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In memoriam Else Rose Kuiper

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Links-up .. the Project: Background

The spread of social software in recent years has been phenomenal. In the education sector, much has been made about how social software and other ‘Web 2.0’ applications like weblogs, media-sharing software, interactive games and virtual worlds have the potential to open up more opportunities for better learning for
more people.

In particular, it is claimed that so-called ‘Learning 2.0’ can make education more accessible, more fun and more valued for young people who have dropped out of school, and for older people who perhaps feel they have missed out on learning.

Beyond education, experts argue, Web 2.0 can make a big contribution to a fairer, more equal society. One of the main objectives of Links-up is to look at the evidence for these claims and to identify ‘what works, for whom and under what conditions’ in the use of  ‘Learning 2.0’ to support social inclusion.

Links-Up has recently entered into the core phase of its action-research approach, by implementing on-the-field experiments, aiming analysing the three general Links-Up research questions through five “innovation laboratories”:

1. Is learning 2.0 really supporting inclusive life-long learning?

2. Can isolated experiments be mainstreamed?

3. Is learning 2.0 fundamentally changing the educational landscape?

Action-research focuses on gathering and analysing data to assess the nature and scope of changes brought about by an innovative intervention. The innovative intervention in our case is the use of Web 2.0 to supplement existing learning practices.

We want to deepen our understandings of how social Web is being used to support new forms of learning and new ways of supporting inclusion in real-life situations that reflect particular configurations of technological choices and attributes; learning scenarios, pedagogic models and tools; institutional arrangements; target users and objectives; outcomes.

The evaluation design adopts a multi-methodological approach combining qualitative and quantitative aspects through interviews, questionnaires, observation etc.., in order to examine ‘success’ and ‘failure’ factors and impact on individuals, organisations and communities. Our analysis is grounded in three key factors:

  •  
    • innovation - examining how far innovative learning approaches and pedagogies are facilitated and supported by particular Learning 2.0 initiatives;
    • key learning competences and social inclusion skills acquired - exploring whether and in what ways Learning 2.0 initiatives and innovations foster new kinds of e-skills beyond the level of basis computing skills; whether and in what ways such initiatives support soft’ skills;
    • institutional change associated with the intervention - assessing and reflecting on how far the institutional framework of teaching and learning affects and is affected by Learning 2.0 and Web 2.0, particularly changes in the educational enterprise.

The following table shows the adaptation of the general research questions to the analysis of the pilot cases and the evaluation tools currently in use.

Table 1: Pilot case research questions and evaluation tools

Pilot research questions

Sub-questions

Evaluation tools

Does Web 2.0 facilitate the social appropriation of technology and digital inclusion?

How and to what extent users have participated to the implementation of the experiment?

How participant have used the web 2.0 tools?

Attendance register and/or Log files


Observation


Content analysis

What factors explain the different reactions/behaviours among participants? (eg. age, gender, cultural background, socioeconomic status, digital skills etc.)

Self-administered Questionnaire correlated with Observation


Are there differences between the way in which the use and objectives of the web 2.0 was originally designed and the way in which it was actually appropriated and used by the participants?

Observation

Self-administered Questionnaire

Content analysis

What are the outcomes and impacts associated with the use of Web 2.0 for inclusive learning?

What have been the benefits for them, in terms of supporting inclusion; developing ICT skills; developing other skills; supporting learning and labour market participation?

Key informant Interview guide

Self-administered Questionnaire

Focus group

Observation

On-line data collection guideline

Do the experiment and the outcomes produce an impact in terms of institutional and organisational change? How the decision makers have reacted to this new situation?

Key informant Interview guide

Have the innovations introduced by the experiment amplified and/or specified the potential effects in terms of social inclusion if compared with the previous situation/previous approach?

Key informant Interview guide

On-line data collection guideline

Content analysis

What can be learned from the use of Web 2.0 to support inclusive learning?

What problems have been encountered and how have they been addressed?


Key informant Interview guide

Self-administered Questionnaire

Observation

What success factors can be identified in relation to outcomes and impacts?

Key informant Interview guide

Self-administered Questionnaire

On-line data collection guideline

Observation

Which are the main indications to support future policy and initiatives in this field?

Key informant Interview guide


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Information about Links-up in Dutch, German and Italian is available at the e-Library of the project.

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