Sunday, 31 January 2010

EDUCA fair in Helsinki

Yesterday I visited EDUCA, the largest educational fair in Finland. For two days, hundreds of vendors, educational organizations and interest groups had set up their booths to promote the latest trends in education.

IWBs were prominently displayed as a must in any classroom these days.

This particular company marketed the concept of ActivClassroom, but looking at these people here, I couldn't help wondering what was so active about it? Looks very much like a glorified version of the old teacher-centred demonstration devices. In my school, we will get a few new IWBs in February, and one of my goals for this school year is to learn to use one. I am interested in seeing if I will be able to find the much hyped, revolutionary, interactive element in it. New technology is only any good if it shakes stuck-in-a-rut pedagogical practises, too.

My most interesting insight at the fair came from a lecture by Professor Andy Hargreaves from Boston college. In his engaging and humorous lecture he went through some of the educational policy changes in the last 50 years, and introduced his latest recipe for school systems of today, 'The Fourth Way'. He had labelled each policy with different planets. So from the lovey-dovey Venus 60s and 70s, he took us through the Mars years of the 80s to the present Mercury atmosphere of imposed targets and data-driven accountability. And then he left us thinking about the fourth way, illustrated by the Earth.

He had been specially commisioned to do some research on Finland and our much praised educational system. His dream for us was the following: build on our heritage and reputation for being one of the most inclusive nations in the world (e.g. gender equality, including disabled students in mainstream classes) and extend this to be know as the world leading country of cultural diversity. That will be a challenge for a country that has been very homogeneous for so long, and is now finding it terribly hard to come to terms with the arrival of more and more immigrants in the last decade.

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