Reclaimed – Class is in session?

August 12, 2012 Off By JR
I put the question mark there because there are some unique aspects to the space and proceedings in class. As I mentioned before I am at the Helsinki Summer School and engaging in a course titled: Designing Teacher Education for the Future; what can we learn from the Finnish experience? Before attending this class I have been following media (news, blogs, OECD websites) describing the Finnisheducation system and comparing it to other top ranking countries for education (according to PISA). I also recently read, Finnish Lessons, by Pasi Sahlberg, the director of education for Finland. So with a basic understanding of what typical classrooms are like I set out to find my class.
The space I walked into confused me, and I thought I was in the wrong place until I noticed some of my classmates already sitting there. They expressed some uncertainty about the space as well, but as it turns out we were all in the correct space. As you can see in the photo there are tables and chairs in no real order, a big wall for a projected screen, podium with Smart interactive monitor, glass walls on three sides, and the ceiling is five stories high and skylit. The main lighting in this space is daylight with only a few pot-lights around the perimeter. Next our instructor for this week introduced herself and we also met other instructors, PhD students, and the dean of their faculty of education. Each table then received an iPad or two and we used an app called “Flinga Sender” (developed in Finland) and the main terminal computer used “Flinga Collector”. So as an introductory activity we took photos of each other at each table and sent it to the projected screen with Flinga, then added captions for names and countries.
I am so excited about this group of students. We have about 24 students from: Canada, China, Malaysia, Spain, United States, Australia, Russia, Austria, South Africa, Mexico, and Portugal. Not only do we have a group from many different locals but also from a broad range of experience and training:
  • music royal conservatory,
  • teacher trainers,
  • embassy,
  • secondary,
  • primary,
  • private/independent schools,
  • undergraduate Chinese 2nd language,
  • Russian literature,
  • Finnish education in Shanghai,
  • engineering,
  • masters in primary,
  • science museum (inquiry),
  • education/neurosciences,
  • Chinese as foreign language,
  • visual arts non-traditional,
  • post grad diploma ed,
  • English department.
Hopefully that covers it all. So after a busy morning of introductions and lunch we participated in a style of teaching described in one of the readings I completed for the course; activating lectures. The basic idea was for a topic to be presented and then to use snowballing and student collaboration to generate questions/comments/ conclusions, then once again we used Flinga to collect these ideas. The day wrapped up with a brief lecture about the topic and the instructor asking us to talk with eachother and think about our goals for this course. So I am thinking about: Design Thinking (or teaching teacher education like design) and Teacher Education. Something like that.
The social program for this evening was the “Design City Tour”. We hopped on a bus and toured the city centre as well as an area called Arabia. Because Helsinki is such a young city (created in 1550, and capital since 1812) there are really only four styles of architecture that are used. So in the Senate Square it’s quite classical, moving into the Jugend/Romantic, etc etc.  The bus also briefly went near the design district, which I intend to spend at least a day or two in just wandering around to see all the sights. There is currently a pavilion between the architecture and the design museums. There are long term plans to join the two buildings, which is where this idea came from. Of course it is largely made of wood, which is consistent with Finnish design.
We also toured the district called Arabia. This is the original ceramics and glass manufacturer in Finland. I will also make my way back to the museum there because just looking around the gift shop at the end of the day made me drool a little. The buildings in the area are unique because they are required to incorporate art into the building design. One building had lights that changed colour in long strands all over it. These lights were powered by a wind turbine (looked like a drill bit) so that it was not a waste of power. Other buildings included iron that had quotes from the residents torched into them. Or another building that used colour to help its residents find home. It was pretty cool.
Finally on our way back we stopped by the Sibelius Monument. As a former welding teacher this was so cool to see! Each pipe is a different size and pattern. It was all fused, cut, and decorated by hand (artist and apprentice). Each pipe resonates a different frequency, and I believe it has been recorded.

This post was first published on Helsinki Summer School 2012: DETEF, By JR Dingwall at