ERCIM News No.33 - April 1998

TeachWEB - Novel Learning Approaches using the World-Wide Web

by Evangelos Markatos

Advancements in medicine have increased the average life expectancy, which implies that people live and work longer. At the same time, technological developments occur at an ever-increasing rate. In effect, people live and work longer in a world that changes more rapidly than ever before. Therefore, people need continual training in technological advancements, challenging our traditional education system, which has focused on training young people attending full-time a rigid curriculum.

The challenges that must be met include:

We believe that the answer to the above challenges should be provided only by high technology, through novel learning methods like distance learning, collaborative learning, and discovery learning. The educational system should train students differently than it does today. Instead of teaching students what they must know, we should teach them how to find what they should know. Thus, more than ever before we need not to instruct passive learners, but to educate active researchers of knowledge. Among the new skills that have to be acquired by our new student generation are: information filtering, resource finding, discovery learning, collaborative learning, and in general students should learn to learn in a world constantly polluted by data.

Just like the industrial revolution resulted in significant levels of air, water and land pollution, the information revolution creates a new form of pollution, the information pollution. The traditional means of publication by being cumbersome, expensive, and time-consuming kept the amount of accessible information to a manageable level. Publishing and disseminating infor-mation on the World-Wide Web (Web) is so easy, that the number of information sources and the volume of information is increasing rapidly. Filtering useful information is an essential skill that can be developed through training.

Students should learn to react to information following the "digging-for-gold" approach to critical thinking. Instead of absorbing information like a sponge, they should ask the right questions at the right time. Finding the right resources efficiently is another essential skill in an online world. With the advent of the Web anyone can publish information, by just putting a piece of work on-line. Maintaining the right links is hard for people who get easily tangled in a web of information sources that promise you anything you might need. The skill necessary for survival in the online world can be developed through appropriate training.

The tools of information technology can prepare citizens to face the information revolution only if citizens are trained to keep the right attitude towards information. Education has to face this challenge by using high technology methods to create informed professionals with the ability to concentrate on useful knowledge and avoid the creation of information pollution. The Institute of Computer Science, FORTH, in co-operation with the University of Crete and other European Institutes and Universities will deal with these challenges in the TeachWEB activity. TeachWEB focuses on the exploitation of the Web by training students through novel educational methods such as discovery learning, collaborative learning, and lifelong learning.

Please contact:

Evangelos Markatos - FORTH
Tel: +30 81 391655

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