Visit to Marymount School of New York

I had an opportunity to visit Marymount School of New York on my last day in US. Marymount School of New York is an independent, Catholic day school for girls. The motto of the school is: Challenge yourself to grow in heart and mind – who wouldn’t agree with that. School has 760 students from 3-years-old to 18-year-old. Class sizes are small, only 16-17 students in one group. The school promotes development of the lifelong skills of critical thinking and problem solving. One school year costs 15 000$, but even though the costs are high, there are more applicants to school than the school can take.

Marymount School is known from its three Maker Spaces. Spaces are perfectly organized, there is plenty of stuff to play, create, design, build – innovate either alone or with peer or with group. One educator is responsible for all the equipment set in shelves, tables and lockers; educator is present at Maker Space all day long to help students if they have problems. I truly fell in love with this enthusiasm and creativity. Students are fostered to making culture. I saw beautiful combination of Art pieces and Technology, I look up to teachers’ innovative mind sets. STEAM in action!

Students work with iPADs or MacBook Airs in a 1:1 environment; Marymount School is an Apple Distinguished School. The school works with organizations like Metropolitan Museum of Art and DNA Learning Center Manhattan. School has even two classrooms at MET, and Art teachers from both the museum and from the school teach students. I found this very inspiring: school community broadens to another community, wau! ‘Dream it. Design it. Make it.’ says school’s webpage. No wonder the Marymount School of New York is one of the best in whole USA.

Mr Don Buckley, who hosted me during my visit, is an educator and designer. It was good to have somebody taking care of me, because the school building was so big, divided into many floors and sections. The oldest part of the school building is from turn-of-the-century, a beautiful building with crystal chandeliers and wall-to-wall-carpets. The school was established in 1926 by Mother Marie Joseph Butler. The second building, the enlargement, is from 1984. Nowadays the school needs more space, and a new school building will be build in next two years. The budget for 10-floor school building in Harlem is around 100 000 000$. Just for comparison, the most expensive school building, Opinmäki comprehensive school in Espoo, cost 52 million euros on 2015. Mr Buckley is responsible for taking teachers’ ideas and opinions to architectures, it is a co-design project with staff, engineers and architectures. This reminds me of participatory design, a co-design model I have worked with here in Finland .

Marymount School has different sorts of libraries for students at different ages. Small children’s library is a small cozy place with one, huge armchair in the middle of the room. The library for upper secondary school students is a silent place for reading and individual working. Librarian said, it is important to have a silent room in a city like New York. For groupwork, there are many open working spaces around the buildings, students are free to choose their place of work.

Compared to Finland teachers’ don’t have to obtain Master degree from the University. Teachers negotiate their own salaries, the salary rate is from 60 000$ to 120 000$ / year depending on how effective and capable teacher is. Marymount School provides its teachers a health insurance, retirement advisory and a hot, daily lunch. And, two teachers mentioned to me, a 10 week vacation in summer is a fine priviledge to have.

I learned so much during my visit, that I hope next week when I’ll host two teachers from Marymount school in my school, they would have as good experience as I had.

Raini sipilä

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Growing mind and understanding in FabLearn 2019 –conference at Columbia University, New York

The 8th Annual FabLearn flagship conference on Maker Education took place at Columbia University, New York on 9th – 10th March. The conference theme What Role does Maker Education Play in a World with Growing Social and Environmental Challenges attracted over 400 educators, stakeholders and researchers from 23 different countries to participate in inspiring lectures, workshops and poster sessions. From Finland there were three Innokas Network presentations: one poster in Educator track (by Raini Sipilä, Kati Sormunen and Tiina Korhonen), one student poster (by Matias Ola, Sini Riikonen, Tiina Korhonen and Kati Sormunen) and one short paper (by Tiina Korhonen, Laura Salo and Kati Sormunen).

Columbia University is one of the oldest universities in US, established in 1754. It is also a former university of John Dewey whose idea of learning by doing doesn’t get old. During the conference the audience was challenged to ask themselves questions about ‘who is making?’ and ‘why making?’.

Keynote speaker Sylvia Martinez highlighted the word ‘making’ from different angles. Interesting part was her prediction on Future: biotech is the new digital – we will move forward from cyberphysical to cyberbiological future. Martinez also emphasized sharing as the best way to ensure understanding. She encouraged teachers to empower their students to understand their capability to control machines and therefore affect to their own future.

Amanda Cox, the second keynote speaker, came from The New York Times. Cox is a data editor and she is responsible for both written and visual content in NYT. Ms Cox spoke about scale, context, patterns and annotation levels and how these are shown in digital way. In digital newspaper settings are able to create interactively: the reader is able to affect how or what she/he sees and reads. Amanda Cox said, it is important to transform data into a form in which it is more understandable – for example data is put into familiar environment.

Panels on both Saturday and Sunday were more or less representatives’ presentations on their projects. All discussion topics were related with making somehow: Making in an age of social unrest, Making without destroying the planet: is it possible?, Making for film and theatre and Making around the world: Experiences and lessons learned. For me the most fruitful panel was the last one: educators from six different countries shared their experience on maker culture on their own country.

