e-help Seminar 5 The use of the European
Navigator in the classroom: a
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
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
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
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
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
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.