I first met Pirjo when I attending the Dare To Learn conference in Helsinki. She was facilitating a workshop called “curriculum 2026 – what should we learn next?”…the title sound really promising! I became fascinated by her pedagogical approach to teaching computational thinking to kids. Basically, kids teach other kids as you will discover in this post! I started to wonder: what if kids were born teachers?
Key highlights of this post:
- 1- Key points about the Finnish Education system
- 2- “What is the Finnish Double flip-pedagogy?”
- 3- How kids can teach each other
- 4- Why and how coding encompasses a wide range of 21st-century skills
- 5- Pirjo view on the three most important changes in the EdTech industry
What If Spirit (WIS): “What can you tell us about the Finnish Education system?”
Pirjo: I truly believe Finnish education can offer an alternative to high-stakes testing and narrowing curricula, which are happening in so many countries currently.
I guess I have a message for those who think that good education is only about money. Finland was seriously poor when it decided to invest in the only natural and renewable resource we have: the kids. Innovations and prosperity followed quality education, not the other way round. Investment in education pays dividends for all.
Finnish education is not perfect either and recent years it has suffered from heavy cuts in funding. However, it is still considered cost-effective and one of the best education systems in the world. Finnish education brings excellent academic results whilst cultivating creativity, curiosity and 21st-century learning skills. Each student has a right to a good education and success at school, thus providing equal opportunities to all.
Finnish students score well in international tests such as Pirls, Timms and PISA.
The differences between the weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Investing in quality education pays dividends for all and creates safer, more sustainable and equitable societies.
Teachers are the key and they need to be supported better so that more young adults choose to teach as their lifetime profession and not just something they do until they find a better job.
What If Spirit: what is the Finnish Double flip-pedagogy?
Pirjo Suhonen: “The flipped classroom-pedagogy means that the lecture and homework change places. Less lecturing and more interaction during the lesson is the main point in the pedagogy with the help of learning videos.” (Khan 2012.)
In the coding lessons, videos were not given as homework, but a coding video was shown at the beginning of lessons. An easily repeated lesson plan for coding was created and instead of asking the teachers to teach the lesson for other children, the responsibility was given to the pupils. Thus, the playful term the “Finnish double flip”.
The Finnish Double Flip – Coding and Collaboration has proved its impact by getting the children excited about teaching others and to continue with improving their own coding skills too. The coding teachers made it to the 2nd and 3rd place in the Robotics Championships in Finland. Their teacher also became excited about coding and continued to teach code and robotics until her retirement last year.
Finnish Double Flip-pedagogy is innovative because it does not only use video but it changes the role of the student to become a teacher.
In the video the Coding Ambassadors explain in their own words what they learned along the process, when they taught over 200 pupils, teachers, local entrepreneurs and even the mayor the basics of coding:
2. What If Spirit: how is coding a 21st-century skill?
Pirjo Suhonen: “It’s not just about the code, but the 21st-century competences (7C lessons: Coding, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical thinking, Curriculum and Competences) which are learned whilst teaching and learning to code. Creativity and critical thinking are needed to be able to solve problems, whilst coding and teaching to others together as a team.
To be able to be a good coder, you need to be able to communicate and collaborate in a team and with other professionals too. The same applies when you collaborate with your classmates and the whole school community, even beyond. Other schools made cycle trips for the coding lessons and the young coding teachers visited the vocational school to teach the entrepreneurs and mayor the magic of coding.
All of the above-mentioned competencies as well as coding are part of the new national curriculum (2016) in Finland.
Learners as teachers is fun and effective way to learn 21st-century skills, which are needed in life. Those children grew along the process and became very efficient presenters and teachers. They are not afraid of standing in front of a class and teach older children, teachers and adults. Quite the opposite!”
3.What If Spirit: how is your solution scalable?
Pirjo Suhonen: “ALO Finland digital teacher training courses are massive open online courses (MOOCS), which offer discussion tools for interaction between learners and instructors. Since I wish to reach out to global educators it needs to be a scalable solution and thus it can be offered affordably, anywhere, anytime and for anyone. Therefore it is also an equitable solution and offers any educator a possibility to become familiar with Finnish education and its practical implementation in preschools and primary education. Through videos, text and plenty of photos educators get to have an online visit to Finnish schools and classrooms as well as meet the pupils and teachers via video.”
4. What are the three most important changes in your industry and in your market over the last 5 years?
Pirjo Suhonen: “I think, the three most important changes will be:
- Integration of tech into ed – I wish to emphasize the value and importance of teachers in the use of technology to support learning.
- Standardized testing – There is still way too much money, time and effort put into tests. Education should be holistic and value more competences, which won’t be able to be measured by ticking boxes.
- Creativity – There are more educators and parents demanding more creativity in teaching and learning, which is great and very much needed. Without creativity, there won’t be future innovators and innovations, which might solve problems, that desperately need to be fixed, such as climate change.”
5. What’s next?
Pirjo Suhonen: “I hope learning and teaching will become more global. There is so much we can learn from each other and it’s pretty easy, fast and free to connect globally nowadays thanks to technology.”