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Sotiriou, S: Advanced Technologies in Education - Developing the Science Classroom of the Future, (2010)

Information communication technology (ICT) nowadays provides innovative learning systems which although routinely available needs adjustment to real educational environments. Due to the complexity of the task an appropriate integration into everyday classrooms is an important global research challenges focusing on its utilization and effects in both, classroom and non-classroom settings. By rigorous collecting data on teaching methods, classroom characteristics and students’ learning effects needs analysis by concentrating on selected variables that may determine effectiveness as well as teachers characteristics such as teachers’ preparation and professional development. Therefore, the aim of the four presented research papers focuses on envision the science classroom of the future, by constructing a framework for improving current educational practices and learning processes in science and mathematics through the effective implementation of advanced technological tools and applications.

Overall this work presents a vision for the science classroom of the future: It will not be an island, a self-contained campus, a counter-world. The classroom of the future will be able to emit and absorb along different wavelengths, be immersed in contemporary culture, be open to the emotions, facts and news of its time. It will be permeated by society, but not unprotected: the relationship between school and society will be one of osmosis, where the pedagogical tools and applications act as a membrane and interface. For this purpose, four empirical studies were carried out in real school environments, based on the use of advanced educational systems.

(i) The first system under study is the COSMOS Portal, which is an educational repository that offers access to a network of robotic telescopes across the world. At the same time it offers access to more than 85,000 educational resources. The behaviour of the teachers who are using this system was mapped through the log files of the system database for a period of one year.

(ii) The second system, called Lab of Tomorrow, is a wearable device that allows high school students to use their every day life as the field where they will conduct sophisticated experiments and thus will deepen their understanding of the science concepts involved in the activities. The impact of the system on students learning and to the lesson profile was studied for a period of one school year.

(iii) The third system, called CONNECT, is also a wearable device that includes an advanced visualization system that augments additional information to the optical view of the user. The system is used in the framework of educational visits in science centres and museums enriching the experiences of the visitors. The effectiveness of the system in supporting the students’ conceptual change was studied in this case.

(iv) The fourth system, called EXPLOAR, evolved from the described CONNECT system to a much more user-friendly handheld device. Taking into account the school curriculum we have designed a series of scenarios of use of these tools. The scenarios of use include classroom activities, field trips in science centres and museums, informal learning activities, professional development opportunities and community building.

In all four studies, students’ cognitive learning is analysed as well as selected teachers’ tasks on the job. By applying different assessment methods and tools (questionnaires, video captures of lessons, log files and web based data) we monitored the implementation procedure across different European countries. Our working hypothesis is that amending the traditional scientific methodology for experi­mentation with visualization applications and model building tools will help students to articulate their mental models, make better predictions, and reflect more effectively. Additionally, working to reconcile the gaps and inconsistencies within their mental models, system models, predictions and results, will provide the learners with a powerful, explicit representation of their misconceptions and a means to repair them. Additionally our aim is to support teachers’ professional development.  Apart from the purely technical training, in order for teachers to introduce ICT-enhanced learning methods into their everyday practice, they will have to perform a change in behaviour and to adapt a new culture and philosophy. The use of the new tools asks for systematic and detailed lesson planning procedures and use of student centred approaches. In our work we are demonstrating methods for involving teachers in this process but also tools to monitor this behavioural change.

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