Evaluating the Czech contribution to the Calibrate project
Calibrate is a project organised within the Sixth EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP6). We have regularly published bulletins analysing the Czech contributions to reaching the project goals since its inception over two years ago. You can find more information about this on the Czech project web site administered by the project coordinator - House for International Services of MoEYS.
The goal of the project was to promote the use of digital learning materials or learning objects in schools. Because it was a project with a Europe-wide impact, considerable emphasis was placed on developing European cooperation, in particular the exchange of information, ideas and experiences. Besides direct cooperation the project tested indirect cooperation under scientifically controlled conditions for the first time. This specifically means using freely available materials developed in one country for teaching in another. We can surely imagine the possibilities that could be created by such sharing.
For this reason we were asked as part of the project activities to implement practical testing to see whether an international transposition of learning objects was possible and what the characteristics of the learning objects suitable for such purposes would be. More than 30 teachers from 10 different Czech schools were involved in the tests.
The teachers participating in the project had access to an experimental version of the web portal allowing them to search for learning objects in the national repositories of partner countries — i.e. Hungary, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and others. They were asked to test objects which they found interesting with their students and verify their real usability. Based on this experience, the teachers elaborated case studies in the form of lesson plans that were published using the LeMill Web 2.0 site, which is aimed precisely at sharing information about digital learning materials and which was also developed as part of Calibrate project.
To increase the motivation for the research of the teachers involved we organised a competition for the best lesson plans as a conclusion to the work of the project. Digital materials can, of course, also be found without the specialised services of the Calibrate portal and many teachers already use them on a daily basis. The final Calibrate competition to select the best learning lesson using digital materials found on the internet was therefore open to all interested participants.
Because the prizes, for instance an interactive blackboard, a data-projector or voting equipment, were aimed at schools, the terms of the competition stipulated that the overall ranking would be determined by the sum of the marks awarded to the four best lesson plans from each school. At the same time the rating of each plan was entrusted to the participants of the competition themselves. However, they could not vote for their own school. In the end there were a total of 56 lessons by 27 teachers from 12 schools.
The following overview lists all the lesson plans that received marks in the competition:
This list could be considered as the main Czech outcome of the Calibrate project. Another significant result of the project has been the increase in the general awareness for the need to establish a national repository of learning objects with high quality content. After several unsuccessful past attempts it will hopefully became a part of the methodological web portal RVP (Framework Educational Programme) managed by the VÚP (Research Institute for Education). A repository under the name DUM (Digital Learning Materials) has already been launched and if approval for the continuation of this project is granted, it seems almost certain that a Czech national repository of learning objects will come into existence and soon join the excellent emerging European portal Learning Resource Exchange (LRE) run by EUN. Its content will thus be added to several tens of thousands of existing European learning objects which shall all be available to all teachers.
We will have to wait several months for the official launch of the LRE. It will draw not only on the experience gained from the Calibrate project, but also from other projects such as MELT. It is therefore a little early to produce a full evaluation of the significance of the Czech participation in the project from an international perspective; but such an evaluation is possible at a national level. If you make the effort to look in LeMill not only at the prize-winning lesson plans in the table, but also at some of the approximately 150 existing Czech materials, you can reach your own conclusions. Linguistically gifted individuals can also find interesting content in LeMill created by teachers from other countries and they can easily cooperate with them through the portal.
On behalf of the organisers of the Calibrate project we can promise to continue following the development of international collaboration in the area of educational technologies and spare no effort to ensure that we are not left behind.