#More than 140 – Get To Know Your PLN

A few days ago, I was very happy to be contacted by Matthew Ray, in order to start a great project we are calling “More than 140.” We hope you will follow the hashtag #MoreThan140, as well as our blogs and youtube channels (links are provided after the video).

Watch the video to find out more about our project:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

***Update: We are working on figuring out how to upload wetoku/vodpod videos to youtube. In the meantime, the videos will be hosted on vodpod, which you can access by clicking here.

Vicky Loras

1st collector for More than 140 – Welcome
Follow my videos on vodpod

Interview with Aki Puustinen, Finnish Educator and Principal

It is a great honour for me to host an interview with Aki Puustinen, Finnish educator and principal at Muurame Upper Secondary School in Muurame, Finland.

Aki is also CEO of Team Company, a company he runs with fellow Finnish educator Timo Ilomaki.

You can read Aki’s blog at http://apuustin-leadership.blogspot.com/ .

Kiitos for this great and informative interview, Aki!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Number Sixteen – Change Your Environment – The 30 Goals Challenge

Change the displays, seating, rooms if possible... (image taken from http://www.newstreamz.com)

This is a period when lots of schools are re-opening worldwide. I love seeing educators on Twitter mentioning in their tweets that they are changing their classroom, redecorating it (some even share pictures or blog posts about that) or coming up with ideas about how they will be changing their classroom throughout the year. The reason I love seeing educators talk about how they will change their classrooms is manifold: they have their students in mind in doing so, they like changing the environment and because it has been proven that learning becomes more effective, either in a classroom that changes often or if the learning environment per se is the one that changes.

  • Educators can change the way their classroom looks as regularly as they like and at a low budget. There are so many ideas on the internet now, that one does not have to spend enormous amounts or ask for great financial support from their administration. There are so many printable posters, banners, signs to choose from, so that your students can be motivated and encouraged throughout the year. Some websites with great printable materials for classrooms, free of charge, are http://www.mandygregory.com/free_classroom_printables.htm and http://p-rposters.com/. Changes are good, as long as they are not too drastic and very often, as they need a sense of familiarity, especially for the younger students, so that it can be a place where they feel safe and where they feel they belong.
  • Two years ago I was very fortunate to attend a workshop by Ron Ritchhart, one of the great educators behind Project Zero of Harvard University. What I particularly loved about the workshop was that he was pointing out the importance of documenting the students’ work on the walls. Educators everywhere use their kids’ own work to put on the walls: posters the kids make, drawings, projects, absolutely anything! Do it often and fill up those walls inside and outside your classroom! Visual learningis at its best when students can see their own work on the school walls and also see other kids’ work. The learning that takes place there is amazing!

    ...or take them outside to learn! (Marcher Sur Le Sable by @Alice_M, from http://www.flickr.com/eltpics)
  • Take your students out of the classroom. Yes, it works wonders and they learn in the process. No matter what their ages are, I always try to take te students out. As I have mentioned in Goal Number Three, I take the kids out – we tried a cornfield near the school plenty of times and they have learned so much. It is also a change of environment and stimulates their curiosity to learn. Even with adult students, leaving the classroom every now and then is a great experience. We go to a restaurant or a walk and start talking about the things around us – especially at the restaurant, we take apart everything on the menu and look at the language of ordering food and drink, asking for things and any other relevant language.

Change can happen in many ways. Your students will love it and learn in the process!

How Will You Follow Up on RSCON3? – An ELTChat Summary

We discussed our experiences as attendees of RSCON3 on ELTChat.

After the very successful Reform Symposium RSCON3, I was very happy to see (and I am sure there were lots out there on ELTChat) that the topic of discussion for ELTChat would be this great event.

The topic was how we will all follow up on RSCON3. The Twitter timeline was absolutely full of recommendations (I got the failwhale three times!). First of all, there were those of us who had seen a lot of sessions but would like to catch up on those we did not manage to watch and there were some people (and that was absolutely great) who did not manage to catch the conference at all.

