Finnish basic education in Kauniainen gives tools for a good life
Finnish basic education in Kauniainen gives tools for a good life
In Kauniainen, Finland there is an ambitious initiative to entirely re-think the purpose and experience of the school for the purpose of equipping the pupils for jobs that don’t yet exist in this fast-changing world. Kauniaisten Suomenkielinen koulutoimi (Local Finnish language School Authority) named it the “dream school”. We propose to “open-source” this concept at Eden, and to make available the philosophy and the blueprints for this development, to exchange views, and to leave your attendees with a sense of the possible, and, we hope, some concrete steps they can take. The Dream School process started with a need to address the rapid sociological and technological development and change. And as a response to the simultaneous but in opposed needs to cut costs and at the same time increase the use of ICT in schools. In order to achieve that we had to re-think everything starting with an “open-source” collaboration with partners as we defined the vision, the school-student relationship, the pedagogy, and the supporting technology.
Our student-centric pedagogy strives to recognize and harness the real-world knowledge our students bring. The curriculum can incorporate to the knowledge students themselves have to share. This necessitates a re-mapping of the learning environment, the role of the educator and the teacher-student relationship and the school itself.
Supporting this is an open-source technology model. The closed models are not only more expensive, but they do not harness the necessary innovation.
We will present this concisely, with key lessons learned and with engagement points for attendees. The team that presents is the connecting point for the wider community of interest we hope to tap into at Eden.
The Dream School initiative is driven by Kauniaisten Suomenkielinen Koulutoimi (Local authority for Finnish language schools,.City of Kauniainen). The school is participating in a Pilot School Project for determining the future of ICT in Finnish schools. More info at http://www.arjentietoyhteiskunta.fi/inenglish. The Pilot School Project is coordinated by the Ministry of Transport and Communications and is implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the Finnish National Board of Education and companies. Companies participating in the Kauniainen´s part of Pilot School Project include ie. IBM, Elisa and Opinsys.
Following chapters will outline the substance to our vision and execution as we discuss the patterns of action for achievement of the goals with specific focus on the cost effective and environmentally sound open source ICT- solutions used in the school.
1. Making school a better place, even worldwide?
Schools have traditionally been centres from which new ideas have spread to the surrounding community. On the other hand, certain changes in society i.e. rapid development of ICT have reached schools with delay. The pace of change places increasing demands for individuals and communities. Schools could and should for their own part spearhead the development, the task of basic education being to raise adults of the future, help prepare them for jobs that may not exist yet and to give them tools and capabilities for a good life in order to become contributing members of the society. The goal is not merely the delivery of the curriculum, but the internalization of the underlying concepts, and the ability to think critically and act socially. (http://kasavuori.fi/images/stories/dream_school.pdf)
Surveying teaching and learning from the future point of view we have asked what skills and information will the adult of the future need? The ability to work will need continuous updating and developing of know-how. The need for expertise and people with multiple skills will increase. These people will very likely be more mobile than before, going where there is need for their skills. The importance of networking and interaction skills will increase. Media skills are significant for surviving in the ubiquitous society. As the complexity increases the importance of skills to control one’s life will become more important.
An exhaustive list is naturally impossible to make, but a school, however, must have the capacity and the desire to plan for the future and have an understanding that the choices and decisions today will have an influence on the formation of the future. The school has to pay attention to the changes happening in the world and direct its operation according to it. School has to be proactive (not reactive) and innovative. The school should only be imitative when incorporating best practices developed elsewhere. School as a part of society cannot only stay and wait, but work has to be done for innovations, know-how and success. When these objectives are understood and implemented the school is on the right path.
1.1. Philosophy of the dream school: What is it all about?
The school of Kasavuori (http://kasavuori.fi/index.php?lang=english) is proud to call itself a learning organization in the broadest sense. Learning is not only a student priviledge. Continuous development and life long learning belongs to every staff member. Teaching and learning are not limited to curriculum delivery, learner and organisational development are ongoing processes .
