BEACONING: Breaking Educational Barriers with Contextualised, Pervasive and Gameful Learning

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Pervasive and gameful learning, any time, anywhere, for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), targeting secondary education learners.

BEACONING sets an example in multifaceted education technologies through a large-scale piloting of a digital learning platform that blends physical and digital spaces. As innovative action strategies, its pilot activities combine opportunities for new ICTs in multiple ways that merge learning acquired through formal, non-formal and informal means, developing the skills for today’s abled and disabled learners and workforce.

The BEACONING platform is a ubiquitous solution that exploits advances in design based on user experience, mobile communication, location-based and context-aware systems, procedural content generation, pedagogy-driven gamification, learning analytics and cloud technology through innovative integration towards a blended learning space. The BEACONING demonstrator facilitates, assesses and authors gamified learning activities, integrating existing educational tools and services of the participating organisations.

Focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the cross-subject approach embedded in a Problem-Based Learning model contextualises learning as part of real-world problem-solving and applications. The role of learners is amplified in the process of filtering and connecting concepts framed under practical, investigative and exploratory scenarios.

Large-scale pilot activities validate and inform the development of the BEACONING ecosystem, which democratises learning across and among those fully abled and those with mild to moderate physical and mental impairments (aged 15 to 24), undergoing general and vocational training.

BEACONING anticipates the benefits of making cross-subject matter more understandable, fostering the application of subject specialisms to other domains. The pilot substantiates the technical and economic viability and the impact of the innovative platform to strategise market adoption and replication. By integrating experiences in a highly engaging, contextualised and personalised manner, learning can move beyond the barriers of space and time.

Basic information

Country: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom

Coordinator: Coventry University http://www.coventry.ac.uk/

Programme: Horizon 2020

Project Acronym:

Target groups: education authorities, general public, parents, researchers, secondary school students, teachers

Topic: Information technology, Technology, Education

Start year: 2016

End year: 2019

Url: http://beaconing.eu/

Contact person: Sylvester Arnab, Email aa8110 (at) coventry.ac.uk

Flexible learning opens up education, exploiting “the potential of ICT to improve education and training systems, aligning them with the current digital world”. Opening up education will ultimately lead to learning that takes place at any time, anywhere, “with the support of anyone, using any device.” BEACONING directly contributes to this initiative through its pilots for a digital learning platform that blends physical and digital learning spaces, merging formal, non-formal and informal learning contexts to enable all learners (abled and disabled) to have equal access to the same learning opportunities, and to gain highly contextualised, connected and personalised experiences beyond the barriers of time and a physical classroom.

The BEACONING demonstrator is a platform that facilitates, assesses and authors contextualised, gamified and personalised learning activities (i.e. lesson plan), integrating existing educational tools and services specific to the participating organisations. The pedagogical foundation will be based on the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) model centred around active learning, whereby learners discover and work with different resources to solve problems or “quests”. In this model, teachers trigger tasks/quests within the system, taking the role of “quest giver” and / or “trainer”. This approach encourages learners to define their own learning objectives, which they achieve through independent and self-directed study / inquiry before sharing the acquired knowledge with their learning group or community. Crucially, it enables a deep approach to learning whereby students create associations between the different concepts (cross-subjects), knowledge and skills learnt within a formal setting (classroom, school) and extend the learning experience to non- and informal settings (co-curricular, local community, home), and vice versa. To foster any time-anywhere learning, the gamified problem-solving activities are pervasive, where digital activities are positioned in the physical world, concurrently with the learners’ everyday contexts, transforming the world around them into an information/knowledge playground for all manner of new interactive and engaging problem-solving experiences.

BEACONING bridges the formal-informal settings over data and analytics that link the pervasive activities associated with the lesson plan. Interoperability is essential, and the BEACONING platform delivers a framework to integrate and advance the science and sociocultural technologies required in a digital learning ecosystem. BEACONING takes into account the diversity of users (including mental and physical abilities), their specific concerns (even cultural), and the particularity of the systems’ functioning conditions. Advances in design based on user experience (UX), Future Internet Technologies (mobile communication, location-based and context-aware systems, cloud technology), learning analytics, procedural content generation, pedagogy-driven games techniques (digital games, gamification and game analytics) are exploited through innovative integration towards a blended learning space and context. Establishing the triadic relationships and associations of these technologies and services and their users in a modular manner allows larger-scale pilots to be conducted to innovate towards adaptive and personalised digital learning ecosystems.

