'Educational institutions must accept the notion that in the future, learning will not be contained by classroom walls, but the experience of learning will expand and as the world of the students expands. There is still great variety between schools in how technology is experienced as well as in terms of the level of digitization in the daily life of schools. For example, proposals to purchase new equipment are often regarded with certain reservations, and students' opportunities to use their own devices are restricted, even though they could be utilised as part of teaching,' Kankaanranta reflects.
Marja Kankaanranta acts as a leader in the Systemic Learning Solutions project (Systech) coordinated by the University of Jyväskylä and funded by Tekes through its Learning Solutions programme. In the project, researchers, businesses and educational institutions cooperate to create digital learning solutions for the global market.
The digital innovations created in the project are tested in practice by the top experts of learning and learning solutions: teachers and students. A key premise of the Systech project is that it should act as a link between experts in the field. Among the benefits offered by the project are fresh research results to support product development work performed in companies and an opportunity for the field testing of learning solutions. Actors in the Systech project include both researchers and entrepreneurs, with teachers, too, becoming involved at the field testing stage.
'Teachers taking part in the project have the opportunity to test solutions developed by companies and to provide valuable expert assessments on their experiences in using the products. This way, we not only test the functionality of the solutions but also enhance knowledge of digital learning tools among teaching professionals,' Kankaanranta says.
Robots and programming at Mäntyniemi School
Fifth-grade students from Mäntymäki School in Kauniainen had the opportunity to learn about robotics guided by their teacher Erkko Pasanen. The project that began with a secret assignment culminated an adventure of robots created by the students on the surface of a distant planet.
'The robotics project was part of the fifth graders' instruction in physics and chemistry. We programmed, tested and analysed the journey of a robotic rover built out of Lego bricks on planets made by third graders as part of their instruction in environmental studies,' class teacher Erkko Pasanen explains.
The cameras for the robots were provided by Ilona IT, a company specialising in educational technology.
'Ilona IT, also a Systech partner, wanted to test cameras and develop a technology package aimed at educational institutions. Together, we considered the practical implementation of the package and adjusted design and scheduling details. Through the cooperation, Ilona IT received support for product development and the students got a new, fun way to learn programming.'
Technology has a strong presence in day-to day work at Mäntymäki School. Instruments used in teaching on a daily basis include tablets, smart boards and audio equipment. In addition, many of the students were familiar with robotics based on last year's studies. According to Pasanen, reasons for the utilisation of technology are numerous.
'Digitisation is a central development both at school and at the workplace. In order for us to be able to prepare our students for the world of work, we have to provide them with the tools used in the daily life of workplaces. At the same time, digital tools also function as a motivating factor for children. They provide different learning experiences where the student has the opportunity to act as a producer of content as opposed to the more traditional role of the passive learner.'
Learning Solutions programme
A Tekes programme that aims to develop internationally competitive learning solutions in cooperation with operators in the field. The programme offers funding and an active community for businesses developing learning solutions. www.tekes.fi/en/learningsolutions
Systemic Learning Solutions project (Systech)
A project funded by Tekes with the objective of promoting teaching and learning with the help of Finnish expertise in pedagogy and technological learning solutions. www.systechlearning.fi
Ilona IT offers solutions, training and support services in the field of educational technology.
Image 1: Marja Kankaanranta, research professor of innovative learning environments.
Photo: SST Viestintä
Image 2: Fifth graders from Mäntymäki School learn about robotics.
Photo: Erkko Pasanen
Author: SST Viestintä