DER in Portugal: State-of-the-art of the Two Major Repositories in Elementary and Secondary Education


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Education, Vol. 2, N.º 4, pp 84-95, July 2012.

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DER in Portugal: State-of-the-art of the Two Major Repositories in Elementary and Secondary Education

  1. 1. Education 2012, 2(4):84-95DOI: 10.5923/ DER in Portugal: State-of-the-art of the Two Major Repositories in Elementary and Secondary Education Cornélia Castro1 , Sérgio André Ferreira1 , António Andrade 2,* 1 School of Education and Psychology, Portuguese Catholic University, Porto, 4169-005 Portugal 2 School of Economics and M anagement, Portuguese Catholic University, Porto, 4169-005 PortugalAbstract In the last decade, there has been an expansion of Repositories of Dig ital Educational Resources (DER),funded and stimulated by government authorit ies and non-profit institutions, in order to publish, collect, d istribute and pre-serve DER. In this environment, inspired by the Open Content Movement, it is recognized the importance of the vast heri-tage of DER, produced by the collective intelligence, fo r pedagogical innovation. Following this trend, in Portugal, aboutthree years ago, two repositories were created at the elementary and secondary education levels: Schools Portal, of Gov-ernment responsibility with a generalist vocation, covering the entire spectrum of the curriculu m and the House of Sciences,headed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which is a private institution of public utility, and dedicated to the areas ofnatural and exact sciences. In this study the state of the art o f these two repositories is presented once they are the onesmost visible in Portugal in what concerns the main d imensions that interfere on their quality. The methodology of data col-lection was based on the analysis of the portals fro m the point of v iew of the producers and users of the DER of the reposi-tories. The main results and conclusions are presented and considerations about the factors that in the future may contributeto the sustainable improvement of some of the characteristics of the repositories covered in this study are stated.Keywords Digital Educational Resources, Evaluation, Quality, Repositories witnessed a rush to create digital content in the1. Introduction not-for-profit sector, as organizat ions fro m a wide range of communit ies – from cultural heritage, to health care, to During the 1990s, the funding for information technology education and scholarship – have come to embrace thein education primarily emphasized access to computers and internet as a means to publish, collect, distribute and pre-the basic literacy for their use[1]. Since then, the social, serve the fruits of their wo rk”[2, p.10].cultural, economic and technological transformation, in this The term Open Educational Resources refers to educa-era of globalization, has not ruled out Education or educa- tional resources (lesson plans, quizzes, syllabi, simulat ions,tional systems. The technologies require us therefore to etc.) that are available for free to use, reuse, adaptation, andthink that we need a new pedagogy based on interactivity sharing. That designation was first used in July 2002 duringand the development of autonomous capacity to learn. a UNESCO workshop on open courseware in developed In 1992, when the World Wide Web was launched, open countries. Many of its definitions include content, softwareinformat ion resources rapidly became freely availab le, al- tools, licenses and best practices. Two major inspiring pro-though they were of widely varying quality. With rare ex- jects, that deserved much attention, were Wikipedia (inception, the available materials neither pro moted enhanced 2001) due to its rapid development and the pioneering pro-learning nor incorporated the latest technological and ject MIT OpenCourse Ware (in 2002)[3] wh ich had apedagogical advances. Educational institutions and publish- growth that was not expected when the idea was pro-ers, lack of quality assurance for the content, and informa- posed[4].tion overload also impeded the educational impact. Thus, the use of the web as an educational tool provided Later, in 2002 the Educational Program of the Hewlett teachers with a wide range of new and exciting experiencesFoundation introduced a major co mponent into its strategic in the teaching and learning process which are not possibleplan Using Informat ion Technology to Increase Access to in a traditional classroom[5] such as access to informationHigh Quality Educational Content[1]. anywhere and at anytime, online presentations, activities According to Maron et al.[2], “The past decade has based on interactive tasks and an effective propagation of informat ion.* Corresponding (António Andrade) The publication of online content has grown so much thatPublished online at the 2010 edition of the Horizon Report[6] refers to the OpenCopyright © 2012 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved Content as an emerg ing trend. In fact, we are witnessing a
  2. 2. Education 2012, 2(4): 84-95 85growing volu me of digital content fro m various sources[7] initiators of the Open Content movement. Even then itin the Educational sector. seemed obvious that as soon as teachers could search the The repositories are online systems intended to archive, web fo r resources to teach, the culture of publishing andpreserve, make availab le and disseminate the intellectual reuse of these materials would be developed[12].output of a community, available in a dig ital space where If this movement exists, if there is even a governmentaldata and information are stored and updated[8, 9] or “d igital and an institutional commit ment it is because of the result-store boxes that host collections of digital resources in a ing added value. Dyer and Nobeoka indicated that knowl-learning object fo rmat: i. e. resources that are designed to be edge sharing can be defined as the set of activ ities that al-integrated, aggregated and