Kategoriarkiv: Digitalisering i skolan

WalkAbout 211110 – Workshop Universeh

Curious about WalkAbout and how it can be used for higher education? 211110 1400-1600 we arrange within the Universeh project a seminar and workshop about WalkAbout. It is online via Zoom and everyone is welcome. If you do not want to be active, you can just listen to the first half, which is more of a presentation. The presentation and workshop is in English.

Recording: YouTube (4K), LTU Play


How should education be organized in an ideal world?

The basis for compulsory school education in Sweden goes back to 1842, but before that from 1723 it was the parents’ responsibility that all children learned how to read and write. The current school system has not changed much since the end of the 19:th century when the main motivation was that we needed an educated workforce for the factories as part of industrialization. I.e., the main motivation was not political in the sense that everybody should be educated, but rather financial, to support the industry. Since then, the school system has changed somewhat in how it is organized, e.g., responsibility moved from state to city level and we have many more schools and universities, but the educational format itself is still the same. In the end, it is just a group of children sitting together in the classroom and learning a specific subject at a specific time. 

How could education instead be organized? Do we need to put every child/student in a specific group based on age even though we know what people and specifically children learn at different rates? There has also been talk about using modern technical tools in education for a long time and some progress is made, but here it is mostly a question of moving the learning material from physical to digital format. In the end, it comes down to: What is the motivation for learning from a societal perspective?

In an ideal world, everybody should learn everything they need to live a successful and prosperous life in a modern society, but unfortunately not everyone is motivated by the same things and can not learn at the same pace. 

Right now, there is a big push in Sweden for life-long learning mainly motivated by new growing base industries like modern iron/steel-production and battery factories for electrical vehicles. These are mostly industry jobs with specific requirements and do not always fully match available educational programs. Instead, special cases with MOOCs and specific short programs are created by universities, but the main educational effort is still on the classical education. 

The educational system overall needs to be refined/changed to support a life-long learning thinking where the learners are not finished learning at the stage they end their learning at. Most see a person that has finished a program at university level to be “finished”. Changes could include the following:

  • Compulsory learning time for everybody every year. In Sweden we have compulsory vacation, which the employer must pay and why not use the same principle for learning where we all get 2-4 weeks paid learning time.
  • Educational financing at university level should be shifted to include more of the life-long perspective and not only focus on basic educational programs. 
  • On compulsory level (year 1-9) followed by secondary school, the learning should be more integrated where several subjects could be read together and with shifting learning groups where the classical class is removed (we need to think about the social impact though).
  • The school system should utilize technical tools to support the learners where technology is used to identify learning levels and learning motivation and adapt both the curriculum per student and the learning system itself. The tools would provide clear and direct feedback to the learner and help the learn more and finally help them get more motivated to continue to learn.  

So, why is change so slow or non-existent in the school system? How can we make something happen?

/Peter Parnes 

What makes a good school? Is it the teachers?

When I look back on my childhood education, I cannot really say much about the school itself. Most of the things I remember relate to other children and not at all to what I learned (children can be cruel). 

I do remember a few things though and they all relate to making me as a student be seen and recognizing me as an individual and not as just one among many. When I was in lower grade school (age 7-9), I would come early to school before all the other children and stand outside the window of my classroom until the teacher (she was there early preparing each morning) saw me and invited me into the classroom where I usually did math calculations. I do not remember anything we talked about or even who she was (I wonder if she still is alive and if she would remember me?). 

Another memory is from the final years in compulsory school (age 13-15). We had a big drive in Sweden for computing in school and just like Bill Gates (as mentioned in an earlier part of this course) I had access to my own room of computers (as the teachers did not know how to use them). Ps. Did you know that Sweden invented its own computer, called Compis just for learning in schools? Anyhow, I and another student got our own key to the computer room, and we could spend as much free time as we like in there. This together with having two parents working with computers (this was in the 80s) cemented my interest in learning programming. What has this to do with if it was a good school or not? Well, I think it was a question of trust where the teacher trusted us with our own key and that we would not break anything. 