Realization of the dream school is an ongoing process, not a project that has a beginning and an end. The dream school (http://www.unelmakoulu.net/english) is a vision of a good school created in the City of Kauniainen. We strive towards that vision through means of continuous active learning and development. The basic education of Kauniainen builds the path towards its own dream school in a consistent manner. At the same time the dream school development process will be conceptualised in a way that would make it easy for other schools to start their own dream school processes. Central for this is sharing the common values, knowledge, experience and also sharing certain common networkable development tools – the open source of learning. The most important task of the basic education is to support the learning and growth.
The most important thing is the interest of the child, the second most important thing is the interest of the child, the third most important thing is the interest…
In the dream school the pupil is in the main role; in the words of our studentbody: “The school should be like its students”. With measures that have been commonly agreed upon we support the learning, development of a positive self image and growing to be a responsible member of the society.
What you learn without joy, you forget without grief
In the dream school we bring in the emotion into learning. For the learning process it is important that the knowledge and the emotions are united, because the emotion colours the knowledge, the motives affect emotions and the knowledge changes the motives. The school either supports or impedes the growth of motivation. The joy of learning is born when the child notices that he is learning. Recognition, praise and support are important for the joy of learning to survive. The school must give the pupil responsibility for his own learning and behaviour. The goal for the adults at school is that the “the spirit of the school floats in the corridors”. The adults work and act jointly to promote an atmosphere that enables and promotes joy of learning. There must be room for trial and error at the school. The dream school challenges the curiosity, inspires learning and leads to creation of different networks.
The virtual world at the school
The diginatives are born into a world where the virtual is equally real as the real, physical world with its networks. The virtual world is challenging for the adults. That is why the school and the teacher must have the courage to go along with the learner and also be there as an active learner. The adult’s duty is to provide a secure and supportive grown up presence also in the virtual world. This kind of safety means among other things that we are mindful of the development of the filters inside the heads of the learners instead of relying on endless bans, limits and interdictions. The pupil should not be stripped of the things that are a part of his life outside the school (i.e mobile devices) when he comes to school. The school should rather reflect on how to use them in learning. The school cannot withdraw from the pupils’ life in this respect either.
”It takes a whole village to raise a child” is an approach that also teaches the child responsibility for the world.
Sustainable development is at the core: “act locally, make a difference globally”. We expect our partners to implement the same values as well. We strive for this goal by choosing solutions that save energy and materials (i.e. IT solutions with thin clients and led lights)
2. Pedagogical background Finnish basic education in Kauniainen giving tools for a good life
The development of the learner’s know-how readiness is divided in the basic skills (academic, civic and practical skills) and working skills.
2.1. Processes connected to support the learner’s growth and learning
The pupil is the centre of the pedagogy. The atmosphere at school is open and inspiring which together with an individual learning track fosters the pupils’ positive selfimage, inner motivation, joy, passion and curiosity.
Student welfare is based on the principle that the whole village educates. All adults in school participate in taking care of the pupils’ learning and growth and his physical, psychical and social well-being.
Services supporting learning and growth are defined according to individual needs and are delivered at the earliest possible stage. According to individual needs several forms of general, special or intensified support can be implemented i.e. removing learning obstacles, remedial instruction or extensive long term support.
Student guidance Every pupil is recognized as an individual in the school community, his individual strengths and orientation are taken into consideration in his individual learning track. He is guided towards Good Life and learning skills and the necessary control and management of everyday life. The pupil’s self-knowledge develops and he understands the possibilities to influence and his responsibilities as a member of society during the whole course of his life. Versatile and appropriate evaluation that is encouraging and guiding is a way to support learning and development. A realistic opinion of his learning and knowledge develops to the learner along with increasing self-adjustment. Learning is a happy and a positive experience. Practical and arts subjects belong to every learner’s basic rights and are an essential part of the learner’s comprehensive development and give tools for the whole of life.
