LONDON – 26 November 2009 – Bridgeman Education, a leading online resource for academic tutors and their students, has announced positive results from a series of focus groups and in-class tests for its new SILVER digital learning application – available now, free of charge at www.silvereducation.org. The SILVER application comprises 3 modules each of which explores a particular subject. The first 2 modules, which explore the subjects of the Suffragettes and Sustainability, have been extensively tested by teachers and students in schools all across the UK. The SILVER software uses interactive learning activities and historical images to engage students in critical interpretation and thinking – essential skills for GCSE students.
The SILVER software is being developed as part of Project SILVER (Semantic Interactive Learning Visualisation Environment Research), a major £1.9 million government funded research project, which is exploring new and innovative ways to deliver visualised learning. The third and final module will examine the subject of ‘Leadership’ and will be tested on teachers and students early in 2010.
One of the key findings for the SILVER team, following focus group and classroom testing sessions, is that teachers find it easier to hold their students’ attention whilst delivering lessons through a digital medium, as opposed to traditional forms of print media. In particular, pupils can organise ideas or challenge and change scenarios without cumbersome paper-based activities.
Sarah Bamford, Lead Practitioner in Humanities, Peacehaven School in Essex, is one of the teachers involved in the SILVER focus group and classroom testing sessions. Sarah has tested both the Suffragettes and Sustainability modules in-class with her Year 9 and year 10 pupils, respectively, and has offered the following observation:
"I had responses from the kids that I would not get in a different context – responses that I certainly don't get from an image on paper. The students particularly enjoyed playing around with the images, tweaking them and zooming in on the details. One of the images, for example, is a photo of a Suffragette with a bus in the background. The bus is covered in posters and some of the class – mostly the boys – wanted to zoom in and see what these posters said. It really got them thinking about the image, the historical context, and the use of media.
"A good online resource like this one encourages thinking at a deeper level because the pupils visualise links and tags. More and more digital applications are coming onto the market now, but they don't all deliver because they haven't been thoroughly tested. How do you know that a resource will hold the attention of a group of Year 9's for a whole hour until you've actually tried it out on them! The Suffragette application has been redefined at every stage of development to ensure teachers have an easy to use and workable online resource that encourages critical thinking, analysis and interpretation in their pupils – whatever level they're at," Sarah Bamford added.
Bridgeman Education is heading up the SILVER project, in partnership with the Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute and education product provider Lexara Ltd. It has conducted rigorous tests at every stage of development – from paper to prototype to release – with teachers in focus groups and through classroom testing sessions with students.
Brian Kavanagh, Manager, Project Silver, goes on to say: "The ubiquitous nature of digital technologies, coupled with society’s growing fascination with images, makes this an ideal time to develop a visual learning application. Resources such as Flickr and YouTube are very popular now, and this signals a new level of human engagement with images and these applications seem to accommodate our need, for example, to view, tag, and share images. This engagement with images is further encouraged by the inclusion of cameras on hand-held devices such as mobile phones. There is a general trend towards user generated content (UGC) on the web and the SILVER team is thinking carefully about how to create a learning model that is less hierarchical than traditional top down learning models."
Software delivery through Project SILVER
Project SILVER is a major £1.9 million collaborative R&D project part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board to develop the next generation of digital learning software for schools, Further and Higher Education establishments and businesses. Bridgeman Education has joined forces with the Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute and education product provider Lexara Ltd, in a bid to improve learning at all levels of education and in the corporate sector. Together the organisations are developing a powerful and unique learning solution that builds on Web 2.0 and Artificial Intelligence technologies to allow teachers and trainers to collect, organise, experiment and interact with multimedia assets.
Bridgeman Education is an online resource for academic tutors and their students, providing special access to the museums the Bridgeman Art Library represents around the world. This is a subscription service, designed to stimulate and boost e-learning. Slideshow tools offer a unique and flexible way to search, display and save selections from this vast database. The images are copyright cleared for educational use for enrolled staff and students within the institution. www.bridgemaneducation.com
The Bridgeman Art Library (BAL)
Established for 35 years and with 4 international offices, is the world's leading source of fine art, history and culture with some 260,000 images available on-line, plus 750,000 historical photographs, from 8000 locations. Contributors include museums, galleries, photographers and artists world wide including the British Museum and British Library, the National Galleries of Scotland and Wales, Estonia, Sweden and South Africa, plus leading collections from Russia, France, Italy, Spain, Poland and the USA. BAL’s commercial picture library is a one-stop-shop for cultural images which range from prehistoric to contemporary collections. BAL also has a long history of feeding monies back into museums, of figures up to £1.5 million per year. www.bridgemanart.com
The Technology Strategy Board
The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the government. Its mission is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life. It is sponsored by the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).
The Technology Strategy Board’s collaborative research and development programme is investing directly in new and emerging technologies and has been designed to help businesses work with each other or with academic partners to develop technologies that will underpin products and services of the future. Since 2004, the programme has supported over 600 projects across 40 technology areas with a combined business and government investment worth over £900m.
Over the period 2005-2008, £320 million in funding is being made available to businesses by the Technology Strategy Board for collaborative R&D projects. The Board is providing funding of £784,000 for Project SILVER.
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