E-learning is certainly not the ultimate solution for learning problems, nor can it completely replace traditional learning methods. However, we believe that we can achieve better education by using a mixture of classic classroom learning and e-learning. Moreover we are convinced that this type of modern knowledge transfer should begin in elementary school so that the students are well prepared for secondary school. Especially for those students, who often use computers and the Internet, e-learning can be not only very helpful but also much more fun when learning, repeating and deepening new content.
Dinosaurs are practicing an almost magical appeal on most children of elementary school age. Once the topic is dealt with, the motivation of students to participate actively in class is very high. This motivation can be enhanced and sustained by additionally using multimedia learning environments. Another positive effect is that social, technical and media skills can be achieved in a playful way. For this reason teachers access the topic of dinosaurs using the online learning environment DinO-Learning.
In elementary school students are still very curious and want to learn about their environment through discovery and exploratory tasks. Therefore in this project our students become dinosaur researchers and as such they fill out research reports and send them to the scientific headquarters (their teachers), they discover dinosaurs with special characteristics and design dinosaur profiles, they work on dinosaurs made of cardboard, they create dinosaur drawings, they write reports about their experiences with the dinosaur project, together with their e-learning tutor they produce a dinosaur film, together with their parents they collect recipes typical for the country they are coming from and then use these recipes for making dinosaur cakes or dinosaur biscuits. In the end they add all of their products and outcomes in an external Wiki, the so-called Wiki-Saurus.
The students do all these tasks within a school year cooperatively in small groups using both the Internet and traditional media like books and acquire thus new knowledge as Community Of Inquiry, as a learning community. The working and learning process is mostly organized by the learners themselves. But all the time they are supported by their teachers, who have the role of research assistants. By using the online learning environment DinO-Learning in the classroom social interaction and communication – both factors that play an important role in individual learning – take place in the traditional way face-to-face and through the use of computers and the Internet also computer-mediated.
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The online learning environment DinO-Learning was designed using the software CMSimple. It is a free and easy to modify Content Management System, that works without a database and supports PHP. For more information also see the CMSimple-Homepage http://www.cmsimple.org/.
To get familiar with the software the online learning environment DinO-Learning can be downloaded including all contents, as a free sample and can be used without any reservation and be customised to the needs of the different schools.