Learning on the Road

A Ubiquitous Learning Environment

Some 12,000 children and juveniles in Germany change school every week because their parents are occupational travellers. In cooperation with the district government in Detmold, we have developed an innovative platform to provide a ubiquitous learning environment that is universally accessible to these pupils.

During the travelling season, the children of people working on fairgrounds, of travelling craftsmen, inland sailors, and circus artists are taught in base schools. It is not uncommon for a pupil to visit more than 40 different schools in different federal states of Germany as well as neighbouring countries during this time of the year. The teaching time effectively available is often reduced to less than half of the teaching time that pupils get in ordinary schools.

In the Detmold district, these mobile pupils are catered for in the traveller's school "Learning on the Road". This is an educational opportunity that offers complementary as well as additional learning content and improves the opportunity for structured learning. Based on the open-sTeam platform, a new web application was designed and realized which is tailored to the needs of teachers and pupils in the traveller's school and the specific mentoring situation within that school. Using newest web technologies like AJAX, we designed a user interface that in its look and feel resembles a desktop application rather than a conventional web application.

The core of the application is a personal virtual desktop that includes areas for the respective school subjects. There, teachers can prepare task packages into which resources from the bid-owl platform, a regional forum for education, as well as any other internet resources may be integrated. These task packages can then - adapted to the individual skill level if required - be assigned to single pupils as well as groups of learners. The pupils then work at their personal desktops with the documents and tasks assigned to them. All their work is automatically filed and archived in a well-structured way to support long-term learning processes over the course of a complete year in school.

For the traveller's school, coordination and communication between teachers and learners are of particular importance. For that purpose, all participants are being informed whenever changes relevant to them have occurred at documents. Pupils may attribute a status to every task assigned to them in order to keep track of the tasks at hand and to inform their teacher which tasks they currently work on or have already been completed.

An integrated communication module allows learners and teachers to exchange messages so that pupils can ask questions and teachers may provide additional information within the platform. An awareness module allows users to signal when they are available for communication. Further communication modules, such as a - volatile - chat and a video chat are currently being tested.

In addition to the platform being used in the traveller's school, we are also exploring which potential lies in a use in conventional schools. There, all pupils in the same form use a shared desktop which provides the same functionality as the personal desktops of the learners in the traveller's school. It is also currently explored how the virtual desktops may be used in other scenarios of knowledge work.

Project Partners:

  • Bezirksregierung Detmold