The gamified lesson plans and content are made open and shared across the platform. The pilot activities target young people aged 15 to 24 including those with mild to moderate mental and physical disabilities, who are undergoing general and/or vocational training. This age group, especially those with disabilities, is at risk of leaving education early with no more than lower secondary education and less likely to be “active citizens” or engaged in lifelong learning. About 19% of young disabled people are early school leavers compared to 11% of those who are not. Young people need to be encouraged to remain in education and supported to reach their potential by providing opportunities for them to enter higher education and/or a job (EC Directorate-General of Education and Culture, Education and Training Monitor 2012, ANED Statistics indicators for disability 2013).

The project recognises the important roles of teachers and parents in jointly establishing an educational plan, with inputs from relevant local intermediary experts (FEs, HEs, NGOs, employers, business, government). Evidence shows that current learning technologies do not build on the triad teachers-learners-parents. Thus, it remains a major challenge to achieve a natural blend, especially when disability is also taken into account. The BEACONING approach fosters the up-skilling of teachers, to enable them to co-author gamified lesson plans with the learners and parents promoting flexibility in the ways lessons are delivered in informal spaces and time. This leads to relevance, re-usability and sustainability beyond the project’s lifetime, in line with the increasing role of learners as designers and creators of content and processes (e.g. Prensky 2013). Parents will be involved in the play-learn activities with the learners and will be valued stakeholders, together with the intermediary organisations, to inform the design of the educational strategy. OECD PISA surveys reveal striking differences in parental encouragement that exacerbate the problem of learners’ lack of self-confidence in science and maths, emphasising the roles of parents in the learning ecosystem. This synergy is important for the support, contextualisation, recognition, validation and transferability of knowledge, skills and competences.

The industrial-led pilot activities, supported by academic initiatives, validate the design, technical and economic viability and the impact of the innovative platform. Innovation arises not only from BEACONING’s exploitation of data obtained through its pilot activities for the development of the digital learning ecosystem, but also in the way that educational technologies and digital assessments assist the validation of non/informal learning. BEACONING produces a wide variety of benefits, such as pervasive and context-aware forms of gaming that underpin new commercial opportunities and immersive ways of teaching, learning and assessing.

BEACONING aims at achieving the following learning objectives:

  • To integrate technologies, pedagogical and social perspectives on using pervasive, context-aware and gamified approaches, ensuring that the BEACONING platform is innovative, while also extending scientific understanding and practice-based experiments by engaging a community of learners, including those with disabilities, with a more inclusive, connected and contextualised learning process. BEACONING implements a holistic and modular approach in understanding users, technical and market challenges and opportunities. This includes active collaboration among stakeholders in educational technology, including learning technologists, the advanced system and user interfaces industry, the research community (pedagogy, educational psychology, games science, motivational models, HCI, disability and accessibility, etc.), the digital games industry, and the end-user stakeholders (learners, teachers, parents). They all play an important role in addressing the scientific and technical challenges as well as the issues regarding engagement and deployment within existing practices. In order to reach this objective, BEACONING produces an end-user specification, a play-learn design and a technical architectural specification which takes into account stakeholders’ requirements (users, industry and research).
  • To develop, implement and validate the BEACONING platform, which leverages cutting-edge approaches, including Future Internet technology, mobiles, gamification, pervasive gaming, procedural game content generation, game authoring, human-computer interfaces, learning analytics and the problem-based learning model; and to produce a platform that is usable, adaptable, extendable and sustainable. This requires addressing a variety of technological challenges in an integrated and systematic way, so as to create a usable, attractive and practical collaborative environment in which a wide variety of end-user stakeholders can be involved in the process. This involves a blend of a significant number of cutting-edge technologies and existing technologies already developed by the consortium partners, which may already be accessible to the target group. Small-scale experimentations and pilot initiatives of the components and integrated prototype are carried out in in a controlled learning “café” or living lab, which evaluates the readiness of a larger-scale pilot. This iterative process produces and scientifically validates technical components, leading to the integrated BEACONING platform.
  • To explore and measure the level of engagement, effectiveness and impact of the BEACONING platform on learners’ incentivisation and foster acquisition and transfer of knowledge and skills. This is validated through large-scale pilot activities that involve a community of stakeholders and practitioners in Europe and provide an exploitation and business plan for the platform’s adoption.

 

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