If we take this to my own students (I am professor in computer science and I teach mostly software engineering in larger projects on advanced level) at Luleå University of Technology, I think a key part of making a good school (university in this case) is to make the students be seen and not just see the students as a big mass of bodies. I try to connect with as many as I can, and I do this by engaging early with them. E.g., I do guest lectures for our new students, meet many of them before they even come to university as part of recruitment events, I engage in their online channels (earlier Facebook and now Discord) where I try to help when I can. 

I have also experimented with several different efforts to help and support the students. I started a mentorship program for first year students where the students were divided up into groups of about 5 and got assigned to another engaged teacher for regular meetings outside of their normal schedule. This was fully voluntary for the students and the idea was to support those that needed it with not only schoolwork but also with social issues. The outcome was not that good as it in the end turned out that those students that needed the extra help did not show up for the meetings. 

Another effort that is much more successful and is still ongoing, is my project #include with the goal to support our female students within the CS area and help them continue and conclude the studies. This started in 2014 and we have done many events together, like social dinners, study evenings, mentorship programs, alumni gatherings and just creating a feeling of togetherness to support them during their time at the university.     

To conclude, I think it is important to make the students be seen but at the same time we have reality around us. We as teachers have a limited amount of time and a limited amount of energy to spend on our work. At university level it is a bit different from compulsory and secondary school level, where I am just a part time teacher while others are full time teachers. Around us we all have budget issues, teachers moving between jobs (and many leaving the teachers jobs all together), other mean students and it might be hard to get a continuation as a student with just one teacher. 

So, what makes a good school comes back to what makes a good teacher. Without good teachers, we cannot have good schools. This is an ongoing process where we as teachers must make an extra effort and help the students be seen. It is our responsibility to make that extra effort to make the student be seen!

/Peter, just another teacher trying to do his best. 

What makes a teacher good?

When I look back on my own education, a couple teachers come to my mind as being “great”. 

The first example is my technology teacher in secondary school (1988-1990). He was not an educated teacher, but rather a construction engineer originally. He introduced me to the notion of not learning everything by heart, but rather we were allowed to bring everything we wanted to the tests. This was before the Internet was generally available in schools, so we had to think about what books, notes etc., we wanted to bring to the tests which in turn was a way of reflecting on our own learning which is a key part of the learning. 

Another example is my algorithms teacher during my master’s education (around 1992). This teacher was very charismatic and impressed us by never preparing his lectures, or at least he made it look like he never prepared. He came into the lecture hall, asked us which chapter we were currently reading, looked in the book for 10 seconds, closed it and then held a 2*45 min lecture by just speaking and writing on the blackboard. This impressed me as it showed that he really knew his subject. After all, he was a professor in algorithms so he should know the subject. 

So, what makes a teacher good? Here are a few things. 

  1. See and listen to the students. Take care in trying to understand what the students have trouble learning and then try to explain just that. 
  2. Show that you care. Tightly connected to point 1, but more about the emotions. Show that you want the student to learn, but also that you can be stern when needed. 
  3. Never ever lower the learning criteria. We can change much in our learning and teaching style, but we should never ever lower the criteria for passing. Students do not want to just pass, but rather see that they have accomplished something. 
  4. Pay attention to the details. Show respect to your students by not giving them material with a lot of errors. This includes everything, the learning material in the LMS, lecture notes, what you say and most importantly in the course planning. If you show the students respect through your work, then you will most likely get respect and good results back. 
  5. Connect theory to practice. Do not just give facts and theories but also connect it to real life by showing real examples that the students can connect to and by that motivate why they should be learning the subject in question in the first place. 
  6. Get the students to ask the right questions and get them to reflect on their learning. Why is a certain thing, the way it is? What did I just learn by doing this assignment? By reflection and questioning, the student can generalize and take their own learning to the next level.  

These are just a few things that can be said about what makes a teacher good. That do you think makes a teacher good? 

/Peter Parnes, a learner for life.