sábado, 28 de abril de 2018

Last hour reflections in Tallin: Finland isn't quite far

They have been very intense days and I learned a lot about the Finnish and Estonian educational systems. I had the opportunity to observe some meaningful insights and this is my conclusion: Finland isn’t quite far. In Spain and particularly in JABY school we have all the elements of the Finnish and Estonian success. 

So, where’s the difference? Like in chemistry, everything is not about the elements, but about the balance between them. In the case of Finland they were tuning their educational system since 50’s of the past century with the same law, but “purified” in the last forty years. They have a formula that really works in their society, but not necessarily in others. 

Estonians understood this quite well and learned from Finnish, although catching the elements that could be useful for them. They had three different educational laws since the foundation of the country almost twenty years ago and they don’t have any problem about it (as a very remarkable different with Spanish teachers, who are always blaming about this topic in our country as a simplistic explanation of our educational problems). It’s almost unbelievable to see how this country found its own balance so quickly and how nowadays they are trying to turn in to the first country to implant a 1:1 system. 

For me, that only means one thing: we must leave behind our complexes, talk more with our European colleagues to see what works or not, and reflect serious, honest and deeply about how to balance all that elements in order to achieve a system coherent and consistent with our society and our way of living. There’s no other choice if we really want to push our educational system to its best. 

Let’s start today. 

Helsinki panoramic view from Suomenlinna

viernes, 27 de abril de 2018

Fifth and last day, DLG and overview on Estonian educational system

First of all we did a gamified quiz to remember what we saw yesterday and introduce new elements, reflecting and discussing about every answer we gave. After that, Mr. Siallots gave us a more detailed overview of the digital learning games creation process. Then, as we did yesterday, teamwork experience: workshop designing a gamification in groups and discussion to improve the teams proposals.


Between the lunch and the last session I was invited by my colleagues Panagiota Argyri (Greek delegation) to participate in a Scientix on line meeting about STEM and Erasmus + (in the framework of the STEM Discovery Week). Unfortunately the WiFi connection wasn’t quite good and our devices couldn’t support the streaming with enough quality. My colleague and the Scientix team decided to record a video instead of streaming as was scheduled. You can see the recording with our brief intervention by clicking in the image below. 

The last session was in charge or professor Mart Laanpere, who gave us an overview of the Estonian educational system. These are some insights that I would like to remark:
  • In Estonia education is a religion and internet access is considered a Human right. 
  • They learn from Finnish educational system and now they raise them in many fields according to PISA results. 
  • They invest a lot of money in education, but has a some difficult problems: for example, the teacher’s average age is 47 (but with the highest education).
  • As Finnish, Estonians focuses a lot in meta cognition skills. 
  • Estonian parents trust in teachers, although they don’t have the same recognition level as Finnish.
  • They’re now developing  BYOD national program, because they don’t have enough budget to buy an iPad to each student but 90% has their own one. 

I expended my last evening in Tallin visiting the most remarkable monuments of the city, of course. After that I went with some colleagues (Greece, Croatia, Spain) to have dinner to celebrate a kind of goodbye party, because most of us (me included) will not assist tomorrow to the augmented reality tour across Tallin. 

jueves, 26 de abril de 2018

Fourth day, DLG in Tallin

Today we attended to Tallin University and assisted to Martin Siallots classroom. He’s nowadays in charge of DLG Master (Digital Learning Games) in this institution. After a brief presentation of his curriculum to introduce himself as an expert, the learning finally began. 


One of the most important keys for game designers (and also digital learning games) its playability as principal sign of quality, but in DLG it must be linked to subjects and contents. 

Martin started his example of a DLG with Gazzilionarie, a simulation game related to reach another planet and sell it. Continues with JA Titan (can be used it as a class or a course), wich is a similar simulation game as Gazzilionarie, about economics (it doesn’t works on tablet). It’s business educational goals are: in one hand, demand and supply; in the other hand, market balance, productivity, marketing, research and budgeting.

