The role of education within the framework of information sciences and technologies

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Published on January 3, 2007

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The role of education within the framework of information sciences and technologies Asunción López-Varela Azcárate (LEETHI Research Group) Departamento de Filología Inglesa II, Facultad de Filología, Av/ Complutense s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain. Phone: (34)-91-3945858 Fax: (34)-91- 394-5762 alopezva@filol.ucm.es

Asunción López-Varela Azcárate (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) alopezva@filol.ucm.es Author’s profile Specialized in 19th & 20th century Anglo-American Literature, Comparative Literature, Critical Theory and Media Studies, Dr. Asunción López-Varela researches semiotic aspects of space and time within literary representation. Her interest en Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) as innovative teaching resources within the European Space of Higher Education directs her most recent research to the study of space-time representational changes, brought about by the extended use of hypermedia technologies. Defending the importance of literature for the study of languages and the development of intercultural approaches, Prof. López-Varela participates in several research projects financed by the Spanish Ministry of Education and is a member of the Research Group LEETHI at [http://www.ucm.es/info/leethi/index.php] and [http://www.ucm.es/info/guias/indexdom.htm]. Prof. López-Varela also coordinates the area of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies in English for the project E-excellence in the humanities gateway Liceus at [http://www.liceus.com]. For a more detailed account of interests, research and publications visit [http://www.ucm.es/info/FInglesa/Profesores/lopez_varela.htm]

Abtract This paper presents the work of L.E.E.T.Hi (Spanish and European Literatures from Text to Hypertex), a research group based at Universidad Complutense Madrid whose projects have focused simultaneously on the teaching of literature from an intercultural perspective while helping to develop competence on information literacy following the impact of entrepreneurial activities on the academic research system. European Convergence didactic patterns and hypertextual models are employed by L.E.E.T.Hi. to create new educational spaces that can generate novel learning processes and new forms of production of information and transmission of knowledge. These projects address the potential role that the Social Sciences and Humanities (Education and Literature in particular) can play with regard to the imminent transformations to a European knowledge-based society and its educational, ethical and societal implications. The emergence of the knowledge-based society will entail new forms of relationships between its citizens, on one hand, and between its citizens and institutions, on the other. Hence the emphasis placed by LEETHi on intercultural approaches.

Literature, CMC, AT, and the development of intercultural approaches within ESHE LEETHI employs Computer Mediated Communication models to create new didactic spaces Within literary studies, these hypertextual and hypermedia spaces produce new ways of associative reading which lead to transversal and intercultural forms of learning and which we have termed “transliterary”. We have created two Web spaces A Cyberguide to orient students in their reading, an interdisciplinary project that explores cross-reading among 1) literatures in different languages 2) different kinds of texts 3) different media, etc. http://www.ucm.es/info/guias/indexdom.htm L.E.E.T.HI. Webspace- a place to meet the group, its historiography and its didactic tools. Here we have selected a dynamic interface that brings forward the constructivism of our mental-textual representations and invites complex reflections on the relationship between the reading-writing process and the development of conceptual thought. http://www.ucm.es/info/leethi/index.php

Literature, CMC, AT, and the development of intercultural approaches within ESHE In recent years the speedy changes brought about by the spread of new technologies of information and communications are imposing new and dynamic alternatives for the acquisition of knowledge and its transmission. In a few years the great part of the work force will be employed in occupations based on the use of information (documentation, data processing, information retrieval and analysis) The impulse of the European Space of Higher Education is causing European research to focus on the demands that the modern knowledge society places on higher education graduates, and the degree to which higher education equips graduates with the competencies to meet these demands. The research work developed by LEETHi has sought to concentrate on these fundamental aspects regarding learning and teaching perspectives developed within ESHE, in particular the introduction of new teaching methodologies that promote: – The creation of teaching materials and participation in virtual campuses, b-learning experiences, etc., together with the development of new forms of evaluation, tutorials etc. – The development of students’ autonomy through teaching methodologies that promote research and creativity processes as well as cooperation among students. – The introduction of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). Ours is not only a didactic approach but an epistemological inquiry into the relationship between the literary event, its spaces of representation and the changes that we are experiencing in our cultural models, product of changing cognitive activities, related to the shifting textual medium and production of information and transmission of knowledge

