SOURCE: City of Helsinki

City of Helsinki

June 14, 2016 10:05 ET

Helsinki Schools Digitalize Learning

Schools Transform to Equip Students for the Knowledge Society

HELSINKI, FINLAND--(Marketwired - June 14, 2016) - A new program to digitalize school education in Helsinki integrates information and communication technology with schoolwork, fundamentally altering teaching and learning processes at all school levels from preschool to secondary education.

"The program introduces a new pedagogical culture to schools with the help of the added value provided by ICT, putting thinking skills back to the core of learning. The goal is well-learning enabled by digital technology," says digitalization program leader Pasi Silander of the City of Helsinki Education Department.

The program stems from the awareness that school lags behind the digital progress of society and the workplace, failing to meet the requirements of the knowledge society. The current use of digital technology at schools relies on traditional methods of instruction, failing to bring added value to learning.

In Helsinki's new school culture, ICT is integrated with learning processes in pedagogically meaningful ways, enriching the processes and enabling new pedagogical solutions. With the help of technology, students learn by actively searching for information, instead of passively receiving information. Learning happens by the processing of information and by problem solving. Use of digital technology becomes a systematic and everyday activity at schools.

The new culture eliminates authoritarian approaches, and learning relies on the students' active participation in knowledge building, which largely happens in collaborative situations and by utilizing social networks. The gap between formal and informal learning narrows. Each student follows a personal study path aided by digital technology.

One of the approaches for learning enabled by ICT in Helsinki, already applied on the upper levels of general education and to be expanded to lower levels, is phenomenon-based learning: students focus on large, real-life phenomena, such as the human being and the media, analyzing the phenomena together by combining the teachings of various studies and information from other sources.

A key tool for all students above the elementary levels is the ePortfolio. This is a personal electronic folder used by students to collect, to analyze, and to produce information. The ePortfolio is also used for student evaluation.

Electronic learning materials replace traditional schoolbooks. Traditional classrooms give way to multi-modal working environments, in which students no longer sit in rows. Learning environments expand from the school building to other institutions in the surrounding society. Learning is no longer organized into traditional classes only but can happen in workshops, in projects and on the job in vocational education.

In the program development phase in 2016, sixty pilot schools in Helsinki carry out digital learning experiments under the above themes with the purpose of developing new best practices to be shared by all schools. A key component of the program is the empowerment of schools to develop their own digital cultures.

In the digitalized school, the roles of teachers and students change. Teachers no longer feed information to students but activate and guide students. Students are no longer targets of instruction but active agents in learning processes.

Starting in 2016, the Helsinki program to digitalize school education will progress in phases through 2019.

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