Pirjo Suhonen | Opinion | 04.12.17

ICT and Computer Science in Finland

Integrating technology into education is a challenge in Finland and worldwide. The new national curriculum framework for primary education in Finland introduces information and communication technology (ICT) as one of the competences students should gain at school. The core curriculum also discusses computational thinking and coding as the means to reach the target. It states that programming (coding) should be part of all education and should be connected to the subject matters of various lessons.

Computer science nurtures problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. Linda Liukas (2015) argues that the world is increasingly run by software and we need more diversity among those people who are building it. Not all students will be software developers or writers, doctors or translators, but we are already surrounded by technology and even more so in the future. The main point is to provide a basic understanding of society, living environment and fields of science and thus provide equal opportunities for all the learners. Understanding how computers work and how to use them well, gives children skills and knowledge to succeed in global competition and life generally.

Children are often regarded as information technology savvy, but their IT readiness can be very narrow. In most cases, they only play entertainment games with a computer and use the social media. The term digital natives can be misleading and results to not teaching children the adequate IT skills.

According to OECD’s 2012 PISA study about the connections between the use of the computer and learning results, almost all (99%) of Finnish adolescents 15-16 years of age who participated in the study had access to the Internet at home. One fifth of Finnish young people have been using Internet for the first time at age 6, and the majority (80%) has commenced use of the Internet no later than the age of 9. Strikingly, however, despite early initiation of the Internet for young people, young Finns instrumental use of the technology and the acquisition of information management have repeatedly stated as quite inadequate. Young people also evaluate their own skills as poor. (eg. Kaarakainen & Kivinen 2015; Kiili 2012; OECD, 2011.)

To use, teach and learn with technology most effectively requires skilled teachers, innovative pedagogy and continuous teacher training. An OECD study reports that the successful integration of technology in education is not just about choosing the right device or digital book or how much time to spend with them. In many cases, the teachers were not prepared to use teaching methods, which utilize technology in the best way. The important element for success in digitalization is the teachers, school leaders and other decision makers who have the vision and the ability to build a link between the students, computers and learning. (Avvisati 2015.)

School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world. Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change. (Schleicher 2015.)

Bio:
Pirjo Suhonen completed a Masters thesis on Educational Technology in 2016. During her undergraduate studies - specialising in Social Services - she realised that preventative social care is very effective and that education is a powerful way to impact on individuals, society and the future. Thus, she concentrated on educational studies and received a Preschool Teaching qualification from the University of Turku, Finland.

Pirjo is a strong believer in life-long learning and she enjoys experimenting with innovative teaching and learning practices. She has varied work experience in education and care settings in Finland, England, France and Belgium. Working in the multinational and multicultural environment of the European School of Brussels was a rewarding experience for Pirjo and proved the birthplace of ALO Finland: the digital teacher training hub for Finnish education 2.0. Team teaching, environmental education, multi-disciplinary and phenomenal learning, gamification and coding are good examples of Finnish education 2.0. and are strong areas of interest for Pirjo.

References:

Avvisati, F. 2015. Does technology help students learn. OECD research. Available at http://edtechreview.in/

Kaarakainen & Kivinen 2015; Kiili 2012; OECD, 2011. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290306171_Tiedonhakutaidot_testissa_-_nuorten_osaaminen_hakukanavan_valinnassa_hakulausekkeen_muotoilussa_ja_hakutulosten_arvioinnissa

Liukas, L. 2014. Maailma on koodaajien. Campus Helsinki. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Hto6pNFCQ4

Schleicher, A. OECD, 2015. Available at http://www.oecd.org/education/new-approach-needed-to-deliver-on-technologys-potential-in-schools.htm

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