Author Archives: katisormunen

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

Trust in Denmark

From the point of view of a Finnish teacher the trust that the Danish teachers had towards their young pupils was occasionally even a little disconcerting. We saw young pupils to play without any kind of supervision near a frozen pond in a forest, pupils were acting as traffic directors on heavily trafficked roads etc. But everything worked well. We started to wonder if we, teachers, are a bit too overprotecting in Finland.

While comparing the Finnish and Danish schools we didn´t notice any difference between the way teachers and principals work together in both countries. However, there are differences in the rewarding behaviors. In Denmark it was the principal who was rewarded for his school´s success, not the teachers directly. It was left for the principal to decide whether to reward the teachers for their good results or not.

The biggest single factor that stood out and seemed rather strange to us, who are used to the Finnish culture, were the annual and public quality reports in the Danish schools. These reports were quite explicit telling, for instance, how well their school performs in respect to the neighboring schools. To a Finn this kind of measuring carried out by the state doesn´t seem to inspire and build the trust in the teachers.


By the end of the week we noticed how important it is to get to know the educational culture of other countries, especially on the ground level. The things that we found disconcerting at the beginning of the week started to make sense and seem like functioning solutions. This familiarizing oneself with a different educational culture is a very significant and important aspect in this kind of projects.

After our trip all we can say is that Denmark is a very good place for children to live and grow up!

Aki & Petteri, Veikkola School, Kirkkonummi

Talented Denmark

During our Erasmus+ 3T -visit to Copenhagen on 5th-9th of November 2017 we concentrated on a theme TALENT. We visited in three different kind of schools around Copenhagen area. In general we can say that all students, teachers and school leaders are very talented in various ways. 

Now we understand why Danish are so well known as a designers, makers and producers. We saw a lesson where students had to make own knives. First students searched information on different kinds of knives. Then they started to design one on their own. During the design process conversation between students and teacher was very interactive and students got lots of feedback from the teacher. Students self confidence is high and they believe themselves as a designers. At the end students try to find right materials and really produce their own knives.

Students were also very proud of themselves and they had a strong self confidence on situations where they needed to talk and have a conversation with the teacher, other students or visitors. Their language skills, communication skills and social skills were fantastic.

Also teachers are seen talented individuals and team members. All kinds of talents are seen as gifts and teachers different talents are used to serve the whole school community. We admire how our colleagues in Denmark communicate and collaborate with pupils, parents, families, experts, visitors etc.

Teachers in Denmark have an opportunity to build their own career path with the support of principles and school community.

Teachers in secondary schools are multitalents because they are able to teach several subjects. Like all students in Denmark said, the best thing in their school are talented teachers! Even in very demanding areas teachers’ classroom management was extremely good and atmosphere in schools and classrooms was always calm.

The role and of principals is very different in Denmark and in Finland. In Finland teachers are more independent and every teacher is his or her own leader. In Denmark principals decide many things behalf of teachers. In both countries principals are facilitators.

The most important task of principals is find and choose the most suitable teachers in that specific school. In this role the principals in these three school were succeeded well. Schools are different and the story of schools are different, so principals need to have a courage to do things in their own way. The principals are very powerful.

The connection between parents and school lies on principals. We saw principal welcoming parents and students to the school in the morning. 

Schools have a strong identity to be a big part or even a centre of a community. Everyone is important! The whole group is important, not an individual person! 

We still have questions in our minds. We hope that in becoming meetings and visits we will find out the answers.


  • How do you support very talented students?
  • Do the teachers know that they are so good ones? Do they get positive feedback from principals?
  • Do the teachers get bonuses?
  • Why do you need to test your students? 
  • Can you / Are you allowed to / Are you able to criticise your school, your principal, pedagogy you use?