2.2. Processes connected to the organization
Planning is collaborative and its core is in the teams’ yearly plans. Evaluation takes place regularly in cycles that are combined in yearly assessments. Leadership starts from common values, vision and strategy. Strategy is objective-oriented, based on the core- and supportive processes. It is organized around cooperative teams since shared leadership increases the personnel’s mutual confidence. Versatile evaluation is the central tool of leadership. Learning environment means the time, place and condition where learning takes place and it forms a basis for lifelong learning. A safe and versatile learning environment supports the learner’s motivation, improves his activity, his self-guidance and allows for trial and error. It also issues challenges to curiosity and inspires the learner to learn and create various networks. Work community supports the learner’ growth and learning. At the heart are our commonly agreed values. The basis of the operation is multi-occupational cooperation, the community is agile and ready to react to changes. The work community is future-oriented, positive to development and curious to look for the new. It is aware of its members’ expertise, strengths and needs for development and is able to utilize and complete them. Every member is responsible for the positive and safe atmosphere in which the best ideas and things are created in collaboration and interaction. The superiors create mental and material preconditions for activities and maintain hope and enthusiasm. The personnel’s occupational development supports the goals of the school year plan. The teams survey their needs for development arising from the emphasis and in addition every member of the work community takes care of his occupational development and shares his know-how. Evaluation includes the following sectors: school year, services, training policy and the work community. The organization is being evaluated actively and on a continuous basis. The purpose thereof is developing the operation of Finnish basic education in Kauniainen.
Budgeting and resources The level of resources for operation corresponds to developing needs, this includes cost for leasing equipment. Financing of training and development programs is included in the local authority budget. The goal of marketing is to encourage families to move to Kauniainen and to attract kids from neighbouring municipalities. Marketing is done by professionals although our best marketing tool is a good, well functioning school. We purchase services that support our core functions.
2.3. The patterns connected to networking and communication
Communication In basic education the most important communication takes place face to face. Together with it in school’s internal communication we use intra, which is a corporative tool. It is developed continuously to correspond to changing needs. Communication is independent of place, time and means. Networking is cooperation with allowed resources between individuals and organizations; it brings surplus value to those involved. Networking is ethically sustainable action.
3. Technological solutions that support the goals: A user centered service platform built from the ground up
The platform connects services and components used by the students and faculty, and provides a common, extendible interface that integrates into the Dream School environment. This is done from the users’ point of view. We have built an open source platform to connect service providers in the open source community with users and customers from the users´ point of view.
The centre for building the ICT system in the school is the empowered user. All parts of the system serve the user, they are economical, energy efficient and environmentally sound. Every staff member uses the IT environment efficiently and with ease. All services and communication can be accessed through a single sign on. In this case the best journey is the one with fewest steps. The aim is to shorten the distance between the user and what he or she wants to accomplish. This policy also leads to savings.
The collaborative ICT platform for learning and innovation means that the system and the learners keep an open mind when it comes to learning and development. The key components are: open source operating system, open source learning platforms, open access to and from internet, open ID, open WLAN, open source terminal servers, open LDAP. The network is optical fibre based, reliable, easy to use and every computer has the same interface. The maintenance is predictive and professional. We are currently creating personal avatars for learning and setting up unified communication in group and unified personal communication to make communication well timed and targeted.
3.1. System description
The Dream School Service Platform is implemented with open source products that are cost effective and easy to use.
The information system is Linux based and an environment of open source programs. The school utilizes new thin clients which are easy to use, quick to start and take up very little space. Pc-workstations and laptops are also used as thin clients. Networked pc are used as teacher workstations, they are started through a server, which makes the service and maintenance easier. Laptops are used for mobile work, their maintenance is centralized. Key considerations for the solution are: Extendability, security, reliability, usability.
The energy efficiency and environmental aspects are important. Thin clients are energy efficient in use and their life span is much longer than a PC’s, which means less electronic waste. The annual energy consumption of a thin client is much less than that of a PC.
One single username and password are the key to all information system services. Email is a tailored version of Googleapps. Internet services based on open source: Moodle, wikis, blogs. User authorization. The school homepages are based on an open source Joomla publishing system. Intranet for the teaching staff is Joomla based and tailored to our needs. Study portal is a portal for education and courses available in the city. MoVie video sharing service is available to all.
