“Technologists have the responsibility to make education accessible to all”

And if you don’t have a smartphone handy, just click on the picture…

Mar Pérez Sanagustín, along with Alejandro Martínez and Carlos Delgado Kloos, recently won the prize for the best demo at the European Conference on Technology-Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL) for their project, “etiquetAR: Tagging Learning Experiences”. etiquetAR offers an innovative way to extend and enhance learning environments, and was developed in collaboration with researchers, developers and students of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. The project will also be demonstrated at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN during one of the Talking Heads sessions – see the agenda for more details.


Here Mar tells the News Service more about the project, where she intends to take it in the future, and her own personal motivation.


Interview by Alasdair MacKinnon


What inspires you to work in education?


I grew up in a family of teachers. My great-grandfather created an academy for teachers, my grandmother was a teacher and my both parents are also teachers. So, my interest in education is long. However, I prefer using the term learning rather than education because, when talking about learning, we are focusing on the learner as the principal actor in the process of gaining knowledge.


What inspires me is the idea that learning is the first step towards transformation. Someone that knows and is interested in learning every day is someone that can be creative and can imagine the world differently. As educator and philosopher Paulo Freire said, “the educational act is not about knowledge transmission, it is about enjoying building up a common world”.


What does etiquetAR involve?


etiquetAR is an authoring tool to support the design of situated learning experiences based on intelligent QR codes. These intelligent QR codes add new properties to traditional ones, extending their interaction opportunities.


Firstly, QR codes generated with etiquetAR can link to more than one resource; this property allows for the creation of adaptive learning activities, providing information personalised according to different students’ profiles.


Secondly, etiquetAR codes can be updated whenever needed without re-printing, since the code always remains the same; easily changing the content in the tags supports dynamic learning activities. Thirdly, etiquetAR tags can be commented so that any user scanning the code can add ideas or suggestions to resources.


etiquetAR is based on the idea that digital tags such as QR codes, when attached to a particular object or location, add a layer of digital information that extends its properties. Objects and locations become interactive means through which learners, using mobile devices, gain knowledge about their environment. etiquetAR QR codes support learners in gaining knowledge about a particular object or location, contributing to this knowledge with their comments, and sharing messages with others to construct and transform their learning environments.


With etiquetAR anyone can transform any space into an interactive learning space for people to actively reflect, explore and collaborate.


What benefits does it bring to education?


One of the problems in education is that adopting ICT for changing learning practices is not easy. Even when an educational institution wants to innovate, it is usually difficult to discover easy-to use learning tools that can be quickly adopted in real contexts.


This is one of the strongest characteristics of etiquetAR: its simplicity and its adaptability. Anyone, independent of their technological literacy skills, can create, manage and personalise their own collections of tags to conduct innovative and interactive situated learning experiences anywhere, indoors and outdoors.


etiquetAR offers new possibilities to extend the boundaries of the classroom or of educational institutions such as museums. The aim is to encourage practitioners and educational professionals to go beyond the walls of the classroom, equipping them with a simple and cheap way to create their own tag-based learning experiences anywhere.


What is its most innovative aspect?


The most innovative aspect of etiquetAR is that it extends the possibilities of a really cheap technology, QR codes, and transforms it in a technology for education to potentially transform any space into a digitally augmented learning space.


What are you going to work on next?


There are many future plans for etiquetAR. Short-term plans include extending the web application, creating a community of tags. People will be able to share their collections and contribute content to others’. For example, if the MOMA museum had their own collection, practitioners could contribute by adapting this content to their students.


Long-term plans include adding a set of templates to the web application for automatically generating activities with concrete learning objectives: reflecting, collaborating, sharing… This will help practitioners in the design of new activities.


What do you see as the big problem of education today, and how can it be solved?


I think there is not one big problem. I’m sure that if you ask a group of practitioners or educational experts they will give you a list of problems. However, if I had to choose one, I would say that the big problem of education is that it is still a privilege for many people. Not everyone has access to education. And, at this point, I think that technology plays an important role for changing this. Moreover, I think that we, as educational technologists, have the responsibility to make this possible.


What are you looking forward to at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN?


ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN is one of the most important conferences in Europe about technology, education and innovation. For me, it is a great opportunity to learn about the different initiatives that are taking place around technology-enhanced learning. I expect this conference to be a breath of fresh air, a place to get and share ideas, a good starting point for new collaborations.


EC-TEL 2013 took place in Paphos, Cyprus, from the 17 – 21 September this year, and took the theme of “Scaling up learning for sustained impact”. It brought together researchers, practitioners and policy makers to discuss the impact and future of technology-enhanced learning, in an age when ICTs are fundamentally changing lives, but e-learning initiatives often prove hard to sustain when funding stops. This was the conference’s 8th edition.


ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN is proud to feature EC-TEL’s winning demo and the people behind it – not only Mar Pérez Sanagustín, but also Carlos Delgado Kloos, who will be speaking in a session entitled MOOCs and Institutional Challenges about “Scaling e-learning globally”. 

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