Raini and Minna, SYK, Helsinki

Visiting schools in Copenhagen – 3T-project – Time

Visiting the schools in Copenhagen showed us that the schools have time for meeting pupils and parents. We thought it was great that the headmaster in one school spent time at the front door of the school in the morning just to say “good morning” to the pupils, parents and teachers. We saw that giving time also increased trust. The good relationship between pupils and teachers increase efficiency in the classrooms. Once a month, they serve morning coffee for the parents. So it makes it easier to discuss things when they know each other better.

In Denmark, children’s school days are long. For example, the pupils in the first grade have 30 hours of school per week. The school days are planned so that there is also time for clubs in the afternoon. The pupils also have few breaks during the school day, just a lunch and two short breaks. A part of the time they are not supervised by the adults.

We also observed the time used during the lessons. We saw different kinds of ways to divide time. It was very usual that timetables and the timeline of the lesson were visible to pupils. They also had info screens where the programme of the day and that of the week were visible to the teachers as well. In classrooms, there’s time for both work and play, a bit of physical exercise. In Denmark, they have a law that every pupil should do at least 45 minutes of physical exercise during the school day. We saw teachers stop teaching and ask pupils to dance or lift up their chairs to train the muscles. The exercise didn’t seem to have any connection to the thing they were learning, it was just random exercise.

Time for a break?

Time for a break?

In addition, pupils are given time to plan their work. We think that time for using imagination may lead to creativity (Danish design !). In Denmark, they prefer using computers and mobile devices. So, they spend much more time learning to write on computers. The pupils do not write with pen after third grade. Some pupils told us that they are not good at handwriting.

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Teachers and time

The other side of the equation, as to time, are the teachers and other staff at schools. The visits to the Danish schools in Copenhagen left us admiring the efficiency of the teachers as well as the delegated leadership in the organisations that we saw. Nevertheless, the question arose whether there is an excessive amount of work for teachers to carry out within their working hours.

During the visit, we saw many examples of practices that made teachers’ working hours more efficient. For instance, some of the schools had a system of collaborative teams that could divide their tasks among the members. One teacher could, for example, be in charge of the Danish lessons of certain classes and, another teacher, of the maths lessons. There was time allocated in the weekly timetables for these teams to plan their work and to discuss any topics related to their pupils.

Another example of efficiency was the online platform used by teachers in Copenhagen to evaluate pupils’ work, to mark pupil attendance and to do their yearly planning. If a pupil is absent, their teacher can mark the absence online and a message is sent automatically to the parent’s phone. Consequently, teachers can spend more time on teaching the pupils that are present in the lessons and on other tasks during the working day.

Efficiency was not, however, the only positive aspect of time that we witnessed in the three schools we visited. Time was also spent doing things that the different schools considered to be important. For example, the staff of all of the schools seemed to value time that was spent talking about pupils. The staff were also rewarded with time if they did any extra tasks or performed well at work. For instance, they had fewer lessons to teach or could take a couple of days off. In addition, in many cases, teachers themselves had the possibility of deciding how to spend their time at work.

Even though many positive aspects were visible in the schools as to teachers and time, one of the biggest questions that remained was related to the amount of work. It seems that, since the Danish school reform was implemented in 2014, Danish teachers struggle with finding enough time to plan their lessons and to perform as well as they would wish for. Their time at work is often spent in meetings and handling paperwork, in addition to teaching of course. This is a problem that many Finnish teachers also face but it may be even more crucial in Denmark where the schooldays of children were made longer by the reform. How this will affect learning in the future, only time will tell.

– Minttu and Heli, Hankasalmi Asema School

3T’s in Finnish education – observations from British and Danish teachers

In September teachers from United Kingdom and Denmark visited Finland as a part of an Erasmus project. As in Bedford earlier in July, the groups observed time, talent and technology in three Finnish schools: SYK, Jalavapuisto School and Veikkola School. In addition we introduced to them Innokas Network, in-service teacher training, early childhood education in Finland, and Finnish educational context in the University of Helsinki. Here is a brief summary on their notions of the 3T’s.