Psycholinguistic approaches to task planning have focused on internalization of knowledge and, therefore, failed to uncover a key factor which also contributes to task resolution: the fact that knowledge is shared, transmitted and experienced in interaction. Hémard (2006)’s work evaluates hypermedia structures as means of improving language learning strategies and motivation. He claims that it is important to pay attention to the socio-cultural perspective, and that individual and collective consciousness are situated phenomena which evolve dynamically with practice and are transformed in the process. While providing a structural framework for the design of hypermedia activities or tasks there is more to second language learning than just acquiring a language for it involves the acquisition of its culturally-related content. One of the major problems facing foreign language teaching lies in the fact that languages are increasingly reduced to being considered merely as a means of communication and not representational and critical exponents of their foreign cultures. Hémard’s work shows that the use of hypermedia alone may not generate increased motivation. Ellis (2000) has also shown the human/ethical component is a key factor. And this is where the introduction of literary works in second language acquisition becomes a crucial element for providing the necessary socio-cultural background and developing the intercultural elements required in the ESHE.

LEETHi was created in 2002 when a group of researchers from different areas of the Faculty of Humanities of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid got together after a seminar and decided to work towards the ESHE, trying to bridge different teaching experiences and epistemological perspectives in order to reflect on the literary event and its intercultural repercussions. The work of the group combines integrated interactive e-learning and a contact learning scenario (blended learning), offers instruction and scaffolding particularly at the beginning of the course. Autonomy is, thus, potentially developed during the course as one of the course strategies. Thus, the group has promoted: The creation of teaching materials and participation in virtual campuses, together with the development of new forms of evaluation, tutorials etc. and participation in the Universidad participation Complutense b-learning platform known as “Virtual Campus”. b- Campus” The design of curricular actions that promote both the development of conceptual knowledge and development attitudes and the acquisition of abilities that bring the students closer to social and professional students contexts, teaching them to mobilize resources and transfer the results of their learning to other results areas. See our postgraduate course “The New Professions of Languages” Languages” http://www.ucm.es/info/FInglesa/otros_cursos.htm http://www.ucm.es/info/fgu/directorio.htm The development of students’ autonomy through teaching methodologies promoting research and students’ creativity processes and cooperation among students. An emphasis on intercultural approaches in language teaching, with hypermedia support. with The encouragement and integration of literary readings in the classroom following the trend of classroom work carried out at the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) that has found how texts employed in class can contribute to the development of an intercultural consciousness. intercultural

In order to achieve these objectives the group based its educational strategy on two foundations: Reading: a communication process that escapes spatial and temporal borders and promotes dialogical interactions. Employing reception theory Fenner (2001) argues for reading as a communicative experience and as a productive, not a receptive skill. Based on a specific approach, reading literature in the target language is seen as a dialectic between reader and text as well as between two cultures within the social interaction of the classroom. The author investigates such dialogic encounters from a hermeneutical point of view where one aspect of communication and development is adjusting attitudes and views between individuals and between cultures. Thus the reading process is a hermeneutical process comparable to the learning process. The use of Activity Theory and Computer Mediated Communication, which as recent ESHE literature has also shown[1], increases students’ intercultural awareness for new media technologies use interactive forms of communication and can heighten motivation because students are free to interact with other students and find their own resources in the Web. Internet uses -hypertext, chats, discussion forums, videoconferencing, etc.- enable information to be moved, transformed and manipulated. Hypermedia tools allow students to participate in a cooperative learning process and a continuous interaction with the different agents of the system: student/professor, student/student. [1]http://www.ecml.at/ For a catalogue of publications see: http://book.coe.int/EN/ficheouvrage.php?PAGEID=39&lang=EN&theme_catalogue=120243, particularly Information and Communication Technologies in Vocationally Oriented Language Learning (Book + CD Rom) (2005) by Tony Fitzpatrick, Andreas Lund, Bernard Moro and Bernd Rüschoff