Of course this examples are not visually attractive but it’s goal isn’t to be beautiful. You can use commercial games to be used seriously in the classroom. Martin explains the case of “World of Harry Potter” in which the a teacher from Netherlands designed an interesting proposal: students plays the game at home, select one character and write an essay about it (this way he achieved his students to be seduced by story and finally to read the books).


Martin gave us new examples: “eco house” (a energy safe simulator) and “Busy workers” (a simulator about safety at work) and “TIMESH” (game for teaching history of Europe). It’s a pity, but after three years of development was closed because they don’t get enough money to update the game.

Professor Siallots underlined that to define evaluation criteria for games could help to develop critical thinking and learning-to-learn competence (when students design their own games or test and compares different games, of course). After this overview on DLG he gave us some guidelines on game designing process in order to develop our own proposals during the workshops in the second part of the morning. It was a very inspiring and useful experience, followed of the not less meaningful discussion about our novel designs. 


We also assisted to several presentations of DLG Master students and participate in three different workshops they organized. Mine was related an app to improve ecological skills in students (about separating garbage) and we had a very interesting conversation with its developer, in which also had the opportunity to gave her some meaningful feedback about in which way she could improve the game. 

After this intense and enriching session, I had a walk in the medieval streets of Tallin with some of my colleagues. I rested a few minutes in my hotel and then I went to the old town in order to have dinner with some other colleagues in the pintoresque “Olde hansa” (a restaurant without electric light, with medieval ambience, where you can taste some typical Estonian food). 


miércoles, 25 de abril de 2018

Wednesday, the third and transition day

We attended today at a group that investigates and compares games in the University of Helsinki. There We join a video conference call (via Google Hangouts) with Pasi Touminen, chief of Verke national centre of expertise for digital youth work in Finland.

He underlined that it’s important for teachers to recognize that this video game phenomenon will not decrease, but will probably grow more and more. So this represents an key social impact on education that it´s necessary to integrate it in our teaching skills. 


Gamers usually have few social skills, so this group trains youth people that needs to develop it by: talking about their common passion, partnership, SomeCamp, MOOCs and sessions as part of larger training events. As result of their work, they produces paper and digital publications, blogs, vlogs, podcast, etc...

In the second part of the morning we expend the time on testing one of the games that the crew of TeachingGaming showed to us on Monday morning, and probably the most interesting one: Democracy 3. This is a microworld that allows students to see how policies has an impact on society, so this improves decision making and 21 st century skills. First we played three or four turns (more or less, depending the group) and after that discussed in pairs about our experience. I conclude that this game could be very useful in Social Science subjects to teach the impact of economical, political and social impact of some elements in the general balance of a society. 

We finished early because our ferry to Tallin (Estonia) has its departure at 16:00 and most of us needed to went our respective hotels to catch luggage before leaving Finland. 

I was very surprised because the incredibly large ferry it’s like a mall over sea, full of entertainment for almost everyone, including youngest travelers.

Once arrived to Tallin I walked from the harbor to my hotel and after that have a little walk to have my first impressions of the city before dinner.  


martes, 24 de abril de 2018

Second day, focused on benchmarking only

Benchmarking is a word and a practice that comes from business world. Consist on comparing products, services or working processes in order to know which are the best practices for our team. Today’s and tomorrow sessions are focused on some educational apps/services that could be useful for our classrooms. And there is a good reason to focus on apps: education isn’t related to a building, school is not a place, so it’s probably that will not stay non-digital on next 10 years. So that it means that schools will turn into a place to discuss about the learning that happens outside the school. These are the apps:


Developed in collaboration with Finnish schools and the University of Helsinki, it’s an that allows teachers transform every place into a learning environment. Specially designed to develop 21st century skills, works through GPS and is very useful to create “gymkanas” or also treasure hunt games for our students. You can assign task in different points in a city or a museum, for example, and players needs to solve them in order to achieve the goal fixed by the teacher. Teacher can follow the game in real time and give feedback to their students immediately. After they showed us how to use it, we participate in a funny workshop in order to test see the app in a student perspective. 


