Unleashing the potential of digital technologies to support an integrated science learning ecosystem
A B O U T
We build resilient connections between schools, science museums and science centres by integrating digital educational experiences into school science teaching and learning.
The positive impact and contribution of informal learning settings to formal education is well documented in educational research and practice. Student field trips to science centres and science museums have long been part of the educational programmes of all schools across Europe, with many exhibitions of science centres and museums developed with school students and their families as their main target audience. This very powerful interaction between the formal and informal education sectors has recently been hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
How can then school communities continue to have access to services and learning resources provided by science centres and science museums in the face of major disruptive situations such as the current pandemic crisis? Are there effective methods and technological tools that can facilitate fruitful interactions between visitors and exhibitions? And if yes, are there cooperation schemes that can prove resilient and sustainable in the long run?
The rapid shift to distance teaching and learning due to COVID-19 presents schools and informal science learning organisations with a unique opportunity to grasp the transformative potential of new digital technologies to support the development of solutions that enhance the digital presence of science centres and science museums in student learning.
Responding to the educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the VIRTUAL PATHWAYS project envisages a new model of interaction between schools and informal science learning settings by incorporating digital technologies into everyday school activities.
The VIRTUAL PATHWAYS project will implement this vision by providing opportunities for schools and museums to work together through small-scale experimental projects that apply agile and user friendly digital technologies to a selected area of activities, ranging from the first scientific revolution in 1600 to the current Nobel Prize-winning discoveries in an innovative way.
In doing so, the project will demonstrate the development of solutions that enhance the digital presence of science museums and science centres in student learning through online field trips enriched with 3D digitization and AR/VR applications that tap in the creative potential of technology to offer transformative experiences for schools. The project will also propose and test a new model for cooperation between schools and museums that could be also useful for post-crisis times.
The VIRTUAL PATHWAYS approach is based on the Open Schooling concept that promotes the collaboration of schools with non-formal and informal education providers, enterprises, and civil society to ensure relevant and meaningful engagement of all societal actors with science and increase the uptake of science studies and science-based careers, employability and competitiveness.
By building on the best of current practice, such an approach aims to take us beyond the constraints of present structures of schooling towards a shared vision of excellence. A powerful, innovative, open and self-sustaining culture in schools requires the empowerment of system-aware practitioners to realise it, whilst avoiding simply creating interesting yet isolated pockets of experimentation.
The VIRTUAL PATHWAYS approach, methodology and tools will be tested and evaluated in 200 schools – including schools in rural and remote areas – across four countries over the next two years. Combining expertise from innovative interventions in schools and informal science learning settings, the project will bring real-life projects to the classroom and support the development of 21st century skills by engaging students with projects and activities that simulate the real scientific work by building on the strengths of both formal and informal science pedagogy that can prove impactful and resilient to unpredictable disruptions such as the current pandemic crisis.
Our collection of digital educational pathways opens up new avenues of offering your students integrated hybrid science learning experiences designed by our partners from Finland, Greece, Italy and Sweden.
P A R T N E R S
VIRTUAL PATHWAYS is coordinated by the University of Helsinki and involves five more organisations from Finland, Greece, Italy and Sweden.
University of Helsinki – Faculty of Educational Sciences will apply latest methods for bridging the gap between formal education and informal learning with already tested models related to responsible research, sustainable developments and interaction between society and academic world. The unit for out-of-school education can give the impact related to research and evidence-based standardized methods for digital learning. Principles of evidence-based education are utilized in practical work supported by latest research related to on-line virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. University of Helsinki has also a wide national and international network of teachers, pedagogics, and educational administrators.
Ellinogermaniki Agogi (EA) is a school in the greater area of Athens, Greece. Its Research and Development Department focuses on the design, implementation, and support of pedagogical and technological innovation in educational practice, through work within the school and through national, European and international collaborations with numerous educational and research institutions. In more than 20 years of activity, EA has coordinated or been involved in numerous national and international collaborative projects, networks and initiatives, which have established EA as a leading pioneer in innovative approaches to learning, teaching and teacher professional development, especially in connection to science education and educational technology.
The Arktikum Science Centre is located in the Arktikum House together with the Provincial Museum of Lapland. Over 100 000 persons visit the Arktikum House every year, more than half of them are tourists from abroad. The Science Centre exhibitions display the results of Arctic research interactively and inform about the nature and people in the Arctic region. The Science exhibition unit is also responsible to design, implement and offer education-related activities to schools and teachers. It also takes part in the pedagogical training of the teachers’ students of the university’s faculty of education. The Science Centre is active member of the STEM of Lapland which is led by the University of Lapland.
The Natural History Museum of Crete of the University of Crete (NHMC-UOC) is a pioneering institute at national and European level been established in 1980. It has nine fully operational departments and occupies a significant number of specialists in biological and geological diversity. It is the only NHM in Greece, dealing with all aspects of natural environment. In its permanent Exhibition Halls, the natural environment of the eastern Mediterranean area with special emphasis on Greece and Crete, is displayed. NHMC-UOC pursues special interest in Integrated Learning Strategy Plan for the active diffusion of the knowledge accumulated to all sectors of the society including Formal and Informal Education, Life Long Learning, Editions and Public Environmental Awareness activities focusing to engage new audiences.