sequential in an efficient way to low co mmun ities of people to work together, to improve theproduce “units of learning” that are meaningful to learn- capacity of organizational learn ing and to increase the abil-ers”[10, p. 3]. ity to achieve individual and organizational goals[16]. Sharing of Digital Educational Resources (DER) in the Many other researchers have reinforced the idea that thecloud (“The cloud is a term used to describe the vast collec- organizacional value of employees’ knowledge increasestions of networked computers, typically housed in region- when this knowledge is shared[17]. On the other hand, theally d istributed and redundant data centres that comprise the DER also allo w wider access to learning for all, but espe-totality of the Internet”[11, p. 10]) is performed in two ways: cially fo r non-traditional g roups of students, enabling in ani) informally, resulting fro m personal init iative, in which the efficient way, the pro motion of lifelong learn ing and build-author simply makes his resource available on the web, ing bridges between non-formal, informal and formal edu-through social networks, b log or personal site and ii) v ia the cation[7,12].government or an institution, in which central or reg ional Aspects such as: the visibility; acceptance of policies foreducational services, foundations, libraries, among others, the publication of the resource; scientific rigor; legal aspects;publish the DER through the respective electronic reposito- safety rules; authenticity and integrity of data can contributeries. to a greater diffusion of the DER, with quality assurance in This environment of sharing facilitates access to a wide what concerns the DER present in repositories of govern-range of resources by teachers, maximizing the exp loration mental or institutional origin. These aspects are not attrib-of a mo re diverse content, which leads to an imp roved qual- utes of the DER published in the non-formal way.ity of education. Thus the Open Content movement has However, quality does not depend only on the propertiesnumerous and potential imp lications for education, since it of the educational resource. It is also closely related to howreveals itself as an educational tool with transforming the resource is used and also to the specification of a nu m-power: it accelerates the decentralizing of formal education ber of requirements such as the interface between the userand it provides educational activities and even cultural ac- and the resource, the possibilit ies and limitations of the re-tivities more b roadly[7, 12]. source or its potential for the learning process[18]. The DER in addition to their instructional value are pow- In fact, the availability of DER in a repository with moreerful tools, not only to imp rove the learning experiences but controlled quality and intended for target audiences are twoalso to improve educational results. Their applicat ion in the strong increases in the value of the environment is, according to literature, relat ively In this study, we propose to make an assessment of tworecent[13], which can be explained by the fact that their repositories of DER, a governmental one and an institu-creation was more in the hands of technical experts than in tional one, both created in 2009 in Po rtugal: one by thethe hands of teachers (and/or students). Thus, the perception Ministry of Education (Schools Portal – Portal das Escolas)of the added value that the use of DER brings to education and the second one created by a private institution (Calousterequires the understanding of the pedagogical issues associ- Gu lbenkian Foundation) of public utility (House of Sci-ated with them and not better or improved technology[14]. ences – Casa das Ciências). We considered these as theIn fact, the DER are well structured materials, which are main repositories due to: the diversity of the types of re-easily upgradeable and their pedagogical value is that they sources, the curricu lar areas covered, the nu mber of publi-allo w the discovery and exploration of issues through inter- cations, the number of downloads made and the number ofactive, flexible, differentiated and motivating activit ies[15]. visits. Considering the context as the set of relat ions between We established as the research question “What is thethe pupils and the surrounding elements in a position of state-of-the-art of the two Portuguese DER repositories ofteaching and learning, then the DER can be considered as greater visibility in elementary and secondary education?”,an element in the context, and as such it becomes a source aiming to make a co mparat ive analysis of repositories as farof learn ing, via the interaction between students[15]. as collaboration of authors and access for users are con- Although the theme of the DER and repositories is cerned.among the educational issues currently under debate, theidea of creating d igital learning resources for the purpose ofreuse has been on the agenda of Education since the 90s ofthe XX century. In itiatives such as the so called OpenCon- 2. Strengths and Limitations oftent held in 1998 at Utah State University, USA, were the Repositories