Within the framework of a Public-Private Partnership renowned companies provide services to schools, such as educational software, communication- and administrative tools. The Dream School Service Platform provides a common integration point. The collaboration and communication between the partners is tight. School administrators will be able to easily take into use services from various providers, and service providers will have a defined API and access to shared resources.
3.2. Staff training
The different teams assess their training needs (1) and the school ICT team collates the needs for know-how and skills (2) that partly gives direction to planning of the training. The training is tailored to support the fundamental task of the school (3)
Skills and training needs can be divided on three levels:
Level 1. Basic skills to use the ICT system. Necessary education is organized inside the school. 100 % of the teachers have this level. Level 2. Implementing ICT in pedagogy. This is done as a common and collaborative training. 100% of the teachers have reached this level. Currently we are training the staff in the pedagogical use of the social media. In 2010 100 % of the teachers will have done this training. Level 3. The teacher contributes in the development of the information and communication technology in school. 30 % of the teachers should reach his level. The functional ICT team shows that we are very close to this goal.
4. Summary: Cost and savings
The challenge was how to make the information and communication technology to service learning. The main problems were the long response times between maintenance and the usage of the machines. It was difficult to update the programs and the funding did not quite cover the depreciation. The will and the need to utilize the ICT solutions as a support to teaching and learning simply did not meet the reality.
In order to accomplish a fundamental change we studied several different closed -. And open source solutions. We also got feedback from several independent experts. In addition to the benefits for the teaching and learning we evaluated the costs from previous years and the total costs for the different alternatives.
Today we have a user centered, net-based and reliable system that is easy to use with centralized maintenance. We also know exactly how much realization, maintenance and expansion will cost. This makes planning easier and increases the accuracy thereof.
The basis for the tender was the level of service as a whole and individual technical solutions were not defined. The goal was, however, to find an optimal solution where the old workstations could be used,
Factors that made important savings possible were the use of open source programs that can be used without license fees, use of a networked server based solution that makes it possible to centrally maintain a large group of different types and models of computers. The use of old pc workstations as thin clients and a longer lifespan for laptops when they are started from a network. We can save electricity with timed turn off. Transparency of the cost structure: We know where the money goes and procurement can be planned proactively. Ease of password management. The same user login works for all workstations, in Moodle, wikis and distant connection from home or from abroad. If a student forgets his password the teacher can issue a new one immediately. The solution is identical for the whole school authority, which leads to savings in training and support costs. In a Windows environment it is not easy to accomplish workstation service unless the equipment is standardized.
We have seen significant savings in investments in server environment, in license fees, machinery for workstations, maintenance, network, training and schooling and work time and in total costs.
Cost per workstation in the Linux system is at the moment 282 € / year including professional maintenance. 38 % of the workstations are laptops. When estimating the cost it is essential to remember that the use of ICT is a central part of learning and that the utilization rate of the machines is high. When we calculate the total cost it can be noted that with the 500 workstations (thin clients, PC’s and laptops) we have in use the savings compared with a Windows-based solution is about 40 %. The system allows utilization of 4 – 5 year old computers that have been retired from use somewhere else, thus the cost per workstation is significantly less than before. Using a Windows-based solution would mean a significantly lesser number of workstations and the current number of IT-support personnel would not be sufficient to maintain the service levels we are used to today.
The infrastructure is easy to extend, it is secure, reliable, easy to use and maintained and managed by skilled professionals in close cooperation with the school in order to meet the needs of the dream school. This has enabled the school to concentrate on and steer resources on further development of open source, user centered web based services by and for learners.
1. Kauniaisten kaupunki, Koulutoimisto, 2009: Suomenkielisten koulujen tietojärjestelmätilanne 2009
2. Kauniaisten kaupunki, Koulutoimisto, 2009:Selvitys koulutoimen tietotekniikkakustannuksista Kauniaisissa.
3. Schneitz Allan: Dream School Service Platform – An open source project
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