Finland Cycle 1 – PD 1

Date and Time: 27.1.2011, 13.30 – 15.30

Participants: Three secondary school teachers: language teacher, math/computer teacher, Finnish language teacher

Researchers / Designers: Teemu, Anna

Scenarios discussedCollaborative Media ProjectTeacher Support NetworkLibrary as learning space

Main points:

1. Collaborative media project

  • The age of participants and the school subjects are questioned. Within middle school (classes 7-9) the subjects are so differentiated that this would be easier to do with 5/6 graders.
  • Maybe together with Arts and ICT (computer/media), if city planning is understood as architecture. Then the media project is easier to place and this kind of collaboration with subjects would be possible with voluntary subjects in grades 7-9.
  • Possibility to join different study-subjects in one project.
  • One of the teachers has already done film productions as parts of foreign language teaching (english). Students made their own films, usually veering towards thrillers or detective stories, with requirements for using specific syntactic structures like imperatives etc. in the script and while directing. In a sense it had its rubric there, when these requirements were specified and the works evaluated. The other learning goal was to learn to use the technology required, editing software, principles of editing, music et cetera.
  • The goal in scenario, developing research skills, is questionable. There should be some framing of the research problem, introducing the methods and the traditions of the research. Maybe more of this with older students.
  • There is some kind of mini-research projects already with 3rd grade students, but it is mainly about finding knowledge from different sources.
  • Bigger issue within finnish culture is reaching out from school to outside experts. Contacting and asking help from parents or other familiar people is feasible, but the threshold for calling to unknown people and ask if they could help is too high.
  • Often in school culture parents (or other parties) are connected when there is a problem – this frames the collaboration.
  • One had good experience with borrowed video editing expertise and equipment from Nuorisoasiainkeskus, but then again the contact was made by asking from city planning office if they would have anyone to recommend.
  • It is not part of school culture to have outsiders there. Usually it is a sign of trouble, or that something has gone wrong.
  • Organizing “camp schools” (overnight school trips) is one reason for contacting outsiders. But they are unique events and always require a lot of extra effort from class teacher.
  • There is a systemic level challenges when trying to fit this kinds of projects to curriculum or learning goals. What needs to be learned is described in such way that it is best achieved with standard methods, but what is actually learned in projects is missing from curricula.
  • We would need assessment that is looking learning results gained with this kind of methods.
  • In Finland we do not have schools that are based on the idea of “open learning environment”, schools without classrooms where there are laboratories, media laboratory etc. for students to workout their study work.
  • Time, it is always away from something else that should be taught.
  • Motivation, making sure that groups are on their tasks and not just fooling around.
  • Responsibility. It is a great risk to let students outside the school during a schoolday, as everything that happens is still at teacher’s responsibility. Even with parent’s permission, it is still teacher’s responsibility and the burden of proof is with teacher to prove that every possible safety instruction was given.
  • A project requires a lot of preparation, every phase should be planned beforehand, who is doing what and when, and what should be done after that, what are the roles. A challenge is for the teacher to find time for this preparatory work or maybe find an existing, good enough plan. Also the plan should really be motivating and interesting for all of the students, and deep enough that those who want just to skim through cannot do it in 15 minutes.
  • Using an existing plan from someone else is not a problem. Some adjustment will happen, of course, but generally the idea of following an exact structure with 1 a) b) c) is very familiar for teachers — exercises are organized like that, after all.
  • Because projects often don’t fit that well to existing curriculum, they are often understood as a play time, when you don’t have to do any learning. Worst examples are the theme days, when there is actually an awakening to that, oh this had some learning purpose too.
  • These matrices or rubrics can help to remind that there are learning goals in every phase. It will make the progress a bit more satisfying for students when they can mark tasks completed.
  • There are currently no video cameras for every group, but they can be shared or pupils can use their own equipment. No need for high quality, mobile phone video cameras could be enough.
  • There are ‘resource teachers’ at some schools who can be borrowed to participate in other classes and can give their expertise, for example in computers or video. This kind of support would be necessary for teachers to be not limited by their technical knowledge. One of the interviewed had as a resource teacher helped a finnish teacher to make a wiki project.

