LABLEARNING: DIGITAL MEDIA TO COMBAT EARLY SCHOOL LEAVING
Education is an important source of socioeconomic value for our future, and one of the primary resources for personal development (NSNJ Expert Group, 2010). For this reason, Nations continue investing in them. Nevertheless, education systems do not seem to completely fulfill their mission: every year a high number of students fall out from their education path, both during compulsory education (generally in Europe up to grade 9) and at later stages (Downes, 2011). Early school leavers, also known as “drop-outs”, follow different patterns in different national contexts. However, they harm their own future and jeopardize their social and economic potential (Van Alphen, 2009).
Early school leavers do so usually during their teens, and for many different reasons. In most cases, dropping out seems correlated with socioeconomic disadvantage (Van Alphen, 2009; House of the Oireachtas, 2010) – from the point of view of teachers, this means that they just do not match school (cf. Trueba, Spindler & Spindler, 1989): they seem to be unable to bridge theory and practice, they do not resist sitting down for hours, they cannot concentrate in things they cannot experiment right away, etc. This hinders motivation, in a vicious loop that brings their school performances down and down until they decide to stay home.
LabLearning is a European multilateral project developed under the Comenius framework of the Lifelong Learning Programme (LabLearning, n.d.), committed to create new opportunities for actual or potential early school leavers. The idea is that digital technology might offer a leverage to counter dropping out. Teenagers often use digital media as consumers: listening to music, watching TV, surfing the web, social media, etc. LabLearning workshops, following a Media Education approach (Rivoltella, 2001) and building upon the experience of Computer Clubhouse Network (CCN, n.d.) of MIT in Boston, offer an environment where digital technologies unleash creativity: shooting a music video-clip, presenting a photographic exhibition, telling a multimedia story, designing a social network, etc. Through these or similar challenges, educators and media expert help teenagers to increase their self-efficacy, create links with the community, gain new motivation for learning and stay (or come back) to school.
During the 24 months of the project, LabLearning developed a methodology that was then applied in 8 Labs with teenagers in Italy, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Each Lab was unique in its style: the media challenge proposed, the team composition, experience and skills of the educators, setting (formal or informal) varied according to the specific national settings. While this variety provided a wealth of possible experimentation setting, it posed a challenge in terms of evaluation: what are the key points that make a digital media workshop a successful re-motivation lab? During the evaluation of the project, SUPSI-DFA engaged in a wide collection of qualitative data that offered a multi-faceted vision of the Labs, blending
(a) the learners' voices,
(b) the educators' voices,
(c) the community voices.
Using a Grounded Theory-inspired approach, the analysis showed that diversity of features but consistency of intent lived together in the experimentation.
This presentation will present the LabLearning project, illustrate the actual Labs that were carried out by the partners, and finally focus on the evaluation and its main outcomes.