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Cultural Unification through Learning and Technology

Final Report Summary - CULT (Cultural Unification through Learning and Technology)

http://cult. di. ionio. gr/

Project CULT provides a cooperation platform (hardware/software/practices) for the benefit of schools that reside in remote (rural, islands) areas. For this purpose, we are employing both established and novel interaction and communication technologies. Moreover, we are working closely with schools and teachers, in order to leverage their ability to adopt and adapt technologies in ways that are suitable for their skills and needs.

In rural communities, schools are usually sparsely populated, there are only few educators (who might not stay there for more than a couple of years), and students might be disadvantaged in terms of communication and cultural exchange opportunities. Despite the constant shift of population toward urban areas, all over the world, there is still a significant number of rural school establishments that are very remote, especially in the case of primary and secondary education. Rural schools are distributed in several villages that are at a significant distance from a city, and sometimes very difficult to access on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, students'social skills lack encouragement, and their learning abilities are not challenged, due to the limited cultural diversity and sociability of their geographical setting. Several research programs have focused on cultural exchange actions within educational settings (e. g.comenius eTwinning) and have offered the respective web-based ICT tools. Nevertheless, previous research has focused mostly on technology without much regard to the practices of students and teachers and most notably has assumed that learning, communication, and collaboration takes place in a lab with desktop computers.

Project CULT has emphasized the particular needs and everyday practices of remote learning communities, and it has considered human-computer interactions beyond the desktop computer. In particular, we have shaped our understanding about remote schools by means of an extended cultural probes study, which was administered during the first part of the research. Then, we have established a series of local workshops that involved teachers in the adoption and adaptation of novel technologies in ways that are suitable for them. Moreover, we have developed and evaluated novel user interfaces for interactive whiteboards that facilitate collaborative learning, as well as a video assisted distance learning system. Most notably, we collaborated with Microsoft Research on the evaluation of the VideoPal tool, which connects distant students with asynchronous video messages. The research results have been widely published in international venues (workshops, conferences, journals) and they are also immediately available at the project's web site. Finally, project CULT has motivated several post-graduate students to actively participate in the research activities and it has also motivated the introduction of two new courses (Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Ubiquitous Computing) in the host institute, thus facilitating the integration of the Marie Curie fellow.

CULT (MC-ERG-2008-230894) is a Marie Curie European Reintegration Grants (ERG) project funded by the European Commission (EC) under the Framework Program (FP7). The project is hosted by the Department of Informatics, Ionian University (Corfu, Greece). The project start date is 1st January 2009 and the final date is 31st December 2011.
http://cult. di. ionio. gr/