Significantly important notice is, that nobody works alone. Everything is made in collaboration with other people. Short and full papers were written together, young makers and educators had worked with teams to get their presentations to the conference. My visit with Innokas Network experts was amazing. My mind and understanding grew because of the conversations I had with all kinds of people. People who seemed to be as interested in making and designing as I am.

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Raini Sipilä

Erasmus 3T – Collaborating in Bedford 

 

This time teachers and school developers from Denmark and Finland gathered in Bedford for a week in October. The week was full of different school visits, great conversations about the English educational system and observation of the three T’s (time, talent and technology (and trust)).  

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Our visit to England started with a reunion in a local restaurant. After a fun evening together it was time to start the activities. On the first day we had a chance to visit the University of Bedfordshire. It was very interesting to hear about the English school system. We spent the next days in different schools where participants got to know the school, observe lessons and even teach microlessons. The last day of the week provided again an opportunity for each delegation to present their thoughts and reflections to each other and discuss together.  

When discussing technology we found similar things that came up in both Finnish and Danish reflections. For us technology education in England seems like a separate entity from other education. This led to discussions about how to integrate technology in schools in order that it would be helpful and useful in pedagogical way.  

Reflections on talent included discussions on grouping of pupils and ranking. One big topic was also trust. We noticed that headmasters trust their teachers but the lack of trust is evident from the government’s side and that leads to ongoing testing and registrations.  

In a time perspective we talked about structured lessons and classrooms. Everything seemed to be very structured and that was one thing that was different from Finnish schools where we don’t have strict schedules and pupils may have just one or two tasks per lesson. Overall our visit to Bedford was great and we learned a lot about the English perspective to education and at the same time gained new insight into our own system. 

Asta Ansolahti and Kati Sormunen / The Innokas Network 
 

Erasmus 3T – Collaborating in Helsinki

Teachers and school developers from Denmark and Great Britain gathered in Helsinki for a September week full of immersion in the Finnish educational system and observation of the three T’s (time, talent and technology). We welcomed new participants and had a warm reunion with those who have been a part of the project for longer. The week started off with a welcome session that, true to Finnish tradition, included sauna and swimming. The following two days were spent in two schools where participants got to know the school, observe lessons and even teach Finnish students. The afternoon time was spent reflecting and finding those transferable ideas that one could take home. One day was dedicated to familiarizing with the educational system and the work of the Innokas Network which supports schools in developing 21st century skills through the innovative use of technology. Participants also immersed in gaming when they were introduced to and competed in the pedagogically relevant Seppo-game and discussed how to use gamefulness in education. The last day of the week provided an opportunity for each delegation to present their thoughts and reflections to each other and discuss together while enjoying a traditional cinnamon roll.

Reflections on technology included discussion on the pedagogical use of technological tools. Technology was seen to motivate students and participants observed that the tools for these activities are in place and available in Finnish schools.  Talent was discussed for one with reference to supporting talented students which is an area that needs development in the Finnish system. Currently most emphasis is placed on the support of students with special needs. Time was approached from both the students and the teachers perspective. Short school days and lesser control were discussed and an observation was made that Finnish students still seem to have clear boundaries and guidelines within which to work autonomously. Differences in teachers’ working hours got the participants thinking about the pro’s and con’s of varying work day models. On one hand the freedom to leave work after teaching was valued and on the other hand set working hours would secure more joint planning time and possibilities for collaboration.

Laura Salo, Kati Sormunen and Asta Ansolahti / The Innokas Network

Innokas-Network’s robotics tournament

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Since the beginning of April YLE has broadcasted a tv-show called Robomestarit. It airs every Sunday morning. It is a production based on the idea of a robotics tournament designed by Innokas-network. It aims to present robotics and coding while also showing what they make possible. At the same time the show is both entertaining and pedagogical.

Last weekend we got to see the finals of X-Sumo and Rescue and who won the competitions. The last episode of the show will be aired next Sunday. For both Freestyle and Dancing with robot it is time for the finals!

Yle/ Rami Pohjalahti.

The different competition tracks of Robomestarit are based on Innokas-Network’s robotics tournament which is held every year in different cities. This year it takes place in Tampere, 14th to 16th of May. The tracks are Pelastus (Rescue), X-Sumo, Tanssii robotin kanssa (Dancing with a robot) and Freestyle. The last mentioned has three teams competing in different challenges every week. . The winner is announced in the last episode.  Dancing with the robot is a different kind of track. If you want to win you need to do it on social media and get the most votes. X-Sumo works as a cup where two teams put their robots to the test of strength in robo sumo-wrestling and winner continues in the race. Rescue track puts the robots in different kind of situations where their mission is to transport a fuel tank to the space ship.

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The teams taking part come from all over Finland. Most of the participants are 5th or 6th graders but there are some exceptions. Many of the teams have won their regional preliminary competitions and this is their final step.

