Hey everyone! It's Maddie, Katy, and Margaret, ready to share some of our experiences with you from our day today!
We began our day at the University of Oulu, specifically in the Teacher Training School, to learn more about the programs that this university has to offer. With around 15,000 students, this university provides top level teacher education for those enrolled in the program. We had the opportunity to hear accounts from two 24 year old students involved in the program themselves, specifically in Intercultural Education and Educational Psychology. The students shared their experiences with us, both in their time at the University of Oulu, as well as in their study away programs in the various countries that they have visited. In conversing with them about these experiences, we were able to learn about the ways that Finnish education differs from that in the United States. Specifically, they shared that students are typically in a 3 year bachelor's program and a 2 year master's, in contrast to our 4 year bachelor's and 1-2 year master's. They also explained that the relationships between teachers and students differ, as students in Finland refer to their teacher by her first name, whereas American students typically refer to their teacher using her appropriate suffix and last name. They also reiterated that teachers do not have the overwhelming responsibility to prepare students to simply succeed on exams, as American teachers do, but instead are able to focus on the joy of teaching and developing creative and productive lessons. We greatly enjoyed getting to hear from these students, as they were around our ages and enrolled in a similar program to our Teacher Education Program back at Furman.
Next, we moved on to a presentation about LEAF Infrastructure, another program at the university. One of the employees in this department explained to us the uses of various technological tools for innovative classrooms and teaching. He described the incorporation of 360 degree cameras for teachers and researchers and explained that this technology can assist teachers in better understanding their students. He additionally expressed the ways that students even as young as First Grade can use these cameras to be creative and to collaborate with others to make innovative projects.
Our technological tour continued with a walk through the Fab Lab! This area of the university opened our eyes to some of the impact that technological advances have had on engineering and design. We were able to see the various 3D printers, computers, and other tools used in this lab, as well as some of the products made as a result of these complex machines. It was very interesting getting to see the integration of the disciplines of engineering and design come to life in these labs, and also hear about practical ways in which these tools could be used for students and by students.
After that, we received a walking tour of the school's Tellus Innovation Arena. This space was developed in response to the students' need for an innovative working space. Our tour guide explained that this arena is used for people both in and out of the university. She explained that the space is used for three primary reasons: an event space, as a place for students and researchers to participate in activities, and as a place for students and others to volunteer and help facilitate events. She told us that recently, an event was put on by students in which they explained some of the cultural aspects of their home countries. She expressed the value in the students' and the community's collaboration to create such a meaningful event. She said that this was eye-opening for students that attended, as it exposed them to new experiences outside the lecture hall.
The next portion of our day was spent with an Early Childhood Education professional, Jana Juitnenen, who shared what the Early Childhood Education programs consisted of in Finland. She shared that most ECE programs are free for parents, or at a low cost, and that all programs, whether public or private, are this way. She explained that schooling for children ages 1-5 is considered Daycare, age 6 is Preschool, and age 7 is when the student first enters Primary School. Students in Finland are required to attend Preschool at age 6, but before then it is optional. We learned that only around 70% of children ages 1-5 attend schooling, although it is typically free or of low cost. She also described the Phenomenon-Based Learning practices in which students are active in creating and learning by doing instead of just listening, and emphasized that this is the basis of Early Childhood programs, in addition to other levels of the Finnish Education system. We enjoyed getting to compare the Early Childhood Education in Finland with our own experiences in the American ECE.
Our day concluded with a visit a Human Computer Interactions Researcher and the CEO of Finpeda, who both shared some virtual reality tools that they believe will become useful in the future of our classrooms. The researcher showed us some of the projects that she has created using various technologies, and allowed us to try on virtual reality goggles to experience virtual realities of real streets in Oulu. The CEO continued discussing the use of virtual reality software for classroom teachers, and even showed us the program and how we might be able to use it ourselves one day in America. He also gave us each a copy of his book, "How to Create the School of the Future," which was very exciting, and explained the importance of open classrooms that allow students to be comfortable and successful.