Technology in Education Research Group (TEdu) | Institute of Behavioural Sciences | University of Helsinki
In principle, Finnish schools have excellent possibilities for making use of the new digital technologies, but only some schools test and use new methods and new equipment in any diversity of ways or with any success. A great number of schools seem to be stuck in their old ways. Some reasons for the differences in the pace of development can be found in the ways of working in these schools.
At the beginning of the current millennium, we studied schools in the city of Espoo and developed our first model in which we presented the factors that seem to influence the development of schools via technology. The theoretical background consisted of three parts: studies on the development of schools, e.g. the ideas of Dr. Michael Fullan, well-known in Finland; the ideas concerning Computer Supported Collaborative Learning as represented by e.g. Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia; and studies on the use of ICT and the respective skills, which we had also conducted ourselves.
In 2008–2011, we participated in the project Educational Technology At School’s Everyday Life, funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation TEKES, in which we collected data on new schools. Our school model was made more precise and simple, and we also studied the phenomena from the point of view of innovation research. The model was given the name Innovative, Progressive School.
Principals Lead School Communities to Common Goals
Success factors for innovation are easy to find. The role of the principal should not be underestimated: the principal is the primus motor that eventually will make the community proceed in one direction.
Visions and goals common to all of the teacher community are necessary for the school community to develop as a whole. The culture of working together must be embedded into the school structures – it should not depend on voluntary efforts. Similarly, every teacher must carry the responsibility of the way of working and be involved in teams that carry responsibility. No teacher can play the game alone anymore!
Common practices and models help everyone, as solutions already agreed upon save the teachers’ and pupils’ time and help them concentrate on the essential issue.
The essential issue is pedagogy: learner-centred education in which students work together, dealing with phenomena and problems in a goal-oriented manner.
Inadequate Digital Skills Abound
Digital technology is a tool with which we may achieve more autonomy and, at the same time, more sense of community in working. Many studies show us that students’ digital skills are uneven and do not always suffice as far as using information sources or searching for information. Good pedagogical practices supported by appropriate digital technologies provide students with technological skills that they could not reach through web surfing with friends.
At school as easily as elsewhere, we might become enthusiastic about all sorts of new technical bells and whistles, but it is more difficult to use these technologies with good pedagogical sense. Those schools and teachers are successful that plan the way forward together and then systematically proceed in the direction agreed upon.