Digitalization of Basic Education: A Case Study from Kaarina, Finland, Part II

This article describes the results from several scientific studies that were carried out in the city of Kaarina, Finland in 2014-2015 as a part of a municipality wide 1:1 tablet implementation project in basic education schools. Part one of this article laid out the goals, technical, functional and pedagogical visions as well as explaining about some of the challenges that were met during the early stages of the project.

The project being the first of its size in Finland, receiving national media coverage. It also received extra funding for research from an organization that supports companies to go global, as well as funding innovations in the educational sector. There were several research projects issued in co-operation with Umeå University, University of Turku and a number of other partners, from which three main research projects were:

  • Changes in student motivation and attitudes towards ICT
  • Changes in teachers’ didactical designs
  • Improvements in teachers’ ICT skills and teachers’ experiences about the process

Point of view angle of teenage girls studying robotic arm in school.

 

The following chapter unveils some of the key findings of the research.
With regards to students’ attitudes towards mobile devices in education, the study (N=819, students aged 13-15) found out that younger students were more positive towards using iPads than the older students. It was also evident that communicative aspect of the use of the device decreased with older students and that girls were more productive (and more positive) in their iPad use while boys tended to consume more than create.

Subject teachers (N=81) experienced the documentation of student learning becoming more versatile (photography, video- and audio-recording), getting more possibilities for assessment and creative learning. They also viewed that a wide range of learning activities were available, which motivated students and that individualized instruction, differentiation and special needs education as a whole were given new, versatile tools.

When studying students’ learning motivation (N=200, students aged 13) the results overall indicated no change happening between the start and the end of the observation period. However, normally the research about students’ learning motivation states more declining levels as the students grow older. The conclusion in Kaarina’s case was that the 1:1 project was able to prevent the motivational decline. Enthusiasm in using iPads remained high during the observation period but there was also some disappointment in the air with some of students: iPad did not do all the work for them (some students had this kind of expectations in the beginning). Self-efficacy was found to be linked very strongly to all motivational factors: higher feeling of self-efficacy-meant higher motivation and better attitude towards the use of ICT.

The increase of technology in the classroom has led to pluralism of digital didactical designs done by the teachers. The research done in Kaarina and in other Scandinavian coutries in co-operation with Umeå University in Sweden revealed that if a teacher uses mainly teacher-centered pedagogy and follows study books as a guideline to teaching, then digital tools would only work as a substitute; new tools are being used only to support traditional pedagogical solutions. On the other hand, if a teacher is accustomed to using student-centered pedagogy and project based learning, then digital tools could modify and redefine teaching and learning processes.

In the beginning of the tablet project, there were demands from local politicians made about that there should be evidence provided with technology that boost learning results. It is, however, practically impossible to provide a single scientific evidence that if you add technology into classrooms, everything will directly become better. Case Kaarina was able to provide more in-depth data to the educational field about how technology is affecting teaching and learning.

The final conclusion from this 1:1 project was that you can have positive results to learning with personal, mobile devices indirectly: technology can add students’ self-efficacy, sustain learning motivation, add new ways of collaboration, new skills, new materials and empower teachers to use student-centered pedagogy. Technology can be one of the catalysts in changing the operational culture of schools into a direction that Finnish national curriculum includes- to have students with multifaceted and deep learning possibilities, cross-curricular competences, promotion of sustainable ways of living and pupils working as active agents.

by Dr. Keijo Sipilä