  3. 3. 86 Cornélia Castro et al.: DER in Portugal: State-of-the-art of the Two M ajor Repositories in Elementary and Secondary Education The existence of a vast universe of resources found on low potential of some search engines (wh ich is often miti-the web is an invaluable asset, since it constitutes the basis gated by word of mouth from teachers of the same commu-for the emergence of a “collective intelligence”. However, nity);this informat ion density also poses difficulties in navigation ·Econo mic: lack of resources to invest in hardware andin the cloud, namely : i) in the search, selection and assess- software required to develop and to share DER; difficultiesment and ii) in the control of p roperty rights, privacy, ethics to cover the costs of developing educational resources andand values. sustain an Open Content project in the long term; The conception and development of a repository of DER ·Social: lack of skills to use technical inventions; toler-must therefore be anchored in a concept that allows the un- ance to the use of technology;derstanding and the communication of the repository’s cen- ·Cu ltural: resistance in the sharing or use of resourcestral object: the DER[8]. In fact, the repositories resulted produced by other teachers or organizations;fro m the need to systematize the proliferation of d igital re- ·Political;sources from all regions of the globe and from many dif- ·Legal.ferent communit ies and cultures. They represent online Given the strengths and limitat ions listed, it is importantsystems designed to archive, make available and spread the that those who are responsible for the repositories createintellectual output of a community, available in dig ital for- conditions that foster their added-value, min imize some ofmat[8], a dig ital space where data and info rmation are the obstacles, be able to properly organize hundreds orstored and updated[19]. thousands of content, and to encourage their gathering, to allo w fo r greater and effective research.2.1. Strengths The strengths of a repository are several, but we stresssome of the established by the Organization for Economic 3. RED In Portugal: Major RepositoriesCo-Operation and Development (OECD) as well as the In Elementary And Secondaryones mentioned in a recent report by the JISC[20]: ·To facilitate change in teaching practices; Education ·Bench marking teachers’ practices in terms of content, As already mentioned, the object of this study are the twoapproach and general quality; main repositories DER of greater visib ility in Portugal, in ·To encourage more interactive and constructivist terms of elementary and secondary education: “Portal dasteaching practices; Escolas”, governmental and “Casa das Ciências”, institu- ·To induce and streamline the production and use of tional fo r the universe of 179 956 teachers of public andtools, content, resources and informat ion in digital/electronic private schools in mainland Portugal, Madeira and thesupport; Azores[24]. ·To save time and effort in provid ing good DER inteaching activity; 3.1. Schools Portal (Portal das Escol as) • To enable the reuse of resources with quality and di-versified which, in many cases, it would be impossible to Following the international trend of development andcreate by the teacher-user due to lack of skill; promotion of v irtual platforms of knowledge, the Portu- ·To pro mote the use of DER as a co mplement or sub- guese Government considered that the creation of a virtualstitute of teaching in the classroom; platform of knowledge would play a critical ro le in the ·To facilitate collaborat ive approaches in teaching [21]; process of technological modern ization of education. This ·To encourage networking and collaboration between decision also took into account the low utilization rate ofteachers; DER in Po rtugal, diagnosed in a study conducted under the ·To min imize the info exclusion, allo wing remote and Technological Plan for Education[8].low cost access to content, modules and courses; In fact, we are witnessing the first steps in Portugal in the ·To foster the inclusion of people with special needs in disclosure and use of e-learning platfo rms, implemented inteaching and learning; more than 50 % of elementary and secondary schools. The ·To develop and strengthen a culture of lifelong learn- open source platform Moodle LMS has been the mosting. widely used[7, 21]. The Schools Portal aims to establish itself as the refer-2.2. Li mitati ons ence site for schools and as the largest online collaborative Previous studies have identified several barriers that limit network for Education in Portugal[25]. Through this portal,access and use of repositories (e.g.:[7, 12, 20, 22, 23]), in teachers in Portuguese public schools can access, produceparticular o f the following nature: and publish DER (text, images, videos or music) and bene- ·Pedagogical: tiny amount of resources in some subjects fit fro m a wide range of online services, adding value to theand problematic interdiscip linary research; process of teaching and learning[25]. ·Technical: unavailab ility of broadband, poor indexing; This repository provides reliable and useful material and ·Discoverability resulting fro m poor indexing and fro m informat ion for school, academic and professional life, with
  4. 4. Education 2012, 2(4): 84-95 87the Ministry of Education and Science adopting mecha- text, tags, the respective url and the name of the teachernisms for validation of the available educational re- responsible for the publication, the educational establish-sources[25]. It allows access to thousands of quality digital ment to wh ich he/she belongs and the date of publication ofeducational resources in all curricular areas, adapted for use the blog are also the classroom in Portugal[25], also by binding to the In- Table 1 p resents some demographic data concerningternational DataBase of Educational Objects. Schools Portal. Everyone can have access to the resources available on Table 1. Demographic data concerning “Portal das Escolas”the Schools Portal, since navigation is not subject to regis-tration. Reg istration is only reserved for teachers who wish Teachers in Portugal (Continent, Azores and Madeira) 156 528* Number of users 83 000 +to upload a resource or to apply for certification of ICT Number of published DER 1 411*skills – level 1. Th is certification is a program created with Number of published blogs 248*two objectives: i) to generalize training and certificat ion of Facebook fan page Not applicableICT skills in the educational community and ii) to pro mote * Portal das Escolas, 22 nd March 2012; + GEP E, 29 th May 2011the use of ICT in the teaching and learn ing process and in Figure 1 presents the organizational structure of theschool management[26]. Schools Portal website, which aims to allow the registration In 2011, the Portal started offering the service of elec- of teachers of private schools and the teachers of Portu-tronic enrolment in pre-school and in the 1st year of ele- guese abroad, and to provide a web hosting to all schools, inmentary school. the near future. 