The scientific and engineering approaches used to discover and explore these phenomena will consider the following aspects:

Generation and provision of source data

Here, a small number of remote sites will be established which generate data. Among these will be an observatory with a high quality telescope and a seismic measurement station in Chile. Technological challenges lie in the ease of use in accessing these data and in communicating the learners' requests and specifications to the remote sites. The stress is put on re-usable components and protocols which are not only tailored to the specific case.

Construction of realities

The "construction of realities" includes the setting of (real) experiments, the provision of 3D virtual scenarios, artefacts that support other types of perceptual experience (e.g. tactile experience). An important point here is the use of "mixed reality" technologies which allow for a smooth transition between the physical and the digital worlds.

Concrete modelling & design

The notion of concrete modelling and design refers to the use of concrete representations to model and simulate the phenomena to be studied. These range from 3D models which include sound and tactile I/O to physical models with IT components (e.g. Lego Mindstorms). Here, we do not expect to invent new genuine technologies but we want to adopt existing state-of-art techniques to educational needs.

Abstract and conceptual modelling

The question is to bring "paper work" (formulae, diagrams, sketches) used to analyse and describe the phenomena into the digital information cycle. This will be achieved through a combination of visual concept mapping tools with more formal representations such as "system dynamics" or other mathematical and computational formalisms.
Beyond the science and engineering methodologies, we want to stress the aspect of formation of learning communities on different levels. Based on the known difficulties encountered with "virtual learning" approaches, we will start with local communities which share a rich everyday context as e.g. in a school class or in study group of academic students. (One partner will explore similar basic scenarios in academic distance education.) The target groups will range from higher secondary education to academic beginners.

A rich potential of human resources will be taken into account (teachers, tutors, peer interaction). Collaboration and networked interaction will arise from these basic groups, using both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration techniques. Yet, we do not simply intend to add both techniques but we see them related in a specific way: Synchronous collaboration tools (which may b.t.w. not only be used in remote scenarios but also in face-to-face group work!) should contribute to forming a "group memory" which must also be available in asynchronous mode. Conversely, the use of archives and repositories should also be tightly integrated with synchronous activities. We still see big technical challenges in integrating these two learning modes under the notion of easy re-use and formation of group memories.

Only on a second level, basic learning communities will exchange their ideas, results and problems in an international network.

We expect teachers to take an active role in creating, filling with content and structuring this network. The specialty of CoLDEx, on this level, lies in its origination from a European-Latin American cooperation incentive (Eurolat-IS). CoLDEx is in this sense trans-continental: Whereas science and engineering are typically seen as "neutral" to different cultural and geographic backgrounds (which might also be questioned), this is certainly not the case for the "experiential" level. It is evident that, e.g., Swedish high school students would benefit from communicating with their South American counterparts to better understand the concrete meaning of seismic phenomena in everyday situations. Other areas in which we expect a mutual enrichment are the discussion of social aspects of living with perceptual disabilities or the discussion of different environmental conditions. But even when it comes to modelling and constructing scientific understanding, we believe that cross-cultural fertilisation will occur.

The CoLDEx group has ideal conditions for addressing the cross-cultural aspects since the core teams are themselves multilingual. The group will produce and share learning material not only in the national languages but also in Spanish. An adaptation to Portuguese is possible if there is enough demand. An "open user scheme" will invite educational institutions in Latin America to join the CoLDEx community and use this material in their practice. In return, these associated users will report their experience and contribute to enrich the international educational network of CoLDEx.

As for the creation of learning communities, CoLDEx can count on existing experience with several partners as e.g. in Chile (participation in the existing nation-wide network ENLACES) and Sweden (local teacher and school network in the area of Växjö) as well as on the large user groups of the associated "science museums" or "exploratoriums" (Deutsches Museum, Experiment Huset). The consortium will be able to face the complex technological challenges since it can count on a rich body of existing experience and achievements which originate from several European projects with direct relevance to CoLDEx.