Every episode lasts about half an hour. Naturally most of it is about the competitions but there is also much more to see and learn. One of the show’s presenter, Innokas-Network’s educator Juho Kemell has visited different kind of working environments that have robots. Those visits are an educational peek to the importance that robotics have in problem solving. While of course it is interesting to just watch the show the viewers also get to take part through social media and open challenges. Best viewer challenge participants get their videos shown in the program. Every episode has also an educational part, the ABC of coding. It teaches the very basics of coding and getting more into detail every episode. Don’t forget to check out their YouTube channel with interesting extra content.

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More info: http://yle.fi/robomestarit

In YLE areena: https://areena.yle.fi/1-4356057

Robomestarit in Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChM3KcavvF7O48aEn9a_diQ/featured

(All the pictures are property of YLE)

Visiting the filming of Robomestarit!

At the YLE (Finnish National Broadcasting company) studio in Tampere adults and kids are moving smoothly between the lobby, dressing room and studio. The filming of the Robomestarit tv-show has started. The day starts when the presenters and the teams arrive. Last minute corrections are made to the outfits and people are getting familiar with the studio. The children seem really excited in their cool custom-made outfits and the atmosphere is electric. The schedule shows minute by minute what is going to happen during long day which ends in the filming of the actual episode. In addition to the filming in the studio, the day also consists of group and individual interviews.

The teams have a strict daily schedule. Participants go to make-up like any other TV stars. There is a lot of waiting and many children have travelled a long way to be here. Still everybody thinks it’s surely worth it. When following the filming of the interviews it is great to hear the young participants speak about their teams and how the skills they are practicing will help them in the future. In the middle of a relaxed chat with the children one of the director comes and takes them back to the studio. The face shots need to be retaken. Here we go again…

One of the presenters of Robomestarit, Juho Kemell, works as an educator in The Innokas Network. He has arrived early in the morning to get ready for the day’s filming. -“It has been quite a hassle which means it will be a great day!” Some material has been filmed before today. Juho and the crew have been visiting different kinds of companies during the last couple of months and observed different robots used in various industries. The judges are also preparing for the day and going through the most important rules regarding the upcoming contests. -“It is an awesome show!” says Erkki Hautala, an X-sumo judge and Innokas Network’s educator while guiding the teams to test and prepare their robots.

Yle/ Rami Pohjalahti.


Melissa Kaivo, known to children from the TV-show Galaxi, is also a part of the production. She is one of the presenters and a travelling journalist who visits the teams’ schools. She thinks that the live-aspect of the show is very exciting. Not everything is filmed beforehand thus letting all of the viewers, teams and presenters really live through the show throughout the spring while the show airs. She also thinks it is cool that the viewers get to influence and take part in the program through social media.

The fog machines are blowing in the studio and the atmosphere is almost too impatient. The audience, teams and the presenters are ready. Lights, cameras, applause! What happens after this can be seen on YLE channels or YLE-areena.

The Innokas Network and YLE are putting together and filming an 8episode long TV-show Robomestarit in the spring 2018. The Robotics Society in Finland is supporting the production with the reallife examples. The show is based on InnokasNetwork‘s robotics tournament which is held every year. In the competition school age children take part in different competitions and do  problem solving using robotics. For example, “Dancing with the robot” and X-Sumo (Sumo wrestling for robots).

You can find more about the show and the broadcast schedule from The Innokas Network’s webpage. Or visit https://yle.fi/robomestarit/ or YLE streaming service https://areena.yle.fi/1-4356057 at this moment all material is unfortunately available only in Finnish.

Collaborating in Copenhagen

A team of Finnish teachers, principals and project workers spent a week in Copenhagen continuing working on the Erasmus 3T -project where educational professionals from Finland, Britain and Denmark come together to reflect on each others’ educational systems and make observations on Time, Talent and Technology in schools.

We had the privilege of visiting three local schools and having deep conversations about pedagogy. We found that Copenhagen in Denmark is not only geographically but also educationally situated half way between Britain and Finland. There are some elements that the Finnish and Danish educational systems have in common like the culture of trust and student involvement. Then again with regards to assessment, national testing is something that brings the Danish system closer to the British system.

How these elements are realized within the educational system are however dependent on many things such as legislation, culture and socioeconomic aspects. For instance the Danish culture of trust and the freedom of choice that follows from it can mean that schools and principals can allocate lesson hours freely. In Finland we have a high degree of freedom as well, but more strict legislation concerning lesson hours which guides the decisions made on the school level. Efforts to develop school have similar goals in Denmark as in Finland. 21st century skills and cross-curricular learning are in the focus in both systems. Reforms however seem to come more often in the Danish system.

The challenge of these intercultural exchanges and experiences is the way we observe and interpret our observations. Are we interpreting activities on the level of single schools? Can these observations be interpreted to represent the whole educational system? The way to get the best result is to hold continuous discussions alongside visits and allow each partner to give feedback on interpretations. Only in true dialog can we reach an understanding of each other and find those transferable and adjustable ‘take-home-messages’ that help us develop our own system and professionalism.

Laura Salo/ The Innokas Network

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