3.2. House of Sciences (Casa da Ciências) The “Casa das Ciências” is a project of the initiative of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (a Portuguese private organization with public utility whose statutory aims are Art, Charity, Science and Education). As a result of the support this institution has been providing to the quality of Educa- tion in Portugal, the pro ject “Casa das Ciências” has emerged. This project defines itself as an integrating and amplify- ing vehicle of the current efforts in the use of Information Technology in the teaching and learning process made by a number of different agents and which results are scattered. This repository is designed to give visibility and usefulness to the efforts of many teachers, recognizing their well de- served merit and becoming a reference website for all sci- ence teachers in Portugal. As a portal of teachers for teach- ers[27], it also provides materials that teachers themselves find useful and effect ive for their professional activ ity, where they can share ideas and experiences on those mate- rials and how to use them. In the repository, all the resources submitted are evalu- Figure 1. Information on the webpage of the Schools Portal ated by referees (125 act ives) fro m a scientific and educa- Taking as a basis that the educational blog has been as- tional point of view, in logic of peer-review, in analogyserting itself in the Portuguese educational context as a pos- with the usual scientific publications[27]. This quality con-sible tool to integrating ICT, even in 2011, mo re precisely trol of the objects submitted conforms to a set of rules es-in March, the catalogue of Educational Blogs was launched. tablished in a regulation.This catalogue is included in the area of “Resources” of the All teachers that, each year, submit resources to the re-Schools Portal. For a b log to be published it must meet cer- pository are candidates for annual awards set up by FCG:tain criteria wh ich are presented in a video in the Support Excellence, Distinction, Merit and honours. The nomineesArea (Apoio). Also in this area, tutorials on how to build a are chosen by a jury, whose constitution is established in ablog in an educational context and on how to register it in regulation. Fo llo wing this logic, it is stated on the “Who arethe Schools Portal are presented, in pdf format and video. we” tab (Quem somos) that these mechanisms naturallyFor the registered blogs the label “BlogsEDU” is assigned have an expected impact on the curriculu m of the authors,as well as an identifying number. The author of the blog at therefore giving value to the work of the creators of DER inthe time of submission should also indicate the curriculu m face of the repository users.area(s) for wh ich it is intended, the target audience, its age In this repository, in addition to the DER authored byand educational level. Being published, the language, con- Portuguese teachers, materials created by foreign authors
  5. 5. 88 Cornélia Castro et al.: DER in Portugal: State-of-the-art of the Two M ajor Repositories in Elementary and Secondary Educationare provided. These resources are translated and they are launched (illustrations, diagrams and photographs) that canavailable in the repository because the coordinator office be used, in some way, in teaching, and wh ich submissionand technical committees recognize their relevance. The process is similar to that established for the DER (currentlyteachers who are authors of DER and are appointed for the they are about 530, in areas such as chemistry, biology andannual award of the House of Sciences, are invited by the geology).coordinator office to be part of the body called “Represen- Table 2 shows the demographic data relating to users oftantes da Casa das Ciências” (Representatives of the House the House of Sciences, which has also been in social med iaof Sciences) who have as their mission to promote and fos- Facebook since 2012.ter the use of the House of Sciences both as a user and a Table 2. Demographic data of “ Casa das Ciências”creator of DER, helping to give visibility to the repository.It is also the House of Sciences’ strategy to have regular Total users 9 596meet ings within the WikiSciences, bank of images and the Male 30 % Gender Female 70 %technical co mmittees and an annual meeting with its col- Bachelor 3%laborators, including their representatives. These meetings, Graduation 75 %which are an innovative and fruitful strategy, are intended Qualifications Mst 17 %to allow the exchanging and discussing of ideas on how to PhD 4%improve the impact and visibility of the repository in the Elementary 3-5 1%Portuguese community of teachers. For examp le, we can Elementary 6-10 6%refer that it was this logic of sharing that led to the creation Elementary 11-12 12 % Level taught Elementary 13-15 27 %of a foru m of two kinds: one general and another only for Secondary 54 %the interaction between representatives of the House of Higher Education 1%Sciences, in order to discuss more often all issues that may Elementary 11-12 6%contribute to the improvement of the repository. Math and Nature Sciences 11 % Figure 2 shows the organizational structure of the House Physics and Chemistry 30 %Sciences’ site: Subject Biology and Geology 22 % Maths 19 % Computing 2% Others 10 % Portugal 667 Brazil 22 Angola 1 Facebook fans Canada 2 Argentina 1 Sweden 1 Total 694 4. Methodology This study was aimed to characterize the two major re- positories of DER of the elementary and secondary schools in Portugal, assessing the key dimensions that affect their quality. For th is purpose we chose a descriptive study that allo wed us to obtain a broad view o f the problem. For the investigation to take place it was necessary a prior identifi- cation of the dimensions that were going to be evalu- ated[28]. In this sense, the “Guía para la Evaluación de Reposito- rios Institucionales de Investigación” (GERII), was adapted. This guide was jointly published by the Ministry of Science and Innovation of Spain and other relevant organizations in Figure 2. Information on the House of Sciences’ website the field o f Education, Sciences and Technology[29]. The GERII includes several guidelines for the creation and On May 30th 2011, WikiSciences, an online encyclopae- evaluation of a repository. It brings together a set of 31dia, was launched, which currently has 558 pages and in evaluation criteria, spread over seven dimensions that anywhich all items are also evaluated by peers. Being a wiki, good repository must meet and it was therefore consideredall items are open to criticis m and improvement, in a col- an excellent base document for the analysis intended.laborative perspective. In 2012, a database of images was In this study, we decided to make some adjustments to
