work plan





Project description

The diversity of knowledge, experience and resources (both real and virtual) that are available in an increasing number of scientific disciplines, together with the wide range of mobile electronic devices, software modelling, simulation and collaboration tools, and distributed and ubiquitous computational technologies, offer an enormous potential for the exploration of new ways to teach and learn. This technology, seen in the context of current theories of situated cognition and learner centred education, offers interesting possibilities for the design and realisation of collaborative learning activities in scenarios that extend the standard scholastic framework, not only in terms of their physical location but also the methodology and the realism of the scientific context, the participants, and the temporal dimension of the work, moving the learning scope away from the school. This has a similar philosophy to what are called ‘active museums’ or exploratories, or environmental education centres which are typically located in wildlife parks or reserves, and have a similar educational framework. The idea here is to improve the learning process, focussing on the acquisition process via the practical development of a learner’s own scientific research capabilities. However, it is very important to note that these explorative activities are connected to the day to day school curriculum, being established as a link that enables the students to integrate information.

The purpose of the ENLACE project is to explore the design of innovative educational environments, which offer intelligent support for a wide range of learning activities in natural science related domains. The idea here is to enable knowledge creation and sharing (co-construction) within a social structure of ‘learning communities’ that require another type of organization and flexibility in order to work. Hence, open computing environments need to be designed that integrate modelling tools for the analysis and collaborative construction of solutions – to scientific problems in our case -, that offer semantic mechanisms which store, share and enable the interchange of multimedia data, objects, and artefacts, and that enable mediation and negotiation to propose, organize, and undertake collaborative tasks, that respond in a dynamic way to the necessities of different theoretical and experimental situations, both individual and collective, in the classroom, the laboratory, and in nature, which offer flexibility both in the design and undertaking of activities that adapt to the necessities of each group, and contain ‘awareness’ mechanisms that maintain and develop the "collective memory" of the community.


From a computer science perspective, the use of agent technology for modelling and providing active support of activities in complex organizations, together with the utilization of the ‘semantic Web’ to organize and structure shared knowledge and distributed resources, represent the technological baseline needed to achieve the objective of the present project: the modelling and design of open environments with intelligent community learning support where the learning strategies, the collaboration mechanisms and the tools available, offer additional functionality to different work environments, experimental scenarios, and formal levels of social organization: individual, small groups, large groups, and communities. A fundamental part of this investigation is the generation of a semantic portal for learning communities in the area of environmental education, using a participative design methodology and formative evaluation to verify the viability of the proposal. Specifically, to analyse and modify the functionality necessary to articulate the notion of ‘community’ (made up of both real and artificial agents) from different perspectives: the scholastic world, the scientific world, the professional world, and the society. In order to this, collaboration is planned with experts from different organizations with a long history of environmental education, for example, both primary and secondary education.