Teachers from both Denmark and UK felt that there is a lot of time to learn in Finnish schools. Pupils are not rushed and they are encouraged to be themselves. As we Finns know our schooldays are shorter and pupils have plenty of breaks during the school day. Especially British teachers felt that time could have been used more actively and effectively.


Groups saw three kinds of talents in Finnish schools.

  1. The amount of creative subjects in the curriculum arouse interest as well as programming and transversal competences. Especially teachers from UK saw a difference between assessment in Finland and in UK. In Finland the assessment system acknowledges teacher expertise. It is realistic and based on student learning and it is linked to the integrity of the profession.
  2. Teachers are highly educated and trusted to be experts in their field. Teachers’ professional development is well-planned and in-service training is well organized.
  3. Students seem to be calm, independent, engaged, resourceful and proud. Students can apply to bi-lingual classes or classes with other special focus areas such as music and science. During these short school visits the groups didn’t witness examples of differentiation or teacher-student communication of what the students have learned during the lesson.


Groups thought that the visited Finnish schools seemed to be well resourced. Compared to UK and Denmark, we have a boarder view of technology in our curriculum and in classroom practices. For example students were programming and using robots in two schools. The groups would have liked to see more of learning platforms, programs that support students with learning difficulties and more interactive use of interactive white boards. Also the examples of tech use in higher grades eg. in social sciences were minor. However the students’ freedom to use smartphones in breaks caused discussion.


During the Helsinki visit it became clear that each countries society makes the school what it is. In Finland it is seen as TRUST in many levels. There is respect for one another and the equipment. The trust runs through the system:

  • From teachers to students
  • From parents to teachers
  • From heads to teachers
  • From municipality to each school
  • From government

Danish teachers thought that we have a school where both parent and pupils believe in one’s authority. A good example of that is the fact that teachers are also highly respected in society. However they saw also a risk of being very dependent upon the individual teacher.

Trying to look at your society and school system from other country’s perspective is always fruitful. There are always customs and practices that are very deep in the Finnish culture such as the school lunch. Fortunately we had porridge day when we visited Veikkola School, because otherwise we would have missed a great debate of nutrition in different countries!


– Kati, Innokas Coordinator

Erasmus 2017 – Bedford

The main purpose of the 3T project is to compare and thus reflect the three different school systems of the participating countries. The schools involved in this project are from Finland, Denmark and the UK. In addition there is also a consulting firm from Denmark taking part in this project and their main focus is to get useful tips for building Danish schools as well as for their interior design.

The first step of the project was taken at the beginning of June in 2017 in Bedford, England.

Before the trip each participating Finnish school was given a task which was to be returned to the coordinator of the hosting country by email.

The programme in Bedford was divided on four days and the participants were equally divided into four groups so that each group had members from each participating country. The groups spent their first day in the school of their English member. During the day we had an opportunity to get to know the everyday life of a typical English school. Our hosting schools were Castle Newnham, Livinstone School, Westfield School and Biddenham School.

The second day was reserved for visiting various schools. Each group visited four different schools so the total number of school visits was 16. Each of these schools differed greatly from the others and they included preschools, primary and secondary schools as well as some private schools. Each group made observations during their visits.

During the third day we were given an opportunity to visit the University of Bedfordshire. On the campus we had a guided tour and visited e.g. their Faculty of Education and School of Teacher Education. The rest of the day was spent in making preparations for the last day. These preparations were made among the visitors of the same country and not as was originally planned.

As I mentioned before the purpose of the trip was to observe the English school system. The fourth day we spent in a meeting where one Finnish group and four Danish groups shared their observations from two previous days. This feedback with all its pros and cons was very informative and diverse.

Petteri and Aki, Veikkola School

Exploring school system in England on Erasmus+ 3T’s – project

On our Erasmus+ -trip to Bedford we had a wonderful opportunity to see out nearly the whole education system in England. We had time to follow lessons in different kinds of schools; we had conversations with students, teachers, principals and University staff.

