If you take a look at its website (http://www.intermedia.uio.no/) you will see that InterMedia’s main focus is to ‘investigate the intersections between design, communication and learning in digital environments’.
Intermedia receives around €3 million per annum. €2 million comes from the University, the other €1 million from national funding agencies in Norway and different programs across the European Community.
InterMedia researchers undertake a wide variety of interdisciplinary projects. These incorporate students and researchers from Masters to Post-doctoral from knowledge fields such as education, psychology, computer science and media. Whilst perhaps most of research outcomes are destined for scientific journals, InterMedia is also policy orientated towards the Ministry of Education and research and the directorate for educational development.
Interview with ex-Dean of Faculty of Education, Oslo University
We talked to Professor Bente Hagtvet, to find out more about InterMedia’s activities.
Professor Hagtvet and her predecessor, were instrumental in building InterMedia’s profile and capabilities within the University of Oslo, since its conception in 1998.
In a country with a reputation for high educational achievement, the discussion shed light on some of the challenges which face education and educators in Norway – one is importantly the need to change perceptions about Technology Enhanced Learning.
Hagtvet says ‘I think that one of the perspectives for technology enhanced learning has been that politicians have thought that rather like their term in office, it offers quick-fix solutions. Perhaps this is because of the implication that ‘technology’ has in someone’s mind. It leads to assumptions about advantageous rapid change. The positive views that people have about how technology can be integrated into pedagogically sound and beneficial teaching and learning have been dampened by the this ‘TEL’ tag not living up to expectations.’
It is this interdisciplinary aspect that prompts Professor Hagtvet to say a little about the Director of Intermedia, Sten Ludvigsen.
‘Sten has very successfully been able to bring his perspectives to InterMedia, particularly the interplay between social and cultural paradigms. I think this enables the department to drive learning theory and to modernise social and cultural theories as we know them. This is the added-value that InterMedia provides both to the Faculty particularly and the University as a whole.
What is interesting with InterMedia is how it takes theoretical frameworks and contextualises these within social contexts. It is also modernising technology by examining how humans really do use it, without making assumptions that they should or even want to. An issue in schools has been that technology has often just provided tools for learning. Without the teachers being able to offer the necessary pedagogic mediation, what is the use? This is one philosophy of InterMedia – to shed light on effective learning. A strength of InterMedia has been that its research has, more effectively than most, been able to keep pace with the technology, but realistically so.’
So, what for TEL research and the future in Norway?
‘We have a challenge to change in stakeholder’s minds the perceptions they have about Technology Enhanced Learning. I think in meeting these challenges, the researchers need to ‘freshen-up’ the agenda with new questions, new statements. That is the opportunity that perhaps Kaleidoscope has presented. To enable researchers to start to take account of broader, macro issues at play in the field.’
Research at InterMedia
The research center at InterMedia collaborates both with other units at the University of Oslo, as well as with partners internationally.
Within the university it has developed two main research areas – Learning and Information Communications Technology and Design in digital environments.
Its Learning and Information Communication Technologies activities focus on the relationship between learning environments, learning processes, and the results derived from this.
InterMedia hosts a wide-range of research projects, bringing together researchers both from within the University and external partners from across Europe and beyond. These projects include:
Calibrate : adding value to the services provided by national content portals and improving the ability of schools to easily locate and access a wider range and more diverse collection of learning resources at a European Level
Dilemma: a decision game for teacher education
This project looks at assisting student teachers in developing competencies in handling didactical and ethical dilemmas in their daily school work. The learning environment is structured by multi-media rich applications in social science.
KP-Lab : Knowledge practices laboratory
Aimed at facilitating innovative practices of working with knowledge in education and workplaces. It is an Integrated project of the European Commission’s Sixth Framework programme
Mediatized Stories : Mediation perspectives on digital storytelling among youth
This explores how people – youths in particular – research into multimodal, creative and research discourse.
PLICTe : Productive learning in ICT rich environments
Productive Learning in ICT-Rich Environments: Focusing on interactions between technology, school subject matter and collective learning.
Its digital design research has three main research strands, all taking a multidisciplinary perspective:
- Museum mediation
- Learning in work environments
- Public spaces
Norway and the Virtual Doctoral School – international influences, national contributions
In Norway, genetics is included on the science curriculum within secondary schools. However, science in Norway, like in many countries, is experiencing a fall in the numbers of those wishing to study it. What can be done to bring enthusiasm and motivation back into the classroom and bring about more positive views about science?
