Cooperative E-Learning in the Multilingual and Multicultural School: The Role of “Classroom 2.0” for Increasing Participation in Education

Cooperative E-Learning in the Multilingual and Multicultural School: The Role of “Classroom 2.0” for Increasing Participation in Education

Jonathan Bishop (Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems, European Parliament, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2122-0.ch013

Abstract

The Classroom 2.0 initiative is one of the most fundamental reforms to the way education is performed across the European Union. Starting its life at the Digital Classroom of Tomorrow (DCOT) Project in Wales, the initiative has shown that concepts like electronic individual education programmes (eIEPs) and the electronic twinning of schools (eTwinning) can play an important role in enhancing learning outcomes for school age learners. This chapter presents a review of the impact of the original Classroom 2.0 Project – DCOT – and explores some of the technical issues essential to the project’s success across Europe.
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Introduction

One thing historians always talking about with the European Union is its set-backs in terms of peace from Roman times to the end of the Second World War. The Treaty of Rome, which led to the European Union, is one of the most successful peace treaties in history it is said. One of the major clashes beyond battles over terrorory has always been language, and much of this is alive today. In Belgium there are tensions between the Dutch speaking Flemish and the French speaking Walloons. In Wales there are battles between those who want to further the Welsh language and those who think English should be the only language. This study shows how the user of modern computing technology can be used to cross borders so that people from different cultures can communicate with one another – called eTwinning. It further shows how by using instant translation systems it can be possible for people of one language to communicate with others of a different language in a different school, different community or even a different country. This whole concept together is what is known as Classroom 2.0. It differs from neologisms like E-Learning 2.0 and 'Technology Enhanced Learning' in that it is a whole concept related solely to technology, as with the former, or only pedagogy as with the latter, but requires a whole-scale shift in the way education is conceptualised and delivered. The first Classroom 2.0 project in Europe was The Digital Classroom of Tomorrow Project, which as can be seen from Figure 1, is based on the idea of bringing lots of machines together, such as in the Cloud or over a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so that people can access education ubiquitously – that is from anywhere.

Figure 1.

The digital classroom of tomorrow

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Background

Proficiency in more than one language has become essential for learners within the European Union (EU) in order for them to benefit from the occupational and personal opportunities offered by the border-free Single Market (Grasmane & Grasmane, 2011). The European Commission has encouraged governments within the EU to support language proficiency within schools in order to allow learners to adapt to working and living environments characterised by different cultures. The increase in use of ICT in schools in bilingual countries, has been considered a threat to the bilingual aspects of learners schooling because of the dominance of the English language in these systems. However, the potential of using bilingual Multi-User Virtual Environments (i.e. MUVEs) in schools could be particularly advantageous to those cultural groups in the geographical areas with limited language support. Those MUVEs tailored for education, called MUVLEs, or Multi-User Virtual Learning Environments, could benefit society by making it possible for some school activities to be transferred to the home environment and take account of the different cultures that exist in the European Union (Baker, 1985). In this context, culture refers to a network of artefacts, such as memories and experiences that people form through taking part in events within their environment. So for instance it is possible for football supporters across the Union to share experiences of their football teams competing with each other, which forms part of their culture as individuals. It is therefore important that any school supporting the ‘Classroom 2.0’ initiative be able to cater for people of any culture and any language through specialist support integrating MUVEs with human resources like teachers.

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