School teachers across Europe can now swap learning resources with each other and collaborate in creating new ones, thanks to a new service launched by a consortium of European education ministries. Information technology makes it possible for children to learn in a more active and engaged way than conventional teaching methods. But good digital teaching materials are time-consuming and expensive to create, so many ministries of education have set up national repositories of resources that schools can use as they wish.
But why stop at national borders? If an animated simulation of an internal combustion engine is of value to schools in Norway, say, would it not also be useful to teachers in other countries? Small countries, in particular, could benefit from sharing resources with their neighbours. That is the thinking behind CALIBRATE, an EU-funded project to create a continent-wide swap shop for digital learning resources. It builds on CELEBRATE, an earlier project demonstrating that national repositories of learning resources could be 'federated' so that schools could offer and exchange resources across national borders. CELEBRATE ended in 2004, but so successful was it that the participating governments wanted to take it further. 'They wanted to move from a demonstration project to a service that we could actually launch for schools,' says Jim Ayre of Multimedia Ventures, a consultant to the European Schoolnet consortium which is coordinating the project. 'CALIBRATE provided an opportunity for us to do this.'