  6. 6. Education 2012, 2(4): 84-95 89the evaluation model fo llo wed by GERII. Thus, only five of sive assessment of the quality of the two Portuguese DERthe dimensions present in GERII were considered, leaving repositories for teaching at elementary and secondaryout the dimensions “Interoperability” and “Security, au- schools, fro m the perspective of the authors and the users.thentication and data integrity” because: i) as they are es- In the evaluation process, the five dimensions considered,sentially technical dimensions, they did not fit in the set allo wed an approach to key issues related to user access andmethodology for collecting data and ii) the evaluation of the collaboration between the authors/producers of DER.repositories was only intended to be done fro m the perspec- Table 4 su mmarizes the results of the dimension “Visi-tive of either the producer and the user. bility”. Figure 3 summarizes the dimensions considered. Table 4. Dimension: Visibility Advantages Limitations Excellent visibility in the search engines. Normalized name of “Portal das Escolas” and “ Casa das Ciências”, facilitating identification; No reference is adequated url. made to the Incentives for participation in the repository. repositories on Clear information on how to submit DER. the homepage Video demonstration on the process of submiting a of the website resource (House of Sciences) or a blog (Schools of their holders. Portal). Representatives of House of Sciences. The two analysed repositories have good visibility on theFigure 3. Dimensions for evaluating Repositories of DER for elementary web. When a search of the repositories is made by “name”,and secondary schools in Portugal in the five most commonly used search engines in Portugal Presented in table 3 and in accordance with the GERII (Google, Bing, Yahoo, AOL and Ask)[30], both appear asguide, are the criteria to be considered in each one of the the first result.five evaluation dimensions considered in this study. The urls of the repositories : https://www.portaldasescolas .pt/ and are adequate, al- Table 3. Dimensions to evaluate lowing for easy memorization. The fact that the homepages Dimension Evaluation Criteria of the Ministry of Education and Science and of the Visibility in major search engines; there is a standard Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation make no reference, in Visibility name and an appropriate url; there are incentives for their internal search engines, to its portal of repositories, participation and information on how to submit. Disclosure of the mission, objectives and function; does not contribute to the valorisation of those, and it is information on who can submit, what can be submitted possibly indicative that the repositories are not central to the Policies and in which formats; information on archive policies of their policies. Furthermo re, this is an action that facilitates documents and preservation of content; ways of contact the reduction of the visib ility of the repository for the target and support. users. If, fo r examp le, a visitor to the organization’s home- Legal Information on existing intellectual property of DER in Aspects the repository. page was not specifically looking for the repository, but Information about the formats used; use of binders or he/she found that indication there, he/she would be given Metadata definition of a policy of content indexing. the possibility to click to the repository, which would be a Statistics Mechanisms to register logs for accessing the server and valuable way to disclose the repository to potential users. uploads, downloads and use of the DER. However, it is important to clarify that the “Portal das The methodology of data collection was based on the Escolas”, of the M inistry of Education and Science, belongsanalysis of the websites of repositories. Thus, each reposi- to the organic unit “Direção-Geral de Estatísticas da Edu-tory was classified fo r each criteria of the five dimensions cação e Ciência” (DGEEC, former GEPE) and on this unit’sconsidered. In o rder to synthesize the presentation of results, homepage there is a reference to the repository. However,a SWOT table was used: (S – Strengths; W – Weaknesses, for the reasons stated above, we believe that the repositoryO – Opportunities and T – Threats). would achieve greater visibility and recognition if there was, The evaluation was carried out in the perspective of the cumulat ively, a reference to it on the ho mepage of the Min-producer and the user of the DER repository, that is to say, istry of Education and perform uploads or downloads of DER fro m the reposi- On the evaluated repositories information on how totory and to see all the information available and relevant for submit resources is given, and messages to encourage par-the teaching and learning process. ticipation and collaboration in them are broadcasted. In the implementation phase in which we are (the t wo repositories are recent as they were only created about three years ago), we believe that all information that enables enlightenment5. Results and awareness for the use of repositories is particularly im- The results of this research have allowed a comp rehen- portant.