The Museo Galileo – Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (IMSS), located in the centre of Florence, Italy, is one of the foremost international institutions in the History of Science, combining a noted museum of scientific instruments and an institute dedicated to the research, documentation and dissemination of the history of science. The museum, the specialized library, the archives, the multimedia and photographic laboratories provide an integrated whole in the service of diffusing scientific culture. The museum has also a rich experience in offering numerous educational services and activities aimed at schools and families along with a multiannual participation in local and European projects.
The Nobel Prize Museum is located in Stockholm, Sweden, home of the Nobel Prize. Our museum shows that great ideas, hard work and cooperation really can change the world. The courage, creativity and perseverance of the Nobel Laureates can inspire and give us hope for the future. Based on the Nobel Prize’s unique combination of fields – natural sciences, literature and peace – the Nobel Prize Museum offers exhibitions, school programs, lectures and dialogues about the great issues of our time. We are a small museum with vast content and a large, international audience. We also run an international network for teachers that annually meet in Stockholm for a four-day conference. Now, we´re developing virtual guided tours, digital school programs and online seminars for teachers, in order to make our exhibitions and our instructional resources accessible and even more inspirational to visitors, schools and teachers from all over the world.
O U T P U T S
Learn about our methodology, activities and resources, training materials and more that will help you implement the VIRTUAL PATHWAYS approach.
VIRTUAL PATHWAYS Methodology
An integrated methodological framework describing a novel cooperation scheme between school and informal science learning organisations (science centres, science museums and archives) for enhancing the digital readiness of the educational community. It is aimed at helping educators develop their digital competences and skills, and design pathways and tools related to virtual interactions with informal learning environments, following specifications based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in order to offer equal opportunities to all students in the face of unpredictable challenges such as the current pandemic.
VIRTUAL PATHWAYS Activities and Resources
Α collection of innovative educational activities following the Open Schooling Model by offering access to unique informal learning scientific resources to teachers and students organised under a systematic pedagogical framework focused on virtual visits to science museums and science centres. These activities will be based on the principles of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and the Universal Design of Learning (UDL), incorporating instructional materials derived from the exhibits and the exhibit-based educational programmes from the participating science centres and museums. This high-quality and inclusive digital material, comprising of structured materials, images, videos, 3D representations and animations of exhibits, is aimed to enhance both formal and informal learning processes for different ages, interests and curriculum groups.
VIRTUAL PATHWAYS Training Programme and Materials
A modular training programme with innovative materials and apps aimed at helping teachers develop digitally enhaced open educational resources through the use of an intuitive platform in order to continue delivering high-quality educational services in the time of the pandemic. The design of the training programme is based on three main axes to facilitate the uptake of the VIRTUAL PATHWAYS approach: a) teaching science by inquiry will help teachers organise effectively their instruction while realizing virtual explorations and field trips with their students; b) motivating teachers to adopt inquiry-based techniques and activities in their classrooms; and c) offering access to a unique collection of open educational resources linked to the science curricula, expanding therefore the limitations of classroom instruction by involving students in endless scientific explorations, discoveries and natural phenomena.
VIRTUAL PATHWAYS Evaluation Methodology and Lessons Learnt
A comprehensive evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of VIRTUAL PATHWAYS at the student, teacher, and institutional/school levels. The evaluation aims to provide both quantitative and qualitative evidence for a) the distinctive role of digital and online education; b) the innovative approach behind the successful administration of education bridging the gap between formal education and informal learning via teacher professional development; and c) changes required in schools and informal science settings for the implementation of a sustainable and resilient cooperation scheme.
Read the report online here
VIRTUAL PATHWAYS Roadmap and Recommendations for Future Use
The VIRTUAL PATHWAYS Roadmap will demonstrate how the worlds of educational and technological research and development, school communities, and formal and informal education stakeholders can be brought together, mobilized and facilitated to interact and collaborate towards generating meaningful and sustainable educational innovation, opening paths to the desired future of today’s education. The Roadmap will also offer a vision of what can be achieved with adequate investment and will also provide detailed recommendations on how to achieve that vision, including a plan with clear targets and priorities, clear research objectives, and a concrete management plan that will ensure continuous evaluation and feedback that can, in turn, inform future actions based on the Open Schooling methodology responding to the specific needs of schools across Europe.
Read the report online here
C O N T A C T U S
Get in Touch
We are here for any question you might have. Don’t hesitate to contact us!
Professor & Research Director
Faculty of Education
University of Helsinki
P.O.Box 9 (Siltavuorenpenger 3; Room 232)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
Senior Researcher & Project Manager
Research and Development Department
Dimitriou Panagea str.
GR 15351 Pallini, Greece