2. Teacher support network

  • This has been tried out and a challenge is to get people in it outside the “contact people”. It distributes very slowly. For instance, teacher training schools have their networks, for example teacher trainees in physics and chemistry have their working collaboration and exchange network.
  • With older teachers there may be key persons in schools involved in networks, but difficult to mainstream to everyone. Works well for those key persons.
  • Participating and following networks takes time and time is not available, but many teachers are already following their own field – trying to keep track of latest development in their subject area.
  • Some schools have teachers to work in pairs preparing classes and it is found a good model.
  • Teacher network is feasible if networks are introduced as a part of the whole learning and teaching culture and system — something that teachers, pupils and everyone does. Some kind of online learning environment could be introduced as a part of the whole system and teachers would join. Wilma of the City of Helsinki is a good example of taking new tools in use.
  • Many of the new educational technologies (interactive whiteboards, slides / pictures from web etc.) are just replicating existing teaching style. Its not disruptive – it should be. When technology will provide students access to the entire world and then used in teaching and learning it is a new situation.
  • With full wall projection, made possible from any of the students laptops/devices in a 1t:1 class teacher would provide randomly screen of each student to the shared screen with possibility to stop and go back to some of them. This would naturally require that there is a clear objective and well-set instruction for students‘ individual or group work with the laptops/devices.
  • Teacher told a story: It was not long-time ago when I said to one student in a class: please could you now put away your mobile phone. He replied: sorry I am just checking what is lagoon, because you explained it in some strange way. Teacher realized that it was true, she was not exactly sure if her explanation was exact or good at all.
  • Ideal class would be that there is a space for using laptops/devices and then space for discussion and other activities. The class could be fully without school desks at all.
  • Today we use paper notebooks very similar way how we imagine laptop/devices to be use. With the notebooks students do their own study work: write, do exercise etc. The possibility to continue other students work and work together in a wiki-way is a real promise that is difficult to implement with paper notebooks.

3. Library as learning space

  • Schools already try to unify tools available in each class, so that switching classrooms wouldn’t cause problems for teachers.
  • Document cameras have surprisingly low resolution.
  • In Lukio, there is only 20 minutes of dedicated time for whole class issues (‘luokanvalvojatunti’) weekly. Students form groups more based on interests and friendships than classes and tend to then choose same courses.
  • Friendship-based groups do not have any specific own space for them.
  • Classrooms end up looking like their teacher or their main subject matter.
  • Decorating and furnishing the classroom is extraneous work, once you get interested in making the classroom nice, you can spend endless amount of effort in it.
  • Culture has been shifting to more comfortable and friendly classrooms. Colorful sofas have been brought to corridors and libraries. There is also intent to display more student works everywhere.
  • Less props for teachers than used to be, more for students.

Scenario

  • Scenario doesn’t feel very realistic, too positivistic: all things presented in course of the day are directly serving school learning, when usually it isn’t so.
  • Using library to reach resources that would be otherwise unavailable is a great idea. Searches beyond googling are not widely used yet.
  • There is a school library, otherwise as described in scenario, but still has a technical challenge of providing wlan for all students.
  • Knowledge finding, critical reading and copyrights are difficult skills. Especially copyright is very difficult to understand. It is easily assumed that if something can be found in internet, it is allowed to take and copy it. And if some copyright issues are recognized, they are argued against by saying that ‘I won’t pay, I don’t have money’. Issues of copyright, knowing them and teaching them would require national effort.
  • Letting students publish something in the internet requires understanding of copyright to avoid students getting into trouble with it.
  • Teacher trainees also have difficulties in understanding copyright.
  • The whole ethics of copyright and information reuse are interesting to discuss with students, but it is difficult to be on solid ground with the facts.

Teacher’s assumptions on what we are doing in iTEC

  • Learning content for tablets
  • Learning environments that make possible to use new devices
  • Tools for project work
  • There already are lots of learning environments, won’t be needing these
  • Children need to have their personal devices, projects and working methods don’t feel natural without them.
  • Something to support communication and presenting self, not only through devices.
  • Cloud-based environment, where everything is approachable from students own interests, not dictated from teacher.
  • Device-independent communication
  • One teacher has made research on how does a review/guidance session change when it can be replayed and revisited. (As an example how social web changes interaction).
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