Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP6

LEAD — Result In Brief

Project ID: 028027
Funded under: FP6-IST
Country: Netherlands

Talking over the computer

As many teachers will tell you, it is not always easy to support, guide and record a constructive dialogue with students in the classroom. However, help is at hand - technology-enhanced learning has plenty to say for itself.
Talking over the computer
European researchers with the Lead (′Technology-enhanced learning and problem-solving discussions: Networked learning environments in the classroom′) project have shown that you can direct students towards more effective discussions by introducing the right educational technology. Specifically, computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) offers occasions and stimuli for in-depth reasoning right there in the classroom.

But collaborative learning is not merely a fancy way of describing computer-mediated communication. Rather, it requires students to work together in small groups towards a common goal. They are responsible for one another's learning as well as their own. Thus, the success of one student helps others to be successful.

And CoFFEE (Cooperative face-to-face educational environment), the brainchild of the Lead researchers, offers customisable tools for group collaboration, knowledge sharing, dynamic voting and much more. It is a suite of several components which make it possible to plan and support face-to-face collaboration.

For example, the CoFFEE Lesson Planner enables the teacher to plan classroom activities, starting from editing a pre-configured template or creating everything from scratch, to specifying the list of learners, their names and passwords.

The teacher using the CoFFEE Controller can load a lesson plan, run it step by step, manage groups, and block and unblock learners to monitor, facilitate or even participate in the activities. On the other hand, CoFFEE Discusser is the students' interface to access the various learning tools.

It is important to note that, unlike most CSCL environments, CoFFEE is not designed for and indeed does not currently support distance learning. The remote systems necessitate a lot of effort, resources, and design issues to fill the distance between the users, a problem which does not exist in face-to-face discussions.

However the benefits cannot be overstated because individual learning cannot prepare students adequately for the work settings they will encounter later in life. So far, the tool has been translated into three languages - French, Italian and Dutch - and used in schools, colleges and universities in France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

CoFFEE is open source and free software released under the Eclipse Public License (EPL).

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