Guías de lectura[1], a project financed by a Complutense Project in 2002, is a cyberguide designed to explore the possibilities of b-learning strategies in the classroom. Seeking to implement European Convergence didactic patterns, this Web space was a pioneer in its inter-departamental presentation within a heterogeneous Faculty of Humanities. It allowed devote more attention to the varied student profile and to certain abilities that seemed to be underdeveloped, particularly concerning information management and the development of critical capacities. The Webpage facilitated an education process centered on each individual student; it offered students basic information on the authors and literary works to be studied within the different courses taught by the members of the research team, and provided tasks for continual assessment. The guides were designed to allow students complete autonomy to decide their reading itinerary while helping them to construct meaning in a pluri-linguistic and multicultural frame. The flexibility of the hypermedia model allows for the generation of a network of paths and intersections that stages the dialogical processes of literary reception, helping to unveil the inter-texts built into our representations and world conceptions. However, despite its emphasis on information management through technological applications, Guías de Lectura sought to enhance the potential role that the Social Sciences and Humanities (Education and Literature in particular) can play with regard to the imminent transformations to a European knowledge-based society and its educational, ethical and societal implications. The emergence of the knowledge- based society will entail new forms of relationships between its citizens, on one hand, and between its citizens and institutions, on the other. Hence the emphasis LEETHI has placed on intercultural approaches. [1] http://www.ucm.es/info/guias/indexdom.htm

The aim of this guided trip in search of information was not only to help students to acquire conceptual knowledge but also to foster the development of procedural knowledge in the learning loop. Students were, therefore, encouraged to share information with other members of the group, and transfer the results of their findings. They might consult other classmates and their teacher in class or using on-line communication applications such as the chat, e-mails, Weblogs, discussion forums, etc. Personal Theory in practice Collaboration Reflection Teacher as Learner Sharing Theory of Others Personal Theory In Practice Collaboration Reflection Sharing Theory of Others

COGNITIVE ORGANIZATION OF LEARNING PROCESS knowledge ACTOR procedures Activity knowledge knowledge (operations/actions) ACTOR ACTOR procedures procedures Communication (words/texts) Horizon (expectatives/desires) knowledge Knowledge ACTOR ACTOR procedures procedures

For the development of assessment in our project we relied on the following sources: The European Portfolio of Languages (ELP), designed to foster the recording of foreign language learners’ individualized experiences with the learning process. A Questionnaire on specific socio-cultural and educational characteristics, handed out at the beginning of the course in paper form. Its aim was to find general information about socio-cultural and educational characteristics –including information literacy- of the students and elaborate a qualitative study on graduate competences in the knowledge society, helping link the main structural and institutional factors that shape the relation between higher education and work. Monthly questionnaires about in class observations, classroom preferences and curricular interests on-line at http:// Interviews with individuals and groups Weblogs created by groups of students Tutorial observation and tutor logbook E-mail recordings Continuous assessment of the tasks provided by the cyberguide Assessment of their tasks proposed by students and their own creative experiences (miniquest) An optional final examination for those unhappy with their results or those who could not follow the course

LEETHI’S WEBPAGE The mechanism of representation of the cognitive model we seek in LEETHI is necessarily a hypertextual (hypermedia) structure including a cognitive and philosophical dimension of the phenomenon of multiculturalism together with a didactic and pedagogic dimension which can help to develop positive values in the face of diversity. Research in language learning developed for the European Convergence has shown that the building up of autonomy as a conscious metacognitive activity permits a reflection on one’s own language that gives rise to the emergence of a multicultural consciousness. The literary event becomes an exceptional meeting space, dialogic crossroad of readings that helps to build what we have been, what we are and what we want to become. The affirmation of identity –individual, historical, social, cultural, national- is for L.E.E.T.HI. a space of dialogic learning, of exchange of experiences with everything that is somehow other and different –other languages, other cultures, other disciplines-. Interculturality, interdisciplinarity and a plurality of languages and world conceptions, form part of this complex educational model seeking to formalize the simultaneous acquisition of linguistic competence, and procedimental and performative abilities, without forgetting the intercultural and social values.