  7. 7. 90 Cornélia Castro et al.: DER in Portugal: State-of-the-art of the Two M ajor Repositories in Elementary and Secondary Education In table 5 the main results of the dimension “Policies” are also fits within this framework of legality, responsibilitysummarized. and ethical principles. Table 5. Dimension: Policies Table 7. Dimension: Metadata Advantages Limitations Advantages Limitations The mission, objectives and functions of the re- There are standard procedures for indexing DER pository are present. (indication of author, description, theme, subject, There is not It is stated how users can upload the content, what grade, keywords, audience, resource type and time, a public kind of content is accepted and in what formats. among others). Not identified. policy of There is a requirement to register to download a The House of Sciences also allows a Google search. preserving resource (House of Sciences) or to upload a resource The metadata enables the type of search by standard content. (in both repositories). criteria. Ways to contact support are available. The huge volume of DER available in the repositories The existence of information concerning the objectives, makes it fundamental that they are described by metadatascope and functions of the repository, in the studied reposi- (table 7). These allow the recognition of repositories fortories, is important because it not only allo ws the visitor to humans and computers, so that they can be located usingknow whether he/she falls on the target audience, but it also different criteria. Of little use are the resources that cannotfavours the process of decision making on how he/she may be easily searched, so the issue of metadata is of paramountpotentially part icipate (as a user and/or author of DER). importance. The establishment of policies on who can upload, what In the two repositories analysed, at the time of upload itkind of content is accepted and the provision of support via is requested that authors classify the resources through awebsite and e-mail, are factors that facilitate collaboration. series of standardized criteria (table 7). The criteria differ The requirement to register in order to obtain permission slightly in the two repositories and include items such asto download a certain resource, presents itself as an advan- author, description, theme, subject, grade, keywords or time,tage. This way, the user community of the repository will for examp le. Similarly, the repositories allow a search ofincrease and, consequently, the spirit of sharing and col- DER on the same criteria.laboration among all teachers is stimu lated, thereby en- Finally, the dimension “Statistics” (table 8), is also im-hancing the visibility of the repository. Moreover, this ac- portant, both from the perspective of the author and user.tion may also lead a mere user to become a producer andtherefore enrich ing the repository. Table 8. Dimension: Statistics As a limiting factor in th is dimension, we can point out Advantages Limitationsthe fact of not having been released publicly, a po licy of Report on the number of available and/orpreservation of content. The fact that the entity owning the published resources. Statistics are not Report on the number of downloads (House ofrepository does not declare its commit ment to make content available in the Sciences) and/or views (Schools Portal) made. Schools Portal,available on a permanent basis and to take measures for its Indicates the number of visitors (general, even after thepreservation (in case of migration, for example) to ensure today, yesterday, this week or this month, in the users login is case of the House of Sciences).access to them and create and maintain file formats, can made. Presents the most recent DER, top rated and/orcontribute to reducing the confidence of authors and there- most popular.fore inhibiting their collaboration. Fro m the perspective of the user, when a teacher uses a Fro m the point of view o f the “Legal Aspects”, the repository, the available statistics relating to a part icularevaluated repositories meet the basic requirements to ensure resource, allow him/her to see if the resource he/she iscopyright, according to the summary presented in table 6. looking fo r meets the requirements he/she wants for its use Table 6. Dimension: Legal Aspects in the context o f the classroom. Knowing, for example, Advantages Limitations which resources have the most votes, can help him/her to Confirmation by the author, during the submission decide whether to download a given resource, helping to process, that the material does not go against any give visibility to it. Fro m the author’s point of view, know- intellectual property rights. Not identi- ing the number of down loads of the resource he/she sub- Authors permission to allow distribution of content. fied. mitted in a g iven repository, will give him/her feedback on Existence of information on copyright of the type Creative Commons. the interest that it aroused in the co mmunity of his/her peers and will stimulate h im/her to produce and share more re- The author, during the submission process, confirms that sources.the DER does not infract any intellectual property rights of In addition, the knowledge of the number of v isitors to aothers, granting permission for distribution of his own re- repository helps the teacher to understand the importance ofsource. These declarations are essential to safeguard legal it and to start considering it as a tool that he/she may useissues and also because they favour the spreading of ethical not only to facilitate his/her work on class preparation butprinciples in the production and use of resources. The exis- also in the sense of diversifying his/her practices.tence of informat ion about the Creative Co mmons license In table 9 some indicators relating to the dynamics of ac-
