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e-Help Seminars - Isabelle Voegeli
e-help Seminar 5
The use of the European Navigator in the classroom: a case study
Toulouse 17-19 February 2005

The European NAvigator knowledge base, or ENA, is primarily aimed at use in secondary and higher education. ENA provides pupils, students and teachers with thousands of documents on the history of Europe from 1945 to the present day.

From the outset, ENA has been developed together with teachers. In particular, they have been involved in content development, in interface and feature evaluation and, more recently, in assessing the various methods of using ENA. In this presentation, I would like to focus on this last point. I shall also be sharing with you the experience that we have aquired as a producer of multimedia content.
In the late 1990s, a first version of ENA, which was at the time still ‘off-line’, was installed at several pilot sites, including the University of Luxembourg, the University of Cergy-Pontoise and the European University Institute in Florence. Tutors at these establishments intended to integrate ENA into their lectures in various ways. Accordingly, at the University of Luxembourg, ENA was the primary teaching aid used during a lecture course, whilst the University of Cergy-Pontoise and the European University Institute opted for the more selective use of ENA for practical work.

Since 2003, ENA has been freely accessible on the Internet at www.ena.lu. Since this point in time, we have conducted a systematic information campaign to promote the use of ENA in secondary schools in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This campaign, backed by the Luxembourg Ministry of National Education, has also been an opportunity to make teachers aware of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the classroom in general and in particular for the teaching of history and civics.

Key issues and problems

Over the past two years, we have held meetings with a large number of history and civics teachers in Luxembourg. These points of contact have enabled us to give presentations of ENA in schools or as part of in-service teacher-training programmes.

The initial reaction is generally very enthusiastic. The very idea of having so many documents, film recordings, maps, cartoons, etc. freely accessible on the Internet is seen as a valuable addition to the use of conventional textbooks. However, once the presentation is over, most teachers continue to use ENA on a personal basis, but very few actually bring ENA into the classroom. Why is this so?

Firstly, it is a question of IT equipment. Several teachers blame the lack of suitable IT equipment in their schools. It is certainly true that disparities in the provision of IT equipment between schools are wide, but, as we will see, this is often a pretext for another underlying problem.

IT skills. Among the teachers that I have met, most had no trouble using a mouse and keyboard. They are used to using word processing for preparing texts and the Internet for finding information. Only a small minority of teachers still seem to take refuge behind pen and paper.

The teaching environment. Until now, the textbook has always been the most widely used teaching aid in schools. Teachers’ experience of multimedia is often still limited to the occasional showing of video films in order to illustrate a given topic. Very few teachers have tried using CD-ROMs; nor do they appear particularly keen to introduce the Internet into the classroom. Apart from the reasons given earlier, some teachers seem to feel uneasy about the different methods of using ICTs in the classroom.

Unlike teaching from a book, generally done using a linear approach, when using information and communication technologies, the teacher must adopt a modular and thematic approach. It is no longer possible to define learning in terms of the number of pages to be learned and understood, but rather in terms of subjects to be studied. The ENA knowledge base gives less emphasis to the chronological and narrative character of the history of Europe in order to present it using a more cross-curricular and comparative approach.

In order to help teachers adopt these new teaching methods, we felt that teaching assistance needed to be introduced. These training personnel could only be provided in cooperation with other institutions specialised in teacher training.

Training the trainers

In order to encourage teachers to take up the challenge posed by the use of ICTs — and in particular ENA — in the classroom, we have developed close cooperation with the University of Luxembourg and the Ministry of National Education.

The ‘Teacher-Training’ Department at the University of Luxembourg, which is responsible for initial teacher training, is currently developing a new module on methods of using ICTs in secondary education. In Luxembourg, in-service teacher training is managed by the Service for the Coordination of Pedagogical and Technological Innovation and Research (SCRIPT). Cooperation with this Service of the Ministry of National Education has made it possible to organise several lectures aimed at assisting teachers with the use of ICTs in the classroom. During training, teachers are provided with a presentation of the ENA knowledge base, an introduction to features available on the site and a talk on methodological ICT guidelines given by a teacher trainer. Finally, participants were required to take on the role of pupil and complete the various tasks set by their ‘teacher’ and then comment on the experience as a ‘pupil’, in particular concerning the contribution of ICTs to conventional teaching tools.

Through the strengthening of links with the national education portal, mySchool, it has been possible to establish an ENA community. On www.myschool.lu, pupils and teacher are kept regularly informed about new material introduced in ENA. They may also consult various documents and may exchange their experiences in an area of the site reserved specifically for this purpose.

Close cooperation with the National Committee for Civics Programmes has led to the introduction of ENA in civics lessons alongside the textbook published by the Ministry of National Education. In order to assist civics teachers in finding material of particular interest to the national curriculum, we have put together a selection of approximately 200 document references. This list has been distributed in a paper version to all civics teachers and is accessible on the national education portal www.myschool.lu and on the site of the CVCE.

Developing interdisciplinary cooperation and teamwork

Most pupils are accustomed to using computers for personal use. We therefore decided that it would be interesting to encourage cooperation and foster team spirit between teacher and pupils in order to encourage the use of ICTs in the classroom. From this came the idea of a competition on Europe.

This competition, called EuropaR@ce, which is currently in progress, has been organised jointly with the national education portal, mySchool, and the European Commission Representation in Luxembourg. Until April, several questionnaires on the history of, and recent developments in, Europe are in turn being made available online on the portal. Classes are required to reply collectively to the questions on the site with the help of their teacher. On 9 May, the winning classes will be awarded a prize.

Details of the competition. This competition was not publicised by sending official circulars to schools but instead by designing posters and postcards aimed at capturing the pupils’ attention. This promotional material was distributed both in secondary schools and in trendy cafés, cinemas and discotheques. The aim was to ensure that participation was not based on the teacher’s initiative, but rather to encourage pupils to approach their teacher and ask if they might take part in the competition. In this way, the teacher cannot refrain from participating, even if the competition is based entirely on ICTs in so far as the questionnaire is to be found on the mySchool portal and the replies need to be researched on the Internet, particularly on the ENA and Europa sites. We were hoping that at least 20 or so classes would take part. In the end, more than 80 classes signed up. And what is even more surprising: not just history or civics classes have subscribed, but also other classes such as languages or science. This recreational approach that relies on a sense of class spirit is therefore an indirect way of inciting teachers to use ICTs.

The balance between traditional training and ICT training

Many of the teachers we have met are accustomed to conventional teaching and are reluctant to review their methods. They appear to believe that the introduction of ICTs in the classroom includes a recreational dimension that would be detrimental to real learning. Surprisingly enough, some pupils seem to be of the same opinion. Following a lesson conducted using ENA, we arranged for a debate to take place among pupils and their teacher on the integration of ICTs in the classroom. Several pupils confirmed that the lesson was entertaining and interesting, but failed to deliver in terms of what had been learned. In the space of two hours, the breadth of the subject studied did not correspond to that which could have been covered during a lecture of the same length using conventional teaching tools. The issue therefore arises of competitiveness between the two approaches. Personally, I believe that, far from being in competition, these two approaches can quite easily be complementary, provided a suitable methodology is developed.


The integration of ICTs in the classroom may take place in several stages. However, in order to do this, we need to convince teachers that ICTs really can provide scope for a wide range of versatile teaching activities. We therefore intend to develop the integration into ENA of new features and new means of accessing content. We will also be making activities prepared by teachers available online and we are keen to take part in other projects along the same lines.

Isabelle Voegeli
Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe

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