Last week I was giving a talk in the SOMECE’s (Sociedad Mexicana de Computación en la Educación) annual conference in Mexico. The short trip was worth of doing: many interesting projects and many clever and good people. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go around in there. Must go back.
There was not much time for questions and answers after my talk. Because of this I want to get back to one of them in here. I got it written on a paper. I will copy the question in here.
Finland may have shaped some of the best practices on ICT applied on education & learning environments. However, although globalization and media are destroying cultural & ideological basses, considering the difference of cultural, economical, ideological & technology development. How do you suggest that México and other Latin-American countries could apply and use the research, knowledge & the best practices?
In the session I did answer something. I said that I am also worried about globalization and the effect it may have to different cultures. I also explained that in Finland, with language of only 5 million speakers, we are very concern about the challenges related to globalization. I continued that, still, in Finland we seems to be very practical. We take from the “global offering” – culture, ideology, technology and economy – those things that will fit for us. Things that will serves our needs and effort of keeping Finnish language, culture and people alive.
I still stand behind this answer, but I want to add in it something more.
First of all, I think ICT in Finnish schools do not play very important role, at all. Maybe this – not giving ICT a central role – is the paradoxical best practice of using ICT in Finnish schools. However, we do pay a lot of attention to “learning environments” – in a broad sense.
In Finnish we have the proverb(* that says that something can be a good servant but not a good master (hyvä renki, huono isäntä). For instance, you can say that “fire is a good servant but a bad master”. Most educators in Finland see ICT as a servant that should serve the main task: helping students to learn. ICT is a tool – no more, no less.
However, it is true that the Finnish educational system is ranked in the OECD’s PISA studies as one of the best in the world. So, if ICT usage in schools is not the factor that makes the Finnish educational system successful what are the factors?
Three things. Taking good care of: (1) teachers, (2) pupils, and (3) the system as a whole.
Let me explain these.
(1) Teachers’ wellbeing comes from the quality teacher training, decent salaries, respect of the profession in the society, possibility to professional development, and wellbeing of their pupils.
(2) Pupils’ wellbeing is made out of basic health care, free and healthy school meals, small classes, teacher’s child-centered approach, and wellbeing of their teachers.
(3) The whole system is doing well when it is supporting continuous pedagogical and organizations development, open for criticism, willing to look for solutions to the challenges recognized, and have wellbeing actors (teachers and pupils).
Conclusion: You may have a world-class educational system without a single computer or ICT tool in it. Computers do not take care of teachers, pupils or the system as a whole. It is not a right solution to the problem.
Still, there are many reasons to use ICT in the educational system.
(3) In different levels (national, local, school) computers are great tools for collecting and analyzing data about the wellbeing of teachers, pupils and the whole system. Are teachers paid enough? How many pupils are there in every classroom? etc. To work with this data, computers and networks help a lot.
(2) Among teachers ICT can be used for teacher training, professional development, and to build teachers-to-teachers, teachers-to-parents, teachers-to-authorities connections and networks. All these will increase the wellbeing of the teachers. This kind of networking is possible if the basic ICT infrastructure is in place (Internet connection in teacher’s room at school or in their homes) and teachers are given the possibility – they are encourage and supported – to use the tools.
(1) Among pupils ICT can be used for giving them a voice, to help them to document their learning process for reflection, and to build pupils-to-pupils, pupils-teachers, pupils-to-parents, pupils-to-authorities connections and networks. All this is part of the child-centered approach and will increase the wellbeing of the pupils. This kind of ICT usage is also easy to arrange if there is easy to access Internet infrastucture for pupils all the time and they are encourage to use it for these purposes.
Simple. Easy. Fast – Not.
*) I am not sure if this proverb is originally Finnish. Probably not. Anyway, as it is commonly used in Finland it has become one kind of “cultural property” – howerver, in commons. A good example of positive globalization.