Looking back to my first month in our LET studies, I could summarize it as having done lots and lots of team work and trying out multible Web2.0 tools. There has been more of this than traditional lectures which I had been used to in my previous studies back in the 90’s. On our Introduction to Learning and Educational Technology -course we have been reading many different articles (about CSCL and educational technology, for example), discussing them in groups, and finally producing presentations together, usually with some software on a tablet. On our ICT workshop we have been working in pairs and trying out different Web2.0 tools together, the teacher being there to help us in any tricky situation where we might need help. So we are not merely taught the facts and figures about collaborative learning and computer-supported collaborative learning, we are doing it in practise.
On our ICT workshop the approach to learning about educational technology has been such that we have quite literally started a quest to explore different tools with little intervention from the teacher’s side. First the quest seemed almost daunting, but now that I think of it, this is probably a better way to learn compared to if the teacher had given us lectures about the different software. So, working in collaboration we learn gradually to use the tools, and hopefully proceed in our learning to be able to use them in a pedagogically meaningful way. Learn to use, and then use to learn!
On the other day I was reading the strategy of Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE), “Education and Training 2020”. I was strugg by the grand visions set there, as for example:
“Finland will become the leading developer of learning culture in the world. Learning and teaching will emphasise collaborative approaches, involvement and interaction, combined with building knowledge and competence. Everyone will be guaranteed equal opportunities to process and produce information and to make efficient use of information and communications technology in support of learning.
Electronic learning materials and diverse learning environments will form a key part of learning and teaching. Determined solutions will guide development of digital infrastructures and digital skills at all levels of education.”
I could not help thinking that are these more pipe dreams, or can this become a reality. There’s a whole lot of work to be done, that’s for sure. But if I were to choose a country where I could imagine this becoming true, it most likely would be Finland. Or what do you thing about this: I just heard that the city of Vantaa in Finland has decided to give tablets (altogether 16.000 pieces) to each student in the city’s schools, and the schools are also gradually moving away from books to digital learning material. Every student has a tablet of their own, and can use them at school, so (unfortunately, in my mind) they are not able to take them home. Anyhow, I’m impressed how progressive this is, and happy that all children there are given an equal chance to use technology for learning. One student in Vantaa commented that “now that we have tablets and the net in our use, the whole world is our learning environment”. He put it pretty well, didn’t he. (You can find the article here in Finnish.)
A few words still about collaborative learning. I mentioned the 21st century skills, the 4C’s: Communication (sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions), Collaboration (working together to reach a goal), Critical thinking (looking at problems in new ways), and Creativity (trying new approaches to get things done) in my previous post, and I have still been thinking about these, how vital these skills are for young people to obtain and to use in the future in their working life. If I was a teacher I would probably make use of collaborative learning a lot because in my mind in collaborative learning you get to practise exactly these skills. Also, bringing educational technology into the play gives a change for the students to, well, as the boy in Vantaa said “have the whole world as a learning environment”.
One note still about collaborative learning, a personal note about something I’ve noticed: I find myself constantly observing, regulating and reflecting. I observe the learning environment, my own emotions and motivation, other student’s behavior and emotions, the teachers’ agenda and perhaps even the hidden agenda (by hidden agenda I mean the things the teacher possibly wants us to learn, but does not say that to us directly when giving a task for us to do). I keep wondering, in the group tasks especially, about what does the teacher want us to learn, what I’m hoping to learn, what do I end up learning, and what do the others learn. I’m hoping to understand these things better when our course about Self-regulated learning starts.