  8. 8. Education 2012, 2(4): 84-95 91cess and use of the House of Sciences are summarized. the fact that the creator has to make so me changes to hisThese indicators are accessible to users who make the login DER to bring it in line with the required quality standards,in the tab “Statistics”. which would consume more of h is time in a work schedule that is already heavily burdened for the Portuguese teachers Table 9. Data from House of Sciences and/or ii) the creator d isagrees with the assessment that was Total of visits since the beginning* 285 119 done and decides not to re-submit the resource. Thus it Number of resources* 1 636 seems that the authors of DER should pay more attention to Number of registered members* 9 496 the “Regulations of materials” in order to contribute to re- Users who downloaded materials* 5 961 Daily mean 1 000-1 150 ducing the rate of resources returned and thereby enable a Accesses# Weekly mean 6 000-7 500 faster and increased share of DER to be published by the Total 27 434 repository. Daily mean 180 Figures 4 and 5 allow us to measure the characteristics of Downloads# Weekly mean 1 250 the DER present in the repository of the House of Sciences. Total 5 133 Figure 4 shows the distribution of DER by level of edu- 2009 113 cation. The main conclusion is that the mo re advanced the 2010 103 Approved level of education, the greater the number of available DER: 2011 114 materials 73 % for the secondary level (16-18 years old) and 21 % for 2012 2 Total* 332 elementary levels. This is a situation that certainly deserves Materials not approved since the beginning* 8,4 % to be studied. Although the entity that owns the repository * Data on the 19 th March 2012; # Data until February 2012 will make efforts to mobilize the interest of teachers in the elementary levels to the repository, it seems that there is Fro m an analysis of those statistics, some aspects can be still a way to go and new strategies can be developed tohighlighted: achieve that goal. ·The number of visitors, exceeding 285 thousand, seemsrelevant in a country with 179 956 teachers (some v isitors 2% 4%may be students, not teachers, or foreigners); ·The number of available DER is 1 636, only 332 re-sulting from the upload of registered members. Fro m this we 21%can conclude that 80 % of the resources are made availab leby the system administrators and 20 % are the result ofsubmission by the users. This reveals a small contribution of 73%users; ·The number of approved material has remained con-stant between the years 2009 and 2011 (mean: n = 110). elementary 6-10 elementary 11-12 ·There is a significant discrepancy between the number elementary 13-15 secondary 16-18of hits and downloads made: only in 19 % of the accesses, Figure 4. Distribution of RED by teaching leveldownloads are made. This may be exp lained by the fact that In figure 5 the distribution of resources by subject is visi-some resources may be viewed online – without authentica- ble. It is worth noting that Physics has 57 % of the availab letion or registration – simply by activating the flag icon that resources. This is a significant figure and it may be impor-appears next to the description of the resource (in the Por- tant to understand to what extent it has parallels in othertuguese flag the translated/adapted material can be seen and realities or whether it is a reality located in this context, duein the flag of the country of orig in, one is directed to the to the criteria in DER selection.source material) when possible. It is, therefore, feasible toinfer that the repository’s users visualize resources to per- 3%form their evaluation in terms of interest for their teaching 9% 12%practices and will decide whether or not to download them. ·The rate of submitted materials that are not approved 16%outright and not subject to peer-review is 8,4 %, corre-sponding to a typology of DER that does not meet the re-quirements of the regulation stipulated by the House of 3% 57%Sciences. This percentage is main ly affected by what oc-curred at the beginning of the repository due to a possiblelack of knowledge of the regulation (sub tab in Terms of Introduction to SciencesUse). Of the submitted DER, about 87 % are returned to the Figure 5. Distribution of DER by subjectauthors with the description of the peer-rev iew that they havebeen subjected to and 3,5 % are not re-submitted. For this Also, as shown in figure 6, 80 % of the DER of the “Casanon re-submission two co mpeting factors may contribute: i) das Ciências” are selected and made availab le by the people
  9. 9. 92 Cornélia Castro et al.: DER in Portugal: State-of-the-art of the Two M ajor Repositories in Elementary and Secondary Educationresponsible for the repository. with the size of the planet. Fro m the analysis of figure 6 it is also possible to see that However, the assertion of repositories faces some prob-there is a demanding criteria to reward quality, as of the lems that hinder their implementation and whose resolutionapproved materials (n = 332, 20 % of the total), only 23 does not depend directly on the bodies that control them, as(7 %) were awarded. already noted: the unavailability of broadband and the lack of resources to invest in hardware and software, fo r exam- ple. However, some of the limitations that affect access, use and collaboration, can be min imized by those responsible for the repositories. These aspects relate to the dimensions evaluated in this study: the visibility, policies, legal issues, metadata and statistics. The results of the evaluation of the two major Portuguese repositories of DER for the elementary and secondary edu- cation are condensed in Figures 8 and 9. In them it is shown the result of a SWOT analysis summarizing the main con- clusions of this study. The use of this type of analysis in a study of this nature brings clear added value, once it facili- Figure 6. Sources of DER tates the synthesis and the reading of results, it allows us to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the repositories, relating them to, respectively, the opportunities and threats, 13% 19% also present. 9% 16% 43% Documents Multimedia Figure 7. Distribution of DER by type Figure 8. Strengths and Weaknesses of the two major repositories As far as the distribution of DER by type is concerned(Figure 7), it appears that the predominant type is the hy- ·The two repositories have good visibility on the web,pertext (43 %), fo llo wed by documents (19 %) and mu lti- which opens an excellent opportunity for a fast increase inmed ia (16 %). The presentations (13 %) and the applica- the number o f producers and users. As it is shown in previoustions (9 %) are g roups with lower exp ression. Fro m this, it studies, repositories have great potential in pro motingis inferred that the interactivity of resources will be privi- change in teaching and learn ing practices. For their visibility,leged and the development of applications, by requiring the analysed repositories may indeed play a catalytic role inmore advanced technical knowledge has, therefore, less that change;representativeness, with regard to the typology of the mate- ·The fact that the repositories have a well-defined