We take a look at the perspective of two TEL PhD student researchers (based at the University of Oslo’s InterMedia) who are both members of Kaleidoscope’s Virtual Doctoral School. The Virtual Doctoral School provides support for researchers from labs and institutions across the Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence to work together with others students from different cultures, disciplines and backgrounds. It also enables PhD students to come into contact with well-known researchers that they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to meet and interact with. Each researcher at InterMedia presents a glimpse of their research , explaining what the uses and limitations of a 3D modelling system are, to enhance learning about genetics. What could learners, typically between fifteen and sixteen years old, gain from using the software in collaborative learning situations?
The case also provides an insight into the research student’s perspectives about the Virtual Doctoral School. What has been its contribution and what is its value? Should it continue to support PhD students across Europe in the future?
Anniken Furberg is an Education Scientist with a background in psychology and sociology. On secondment from Telenor (http://www.telenor.com/), Norway’s largest Telecomms company, she is around two years from completing her PhD, which has looked at how learners in an Oslo secondary school have used Viten.no to learn more about genetics.
Ingeborg Krange is a sociologist. She has previously done research into Non-Governmental Organisations, particularly an environmental lobby group based in Norway. She is due to complete her PhD thesis in Summer 2007.
The issue: Science in crisis – could Technology Enhanced Learning motivate school children to learn about genetics?
Ingeborg: My research examines the ground rules of communication in classroom settings. It also looks at using 3D modelling – in this case, for learning about genetics.
In my opinion, valuable education research benefits greatly from a multi-disciplinary perspective. If a learning experience starts at A, then finishes up at Z, education research should consider not only the dimensions of computer science, but also social dimensions, psychological dimensions, contextual dimensions along the way. No single perspective can necessarily take into account all the factors required to bring about more ‘effective’ learning.
Anniken: A point to note is that in Norway, in the fields of science, there is a crisis. There is a need to make biology, physics and chemistry more appealing. Our focus, gene technology, examined children in upper secondary schools, around 15 years of age and how their learning experiences in classroom could be augmented through well thought out, educationally valuable use of technology.
Ingeborg: The 3D modelling system used in my study based on intensive design work from different domain specialists. I got four groups of students to locate themselves in different places in a school. The groups were connected through a telecommunication system. A teacher was appointed to act as mediator. Everyone – the students and teacher - was represented as an avatar.
The idea is that the students would repair broken gene sequences, where a base pair of genes have been broken. They have to work out how to repair these, using the 3D representation. Hands on, they can work with the model. However, my research has shown that it is not necessarily the 3D aspect that is important, but probably the high level of interaction between the students. Their motivation to engage with the activity is greatly enhanced, along with their enthusiasm for science.
Anniken: Whilst it is not unique for students to collaboratively solve problems together, the 3D approach reinforces learning from a different perspective. For two weeks I worked with students. It was clear to me that they engaged with the subject.
What has Kaleidoscope brought to your research?
Anniken: I think that for InterMedia and myself, Kaleidoscope has made a vital contribution to international collaboration. In Norway, policy makers are trying to bring education, and the places it is delivered, such as the University of Oslo, into line with higher-level strategic aims of the European Union. These are issues concerning the recognition and transference of under-graduate and post-graduate qualifications. For researchers, one consequence is publishing internationally. So, meeting first hand with research students and well-known leaders in the field across Europe, enables you to challenge your views. It is extremely important aspect for us as part of our research education period.
Ingeborg: I agree. It’s like putting together a huge research jigsaw. The VDS, if extended and endorsed further, would help cut down duplication. It would enable collaborations and exchanges which could not otherwise occur. If we did not have a Virtual Doctoral School, we will be back to where we started before Kaleidoscope almost four years ago. It provides a formalised means of working together with researchers whose different perspectives can, and do, enrich your own.
Both: Through the Kaleidoscope Virtual Doctoral School – bringing together TEL researchers from right across Europe – the research I have undertaken has been enriched. I have been able to collaborate with researchers, some very well known, from different disciplines. This opportunity to meet other researchers should not be underestimated. It is enormously useful for my work.