Project ODYSSEAS (Integrated Network of School and Educational Regeneration in Achaia, Thrace and the Aegean) started in the end of 1996, in the bounds of the broader targets of the Greek Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs (YPEPTH), aiming at introducing Informatics in schools. The Research University Institute - Computer Technology Institute (CTI) is the main partner in the implementation of the project. The Hellenic Pedagogical Institute (HPI) and the Institute for Language and Speech Processing (ILSP, departments of Xanthi and Athens) are cooperative sponsors of the implementation of the project, while YPEPTH supervises its whole progress. The duration of the project is expected to be 36 months and its total funding comes up to 2,9 million ECUs.
Project ODYSSEAS is the succession of similar efforts in the recent past (networks “Akritikos Tilemahos” and “Pilot Network of Schools in Achaia”) and owes to utilize the conclusions (both positive and negative ones) drawn from the development and operation of these networks.
The goal of this project is, generally speaking, the design, development and pilot operation of an integrated network of schools composed of approximately 60 school laboratories, which will be probably used by more school units, in the areas of Achaia, Thrace and a part of the Aegean islands with the incorporation and utilisation of network technologies (Local Area Networks and Internet) in order to support teaching, upgrade the cultural level of pupils and support various administrative needs of the educational community.
More specifically, the following activities are expected:
The nature project is a pilot one from a technological, organizational and educational point of view, for the following reasons:
Project ODYSSEAS will be developed, taking into consideration the following modern, basic pedagogic principles:
We must emphasize the special importance of developing network software and services, as necessary preconditions for the substantial pedagogic exploitation of the network and its incorporation in everyday school life. More specifically, the following tasks will be developed:
1) Network study of knowledge objects: as part of the project, analytical scripts of teaching will be designed and the corresponding network software for about 15 studies concerning 3 knowledge objects (for example Geography, Physics, Mathematics, chosen at the first stage of the project) will be developed.
Each study will include: (a) a script processed in a pedagogic way (educational goals, object, interaction), (b) the necessary software accompanied with a user’s manual, (c ) instructions for the pedagogic utilization of the provided material and (d) a detailed evaluation of the above in a laboratorial environment and by putting it in practice in class by teachers and pupils.
The utilization of the network refers to:
2) Network software for teaching the Greek language
ILSP will develop educational material (which will be available through the network) relevant to the study of Greek language for Greek children who speak Greek as a mother language and for children who speak little or no Greek because they come from a foreign country. Examples of the second case are the repatriated Pontioi who live mainly in Thrace.
The material developed for teaching Greek as a mother language will explore in greater detail the structural and functional rules of the language. In that way, the pupils will be taught the language with its formalism (rules, exceptions etc.). The material developed for teaching Greek as a foreign language will basically concern the elementary structural and functional phenomena of the language and its vocabulary in order to make pupils capable of participating to everyday activities and understanding the other courses taught at school.
Independently of the form the material will be implemented in, it will be presented through World Wide Web pages and pages of "Tilemahos" (a project of HPI based on Lotus Notes), so there is the possibility to use multimedia, which means embodiment of pictures and sound (limited in size). The material will constitute of three basic parts:
The whole material on the network will be available to be printed so that pupils will be able to do their homework even on paper.
3) Applications of cultural studies
In the bounds of the development of tools to upgrade the cultural level within schools, an environment supporting selective access to information on the Internet and material (a few hundreds of sites all over the world and all proper Greek sites with checked educational information) in subjects like arts (music, painting, dance, theater, cinema), museums and civilizations, environment, institutions, national cultural heritage and recreation (tourist information, sports), that pupils will use in studies wihin their projects.
Additionally, in order to support the environmental studies of pupils and upgrade their cultural level in an organized way, about 10 specific studies will be developed with different objects of cultural content, like environmental pollution, commercial trades, modern means of transportation, prospectives in the use of water resources on earth, appearance of big cities and problems of the way of living, overpopulation explosion, European civilizations and the route towards the European Union and matters of vocational orientation.
These studies will be similar to the corresponding studies of the three knowledge subjects mentioned above, but they will be more oriented towards the use of Internet as a means of retrieving information in order to write reports/surveys. Specialized network software supporting this activity will be designed and developed.
4) Applications of administrative support
The software under development here, which will be supported by an integrated programming of introduction and utilization by the members of the educational community, will focus on the needs of organization, administration and communication of the school unit. The software will operate in the local network of the school and will be connected with the regional headship and through them with the Headships of Studies and Personnel of the second level of Education of YPEPTH. Its design will be a bottom-up approach of the integrated information system of the educational community and, if YPEPTH allows it, it will be an extension of the information system of YPEPTH to the school units.
5) Network services and Internet services
At the main nodes of the network under construction, software providing the following network services will be developed:
Pupils can create their own presentations focused on subjects of their interest and make them available for public use. For example, a group of pupils interested in space missions could collect material from various sites on the Internet, process it and write a guided tour on the subject (including probably a translation of texts from a foreign language to Greek). Special motives for pupils and teachers, like awarding a prize to the best presentations, are expected to be offered in the bounds of the project to make pupils and teachers occupy themselves with such activities. Furthermore, the on-line participation in distance seminars, discussions and lectures through image and sound (experimentation and evaluation) will be encouraged and mechanisms filtering the access to undesirable sites on the Internet will be taken into consideration.
CTI has already developed tools for spelling check and syllabication as well as thesaurus of synonyms, antonyms, relevant words and relevant expressions of the Greek language. In the bounds of the development of the environment for the cultural studies and basic network services support, CTI will dispose the tools mentioned above and will shape them properly for the presentation creation and Internet access environment.