Through Finnish perspective, English school system seems very complicated compared to ours. Instead of comprehensive school, there are systems in a system. Roughly, there are either independent or public schools but within this division, there still are many systems: nursery schools, preschools, maintained schools, academies, independent schools, special schools and pupil referral units. Independent schools cost a lot of money; public schools are free of charge.

A new system will take place in becoming September. Then so-called foundation stage will contain nursery and preschool (3-5 years). Primary school will be divided in two key stages: key stage 1 and 2 (5-7 years, 7-11 years). Secondary school will include stages 3, 4 and 5 (11-14 years, 14-16 years, 16-18 years).

Nursery school starts at age of three. All 3 and 4 year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week. The rest of daily care is charged. Free 15-hour childcare is also extended to the most disadvantaged 2 year-olds. In England, it is believed that education from early ages brings good achievements. Daily activities are more or less based on subjects like math, science and English. Same subjects are seen important throughout the whole school path.  During school days, children practice reading, writing, counting, measuring etc. We even saw four-year-old children writing sentences on their small whiteboards.

Studying and teaching at primary and secondary schools seems to be very hard and demanding for both students and teachers. Studying under pressure because of test results affects teaching and learning in various ways. SATS (Standard Assessment Tests) tests are taken at the end of year 2, year 6 and year 9. They are used to show child’s progress compared to other children born on the same month. In UK testing is a part of normal routine. School days in England are long, families either pay for their children’s school lunch or give them packed lunch and the amount of homework is huge.

One of the most awakening moments was a 15-year-old girl’s speech on her English lesson. The topic was quite provoking: Why school sucks? This youngster was worried about (endless) testing and what that kind of testing will do to young and growing children. It is a good question for every teacher!

We got so many new experiences during this school tour in England that we could never imagine. It is a true privilege to be a part of this 3T -project team!

Heli, Asema School and Raini, SYK

Exploring the 3 T’s in Erasmus project

Three Finnish schools from Innokas network had a change to take part in an Erasmus project with England and Denmark. The theme for this two year project is Time, Talent and Technology; the 3 T’s. The schools, which decided to apply, were SYK from Helsinki, Veikkola school from Kirkkonummi and Asema school from Hankasalmi.

During the first year of the project the aim is to observe the 3T’s in each country by visiting them and their schools. In June 2017 the Danish and the Finnish representatives visited Bedford in England for 4 days and during those days had a great opportunity of visiting altogether over 20 schools. Here are some of the observations the Finnish team made. The schools in the Bedford area were very interested to hear about these observations and use them to develop their schools in these areas.

taulukkoKuva yliopistolta

– Anu and Kati from Innokas

Greetings to Santa and friends in Rovaniemi


The mystery skype turned out to be not so mysterious after all 🙂 The children from Rovaniemi recognized Anu from the springs Robo Cup -competition in Helsinki and the children from Espoo had read too well the papers on the classroom wall. For on the plan for this years activities and events said “Mystery skype Rovaniemi”. This plan was made in September when the Finnish Global Innokas teachers met in the University of Helsinki. So it only took about 5 minutes and we knew where the others are from. Last minute we remembered that Christmas was closing in and remembered to send greetings to Santa.

Work continued in each end. The children in Jalavapuisto Espoo were very interested in our new friends from Rovaniemi. How old they are and do they also study in a bilingual class. They enjoyed picking a friend to send a Christmas card to. These cards are now on their way and we hope they bring lots of joy to Ounasrinne school’s class 6C.

5K class, Jalavapuisto school, Espoo, Finland

Mystery Skype!


We had night school. During night school we had a mystery skype. We called with skype to someone that we didn’t know (well the teacher knew). We could ask “yes/no”-questions from the other class and try to figure out where they are from.

“Do you live in Europe?”

“Is it 8 P.M. Where you are?”

“Do you speak another language than English?”

“Is it hot where you live?”

Just to name a few. We found out that our mystery skype class was calling us from Janesville, Wisconsin, America. Next we are going to get together in Edmodo and get to know each other better.

5K class, Jalavapuisto school, Espoo, Finland