Systems, nations, intercultures, transliteratures, histories and identities are the shifting combinatory concepts, not global but “glocal”, moving between centre and periphery Bidimensional on the screen, the model aspires to generate, in its mobility, tridimensional mental projections; a systemic configuration around two combinatory axis: the hypertextual representational and cognitive structure and the didactic one that helps to implement the theoretical model and transforms it in autonomous learning and concrete performances. Nodes and links, as invariant textual moments, bind the different pages within the hypertext, supplying local stability within the global flux. Each lexia , to use Landow’s and Barthes’ term, builds up key associative prospects of internal coherence and consistency and simultaneously demolishes them, placing the user at the limit of the textual moment and pushing him forward towards a new discursive territory. The hypertextual space is always a relative subjective read- writable space, configured by the reader/user along his/her chosen path. The colours of the cube help to remember the selected itinerary in this complex associative web.

The relativism of the model is the price to pay for allowing the user the consciousness of his/her decisions, something that can only be achieved if one is able to situate oneself simultaneously within and without the space of representation. On the other hand, any non-deterministic model forces us to make decisions and situate ourselves both cognitive and discursively, generating conducts of responsibility that may not be gratifying and we may want to avoid for the sake of convenience. Autonomy and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. The user can, however, take the easy way out and access directly the library in order to contemplate all the documents listed in alphabetical order. She or he can also use the key-words search engine to find what is needed. LEETHi’s pedagogic hypertexts are designed with this objective in mind: to teach students to become better persons through reading. We believe that learning to deal with the ‘other’ in literature can make us aware of our own historical specificity and help us value ourselves more, and thus value the ‘other’ for helping us to be. Hence LEETHi’s new space aspires to become a data-base of research essays on the concepts proposed, where we all become students and the learning process becomes a permanent inquiry into the nature of knowledge and its changing contextual applications.

Conclusions LEETHI has found that the use of b-learning approaches to education encourage learning processes in accordance with ESHE requirements, more specifically: These strategies encourage students’ autonomy, a cooperative relationship between professor/students and students/students and translocal learning-research process, adequate to specific needs and specific times in a process that stimulates both creativity and the transferability of learning results. The multimediality integral to hypertext teaching approaches help to integrate text, image, sound, video, etc., in a single electronic document and the user can have sequential or simultaneous access to these different kinds of information, thus multiplying the communicational capacity of the document. Hypertextual models oblige the user to make a choice, to decide his/her itinerary. They introduce a systematic question within the unity of the text, encouraging argumentation and showing that the reading and thinking chain is not unidirectional but relational. The information search strategies implemented, by transforming the learning experience into a form of research where students construct their own learning dimension away from predetermined formulas and solutions, contribute to create socially responsible citizens by showing that information is generated through a socially constructed process and that the results of any research, whose aim is to improve human vital conditions, should be transferred to other areas of our lives. These technologies can help students achieve cooperative abilities, make decisions and transfer their learning in relation to their professional profile and to other social areas. Students learn in dynamic situations where information constantly changes and they need to learn to manage information excess and select pertinent resources, to find meaning for themselves among the diverse and numerous informational resources. The Educational and Cultural Studies background of the group members has encouraged research particularly in the areas of cross-cultural readings and intercultural awareness which involve the development of a network of interdisciplinary fields and the coordination of transversal projects mainly focusing on questions such as self-representation, citizenship, identity, migration, discrimination, tolerance, etc. Thus, the two Web spaces designed by the group have tried to promote the use of categories based on interconnection, plurality, etc. grounded on the possibilities of hypertextual representation. Readers/users are assumed participants and therefore the potential targets for these hypertexts that will help them reflect critically upon the implications that their/our own experiences and practices will have on the complexities of intercultural education when considered within the scope of ESHE citizenship education

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