As its name means, with this app you can create 3D figures and also supports augmented reality. So its most remarkable feature consist in putting the 3D creations into familiar places using mobile devices. It could be useful in a STEAM framework, for example, but not really so much. 


Developed in collaboration with Espoo schools, it’s an app designed as complement of Kiva in order to reduce anxiety or bullying in the classroom. They presented us the app as a tool to improve wellness, promote empathy and the emotional education of our students, because a good emotional environment improves results. It’s a both-sides app (teachers-students) that allows to see in real time wellbeing data of our classroom. Gives to teachers a feedback about their interventions with their students and if its being really effective (in order to continue or change the measures adopted). 


After that, I decided to expend my free time having a last walk in Helsinki. So I chose to visit the Sibelius park, named in memory of the most famous Finnish composer. 

lunes, 23 de abril de 2018

First day and overview on course

This is a two-stages course that will be developed in Helsinki and Tallin, although has two clearly differentiated topics. Helsinki´s stage focuses on benchmarking a variety of digital resources. Tallin’s is expected to be more theoretical and focused on research. 

Helsinki’s stage has started with the visit to “The English school”, a bilingual and private (surprisingly!) high school located in Vantaa office building. This is a very interesting data, because Petry (one of the five headmasters the school has) gave us a speech about the future of education in which they assume that schools will be not isolated from the rest of its communities but integrated in other social places, like business complex or malls. He also show us the guidelines of the Finnish educational system. Some of the most remarkable points could be the next:

  • First of all, teacher´s training. He focused specially on the praxis after their theoretical studies (pedagogy mostly and after that they get specialized on a subject) that happens at real schools. This training program use to took about ten years and it’s at the same time a selection process: only the best becomes officially teachers. This is a two-stages course that will be developed in Helsinki and Tallin, although has two clearly differentiated topics. Helsinki´s stage focuses on benchmarking a variety of digital resources. Tallin´s is expected to be more theoretical and focused on research. 
  • On the other hand, an important claim: “nobody can be left behind” so that is means that Finnish system focuses on push every student to their best level, even those that have special necessities. They collaborate strongly with families to cover each one learning issues. He also underlined the importance of “learning to learn” key competence such a part of their curriculum as well of assessment. 
  • Besides they have subjects, but they focuses on the contents in a multidisciplinary approach to them (such as in Spain use to be said, teaching by ambits). Schools has freedom to decide how to do this approach and for other administrative task in order to fit the curriculum to their reality. 

In the second part of the morning we started with the TeachingGaming crew that will accompany us these days in Helsinki. In the beginning they started with a very interesting speech about the schools in the future (only e-learning) and the reason why firstly games works in the classroom: It´s a kind of demonstration, a way to things happen in the classroom, but the best way to develop the 21 th century skills (4Cs: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating and collaborating). Also they offered us some advices about how to build our game curriculum.

Finally we participate in a workshop that mostly consisted in comparing different games from the TeachingGaming platform.  

Of course, while having lunch, dinner and a walk in Helsinki we shared a lot of experiences with our Greek, Czech and Croatian colleagues (talking about how each one approaches to its respective curriculum in their countries). But before that we shared a excursion to Suomenlinna island and had a walk over there. 


domingo, 22 de abril de 2018

The arrival

It was scheduled a guided visit in Helsinki, but I couldn’t join the group because the tour began before my flight landed and getting my hotel. So I decided to have a walk alone in the city in order to see some of the most land marked monuments previously my attendance to reception dinner.


I visited first of all Helsinki´s Cathedral (Helsingin tuomiokirkko) and Senate Square (Senaatintori) and the Alexander II of Russia monument in the middle of esplanade. After that I went to Uspenski Cathedral (Orthodox) and I had a walk in the surroundings of the harbors. 


After that I came back to the hotel briefly and the to the Zetor restaurant, where the reception dinner took place. There I met two Spanish colleagues from Elda that works in “La torreta High School” and quickly started to share our professional experience. Surprisingly our schools works using interactive groups methodology, but this is their first year, so finally I gave them feedback about the (good) results they can expect using it.