N. 15, winter 2012

Table of contentsAuthor index

In technology enhanced learning (TEL), a number of buzzwords arose in the last years: ambient, assisted, ubiquitous, pervasive, mobile, smart, networked, etc. And still everything is about learning in these new contexts, related to the main question how technology enhanced life influences our way to learn.

Being the central process of information acquisition, learning is strongly influenced by the development of the society. Since the last three decades of the 20s century, society has made a change from the post-industrial era to the knowledge and information society. This has a lot of consequences on our way of learning. The way we have learned and acquired knowledge in the past was influenced by models and thoughts in the post-industrial era (i.e., based on facts and fixed in hierarchies). Nowadays, our learning, our knowledge acquisition and moreover the contents to learn have made the shift to models and thoughts in the information and knowledge society (e.g., untamable amount of facts, loose hierarchies). Looking at schools and universities, we can observe a new kind of availability of information, new ways to access information and new quality of information. Whereas in former times, the focus of education was on the mediation of content by educators, teachers or masters, nowadays it is more and more important to train abilities of information acquisition, filtering, exchange, production, reflection, usage etc., from early days of school education and life-long.

In the information and knowledge society, immaterial knowledge has become the primary good. Resulting of this change from material to immaterial goods, we find industry looking for knowledge management, computer science looking for the cloud, which is rooted in the idea to access everything, everywhere at every time – and law desperately looking for any borders. As the terms “information” and “knowledge” are often used to sketch the same thing, for the following we will define: information can be transformed to knowledge by individuals – knowledge construction is perceived to be an intra-personal process; knowledge does not exist outside a person’s mind. Inevitably one of the key functions of ubiquitous and ambient TEL is the support of continuous meta-cognition, meta-reflection and meta-design abilities of the individuals.

All the above mentioned branches of research (e.g. ambient, assisted, ubiquitous, pervasive,…) , which arose in the last years in the context of TEL, have some aspects in common:
•    The borders of technology dissolve (technology becomes invisible, ubiquitous, pervasive),
•    Information is available every time and everywhere
•    Information becomes part of a net of distribution
•    Information is constantly changing and cannot be seen as “safe” or “secure” anymore: it is liquid, magma, “open” and “in progress”.
•    Information is often depending on contexts
•    Information is not created by a single person but can be the result of a collaborative and social process

Wikipedia, Google, Facebook and the like – all from the family of Web 2.0 – are good examples for this transition. But what will be the consequences for TEL? In this special issue, we will explore some potential aspects of future TEL.

The article of Telmo Zarraonandia, Ignacio Aedo and Paloma Díaz, with the title “Envisioning the Transformative Role of IT in Lectures”, is about a look in the future. Based on their observations, the authors describe how in their opinion new technologies may influence the development, the style and the content of lectures. They introduce a system, which is used to improve the communication between participants of a lecture based on augmented reality techniques.

Carlo Giovannella’s article addresses the question: “Is complexity tamable? Toward a design for the experience in a complex world.” He focuses on three core aspects of complexity, i.e. the person who experiences the new situation, the peculiarities of the context, and the co-evolution of both. His suggestion is to redefine the framework of reference and to help people develop an appropriate design literacy to be able to tame complexity.

A concrete example for an innovative learning system is provided by the article of Alexandros Karakos, John Papaioannou and Anastasia Georgiadou. They describe an approach to “Learning the Greek Language via Greeklish” and demonstrate a learning system, including assistance software, which helps to learn Greek based on vocabulary, meaning and pronunciation.

Alessandra Agostini and Elisa Di Biase focused more on the technical side of TEL. In their article “Large multi-touch screens enhancing cooperative activities in new learning environments”, they describe an approach on how modern technology, i.e. large multi-touch screens, can enhance learning and teaching. In their approach, the multi-touch screen is used in combination with digital storytelling and a context aware platform, which are both used in an experiment in an Italian primary school with digital natives.

A learning platform is introduced by Luca Simeone, Salvatore Iaconesi and Federico Monaco. In their article “REFF book as a Mode-2 learning platform” they show how augmented reality can be used in a platform where experts from different disciplines work together on specific complex real-world problems. Augmented reality is used as a tool which bridges the gap between hypermedial content and printed publications. As an example of their experiment they use a book which embeds QR Codes and other markers for additional content, which can be accessed by a content management system.

Last but not least, Imran A. Zualkernan presents the article “Design and implementation of a low-cost classroom response system for a future classroom in the developing world”. A classroom response system is a modern technology – it is a wireless, handheld device, which can be used by students to give immediate feedback to the teacher. The approach described in the paper offers an alternative to the classical, comparably cost intensive systems. The article sketches how to develop low cost classroom response systems for underprivileged nations, such as in developing countries.

The articles published in this Special Issue have partly been submissions to an open call of the Special Issue of the IxD&A Journal, and partly they are extended and revised versions of the best papers at our workshop DUPL @ ICALT2011 at the ICALT (International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies).

Topic of the DUPL @ ICALT2011 workshop was to describe, explain and envision:
•    A future of TEL – this vision should be realistic and applicable in real contexts
•    Interdisciplinary encounters centered around educational experiences and individuals as parts of the knowledge society and the developing network of information and persons
DULP stands for D -> Design Inspired Learning; U -> Ubiquitous Learning; L -> Liquid Learning Places; P -> Person in Place Centered Design, thus summarizing and bringing together a number of current trends and researchers. DULP started as a national effort in Rome, Italy, in 2009; after the first steps, an international community has been built, and a series of workshops started at ICALT 2010 and continued at ICALT 2011.

We hope that in the years to come our workshop series and also Special Issues, like the one presented here, will help to overcome the mental boundaries of traditional learning, and that they will help to envision and finally also to realize teaching and learning with the currently and new technologies.

Alke Martens & Sabine Graf