policyrials published. for protecting copyright, it favours the spread of ethically correct behaviour in the production and use of DER;6. Conclusions ·The incentives for the production and use of DER open a vast field of opportunity in reducing the info-exclusion, The increased volume of DER in the web and their or- promoting and supporting a culture of lifelong learning, evenganization in repositories opens a window of opportunity in in formal contexts;for change in the education sector. The possibility for ·The standardized metadata facilitate the research ofteachers to access a vast, varied and eclectic set of resources DER within the repositories, min imizing one of the biggestfavours the diversificat ion of strategies in teaching practice problems when you are faced with a huge volume of material:and stimulates the production, use and disclosure of DER. the difficulty to find them; Moreover, the repositories also contribute to the opening ·The existence of various statistics on the access to theof the classroom to the world. In fact, by being availab le repository, viewing and downloads of DER is valuable toonline, the DER can be accessed from anywhere, anytime the responsible entity, in that it provides informat ion on theand by anyone who has appropriate training and an Internet dynamics of the repository which is central fo r its manage-connection. In this sense, the DER can serve a classroom ment. It is also important for authors and users that can,
  10. 10. Education 2012, 2(4): 84-95 93respectively, follow the spread of their resources or have, quires the creation of content that can be tailored to thefor example, an indication of the DER’s popularity in a needs of users, being thus sustainability synonymous ofgiven subject area. reusability. Th is is also an issue that is related to the content and not only to technical issues[31] and therefore to be con- sidered by the keepers of the repositories. In order to have a sustained practice of DER adoption, there are factors that must be taken into account: 7.1. Of Pedagogical Order ·The relevance of the content and the adequacy to pur- poses of teachers; ·The provenance with a seal of quality: teachers appre- ciate resources that have been developed explicit ly for edu- cational purposes or can be easily used for that purpose; Figure 9. Opportunities and Threats of the two major repositories ·Granularity : teachers look for images, short audio or video clips or texts to integrate into their lesson plans. And ·The homepages of the entities holding the repositories often when they have to teach topics with which they are lessdo not refer to them, wh ich may indicate a less central role in comfo rtable, using DER can help;institutional policies, or at least that this role is not ade- ·Although the media included in DER is considered as aquately emphasized. This poses two threats: the repository means to help students visualize and understand more com-has its implementation more constrained and it may be less plex concepts, they must be accompanied by a script of op-valuable, too, by the target audience; eration[20]. ·The non-definit ion of a public policy of preservingdata may be associated with the threat of the lack of confi- 7.2. In Terms of Attitudedence of the authors in the safety of their content, inhib iting, ·In order for teachers to use DER it is necessary to have apossibly, their collaboration. positive attitude to the reuse and sharing of resources, along We think that the repositories which have been the sub- with a perspective of collaboration;ject of our study may evolve towards the improvement of ·Recognition that the combination of material of theirtheir quality, taking into account the limitations, weak- own authorship with other relevant ones from other sourcesnesses or threats identified and shaped here. is valuable, in what concerns the imp rovement of the However, we believe that the potential diagnosed show teaching and learning process (strategy followed by thethat the two repositories constitute an excellent opportunity House of Sciences);for the integration of In formation and Co mmunication ·Confidence to share their own materials;Technology in teaching and learning environments in Por- ·A sense of responsibility to encourage similar attitudestugal. among colleagues[20]. Thus, the evaluated repositories are not only facilitators Teachers, though willing to use resources authored byof authors’ collaboration and users/teachers’ access in gen- others, need to have freedom and flexibility to make theeral, but they also help to pro mote the exercise of new prac- ownership of these resources in the teaching and learningtices in the classroom by Portuguese teachers in elementary process with their students.and secondary schools in Portugal. Thus, the impact on teachers’ individual practices is more likely to be achieved within the dimension of a social prac-7. The Future tice: networks of individuals who think the same way and who are receptive to ideas and suggestions from each other Although the DER is free for the user, it does not mean and willing to share their own resources. These networksthat there is no financing costs or costs with services needed should be promoted by schools with this human capital[20].to create and distribute a resource[31]. The production of A student-centred approach to DER requires a shift fro mopen educational resources can therefore involve a teacher-centred education to an environment that meets thelarge-scale investment. The DER should however be sus- needs of the student[32]. Ho wever Maddux[in 15] statestained, that is to say, have long-term viab ility. The concept that such a sift requires a co mplete change of values relatedof sustainability in addit ion to the cost of the resource, must to school culture, teaching and learning.also take into account the resource itself, i.e., if the resource The use of DER in the classroom is also strongly relatedconsists, for examp le, of content in a specific piece of soft- to teachers’ epistemological orientations, with their theoriesware, then it is important to consider the sustainability of and perceptions about the process of teaching and learn-the software[31]. The nature of DER has an impact on how ing[15].they can be used and reused – an image can be pasted into a Therefore, a true integration of the DER in the process ofdocument but a book cannot. Therefore, sustainability re- teaching and learning requires that teachers consider the
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