in all Europe’s schools. The strategic nature of the project is underlined by the fact that the iTEC piloting in >1,000 classrooms in 12 countries is by some margin the largest pan-European validation of ICT in schools yet undertaken.
The key aim is to develop engaging scenarios for learning in the future classroom that can be validated in a large-scale pilot and be subsequently taken to scale.
This will be achieved through an increased understanding of the ways in which new and emerging technologies can support more effective forms of learner engagement.
A number of previous scenarios for the school of the future have proposed a radical vision in which governments announce the end of compulsory schooling by 2020 and the school has even disappeared. Such blue-sky thinking has a role to play but there is a danger that this approach results in designs for the future classroom that are simply too unconnected with current practice, fail to engage teachers and cannot be mainstreamed because they are divorced from educational policy making in the real world. While iTEC will develop ambitious scenarios for the future classroom, it will also recognise the realities and pace of the educational reform process. By the end of the project, schools will most certainly still exist but the organization of learning will be changing as social interaction and personalization becomes much more prevalent.
iTEC, therefore, will explore a vision of the future where schools will remain the key location for learning and assessment as part of a wider network of physical and virtual learning locations. In doing so, the project recognises that the learning process will increasingly engage with other stakeholders including parents and cultural and business sector members and draw in adult and informal learning. iTEC also begins with a clear understanding that the starting point for change is current teaching practice and that educational policy making in the real world must be understood as the context for this change. The project will not only examine how innovative technologies can be deployed but also the underlying change processes that are required in order for innovative teaching and learning practices to be mainstreamed and taken to scale.
An underpinning principle of the project’s approach is an appreciation that the power of technology to significantly enhance learning and teaching is not always transparent to practitioners. The iTEC learning centred approach is based upon the understanding that technology in itself cannot bring about schools that are competent in the use of ICT without other factors such as vision and competency, and technology that is designed with usability in mind.
The increasing use of Web 2.0 content and social tools to extend learning beyond the physical learning space is the focus for iTEC’s pedagogical and technical analysis. The strategy is particularly to look beyond how schools are currently using learning platforms (LMSs, VLEs etc.) which arguably support a more formal approach to teaching and learning, and which have shown disappointing levels of adoption. Moving forward, iTEC will aim to build upon the popularity of community driven learning using personal learning spaces created by individuals through interaction with multiple personal online learning services.
Current trends suggest that tools and services supporting learning are increasingly likely to be fairly small, autonomous applications. Ways must be found to ensure that teachers and learners can reliably discover, assemble and fully exploit these tools. It is also recognised that interactive whiteboards have played a valuable role in demonstrating; how technology can engage both teachers and learners; drive transformational change in the classroom; and act as a ‘gateway’ to more enhanced adoption of technology. With a range of interactive, multi-touch technologies being deployed at large scale in classrooms across Europe, it is now time to examine how these technologies can be successfully integrated with other emerging tools and services to ensure ease of adoption and maximise potential benefits.
A central objective for European Ministries of Education in order to help engage and motivate learners of the future should be to ensure that the richness of ICT used in schools does not pale in comparison to how pupils are using ICT for personal recreational use. To achieve its aims, the iTEC project may particularly need to challenge the tendency for schools to limit the learner’s use of personal technologies (requiring pupils to ‘power down’ when at school) and instead encourage and support learners in exploiting the potential of Web 2.0 approaches to content creation and social networking.
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