SAIA LEARNING COMMUNITY: A BLENDED PROJECT EXPERIENCE
1 University of Padua (ITALY)
2 Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (ITALY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:The blended learning project SAIA (Sanità Animale e Igiene Alimentare) comes from the analysis of some training needs involving a group of professionals dedicated to animal health and food safety in the Veneto regional health system.
The project, involving 72 food safety professionals (physicians, veterinarians, biologists, chemists, nutritionists and prevention technicians), aims to improve the ability of the regional public health system to manage emergencies related to food risks, but also to foster closer cooperation between services that deal with animal health and food safety.
Within their day-to-day work, there are few practical opportunities for these professionals to exchange information and talk about important work issues and key decisions to be taken in the field.
Consequently, the Veneto Region, in collaboration with IZSve (Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie) and the Faculty of Educational Sciences of University of Padua, has set up an ICT project involving the Learning Management System (LMS) Moodle to facilitate the communication and exchange of opinions, best working practices, and knowledge among food safety professionals. This educational technology implements training activities provided by an online training program, as well as offering a space managed by the participants themselves, in which they can construct a broader sense of community.
This paper shows how the project has evolved over time, its objectives, contents and design. It also shows the technological choices made, and the range of Web 2.0 tools adopted to boost information and digital competences. In this manner the participants could improve their capability to share resources, to solve problems together, to adopt narrative and representative strategies through the method of Digital Storytelling.
The framework is also supplemented by online participant observation that reveals some thematic nodes arising from ethnographic interviews. These empirical data help us to discern the strengths and limitations of participation in an online community.
We also report on the experiences gained by public health professionals in their use of new technologies, especially because they rarely use ICT to communicate with one another in their work. What also emerged was the way in which technologies can be effectively integrated to adapt to a series of changes concerning their work and their organizational dynamics.
Keywords: Blended learning, professional learning community, educational technology.