Traditional learning methodologies based on the passive transmission of information do not develop competences that students require to successfully continue their studies and/or move into a professional life. Furthermore, these passive methodologies do not motivate the net-generation or “digital native” students that are very much accustomed to the ubiquitous use of technology, are used to quickly absorb information in short chunks, and want to get instant responses and feedback. These students expect to be active in their learning!
Therefore, schools and teachers need to change their pedagogical methodologies, moving into active learning processes whereby students engage in activities that promote higher order learning skills like analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Examples of these methodologies are Project and Problem-based learning (PBL), learner-centered processes, in which students develop their knowledge and competences by following a problem solving process, usually based on real-life situations. The identified benefits for students are considerable improvements in critical, lateral and creative thinking, problem solving, intrinsic motivation, team work, group collaboration, leadership and communication.
Supporting PBL through ICT tools (serious games, interactive simulations, virtual communication platforms, etc.) creates Active Digital Learning Environments (ADLE) where the new technologically-savvy students feel comfortable and are motivated to be active. These tools, advanced Open Educational Resources, highly interactive and immersive, involve mental and physical stimulation and develop practical skills – they force the learner/user to decide, to choose, to define priorities, to solve problems, etc. They imply self-learning abilities (in games, players are often required to seek out information to master the game itself), allow transfer of learning to other contexts and are inherently experiential with the engagement of multiple senses. On top, they promote the digital literacy of teachers and students.
However, to make teachers confident in using and applying these new methodologies and tools, they must be supported and helped. The objective of the ADLES (Active Digital Learning Environments in Schools) project is therefore to work with and prepare teachers to implement active learning methodologies based on PBL (Project/Problem Based Learning) supported by an online platform that includes a set of digital tools (games, simulations and communication) that will allow students to experiment, collaborate and communicate in an extended and multinational learning community. As such, the two main target groups of the project are teachers and students of vocational/secondary schools.