Some of the recommendations were:

  • Blogging. Some of us mentioned that we had either already blogged about the event or will do so in the future, so there will be quite a collection in the end! (Last night, during ELTChat, there were already 58 blog posts on RSCON3!) In particular, Neil McMahon, an educator based in Argentina, mentioned that he would extend his blogging after attending Steve Wheeler‘s final keynote. Professor Wheeler blogs almost on a daily basis!  Tyson Seburn suggested incorporating ideas from RSCON3 and then blogging about how it went in class.
  • Watching or re-watching the sessions. The great thing about RSCON3 is that all of the sessions and keynotes have been recorded and the videos will all be up very soon, for all of us to watch (or watch again, again, again…). The videos will soon be on the RSCON website: http://reformsymposium.com.
  • Training sessions in our schools. Sue Annan, a great educator and wonderful person from the Jersey Islands (with her own blog), mentioned that she had already organised a training session for her colleagues based on the RSCON3 sessions. Some mentioned they would also be using the videos with their colleagues and will encourage them to participate in the future (as there will surely be a RSCON4!).
Time flew by on ELTChat - as always! (Photo: Three extra minutes by Sue Annan, from http://www.flickr.com/eltpics)

When asked what ELTChat participants would come away with from RSCON3, there was a variety of responses.

  • There was a general consensus that there was a great variety of sessions and the learning that took place was great. Tyson Seburn mentioned that the educators were a very diverse crowd, culturally and education sector-wise. James Taylor also mentioned that he liked the fact that the educators were also from outside ELT.
  • We all liked being able to watch from home or our offices or schools – there were no tech issues worth mentioning whatsoever, so we could all watch the sessions comfortably and everything ran smoothly! It is not called Professional Development in Pyjamas for nothing! The fact that it is a free event was also mentioned by everyone.
  • We all managed to connect with a great number of educators we did not know before on Twitter, Facebook and now Google+.
  • There was a large number of people on the chat who mentioned that they liked the fact that there were a lot of interactive sessions.

Some useful links were mentioned:

The time just flew by, as every time and the chat was great! Once again, many thanks to everyone who organised RSCON3 and to the ELTChat educators for such a great chat.

Number Fifteen – Be A Guide – The 30 Goals Challenge

After a great online conference, RSCON3, time to get back to the 30 Goals Challenge!

Guide them and they will find their way! (Image taken by Carol Goodey, @cgoodey, from http://www.flickr.com/eltpics)

Being a guide in your classroom and your school is very important. It should be part of a teacher’s make-up and being to be a guide towards the students and towards other teachers in their school.

A Guide to the Students

  • A lot of the top educational systems in the world are exactly at the top because they allow students and show them the way to researching on their own. No ready answers from educators, no pressure – the teachers present the subject matter and let the kids explore and find the answers on their own. And that is why we are there for them. To facilitate their learning – not in giving them ready-made answers, but showing them their potentials, that on their own and through searching and looking and researching they can find the answer and their way to knowledge. Each student in their own way. In my classes, the best lessons come when I am listening to the kids speak to one another and debate and explain – I am only there and intervene to give them encouragement and praise and lead them perhaps to something else, when I see that they want more to learn.

A Guide to Teachers

  • There is nothing better than a school full of teachers who have a great relationship among them, communicate and always know they will be there for each other. A bit difficult to happen throughout the whole school, but at least it can happen for a number of teachers in a specific school – and then, who knows? The others might join them as well!
  • Let your teachers know you are always there for them, be it for school-related things or personal things, if you can help them of course. There is nothing better for them to know they can depend on you and come to you without hesitation, whatever your role in the school.
  • Guide them to new things: social networks like Twitter, Facebook and now Google+ and so on and let them know how they have helped you with your professional development. Let them know about conferences and workshops – I let them know I am going and sometimes they join, because they feel better when they are with someone else. Once we are there, they open up and meet other educators as well (and see what good stuff they are missing when they do not come!).

Be a guide for both students and other teachers – someone else has guided you and is guiding you too – everyone is a link to a great chain!

Multiculturalism and Diversity in the Classroom – A Preview of My Presentation for RSCON3

The Reform Symposium is almost here! Literally thousands of educators from all over the world will be watching the presentations, all from the comfort of their own space at home or elsewhere – professional development, free for all! This is going to be my first presentation and I am really looking forward to it and attending other talks as well. Many many thanks in advance to everyone organising, moderating and attending!

This is a slideshow of my presentation:

Here is the information from the fantastic organisers of this great event:

In a few days, nearly 8000 educators from over 40 different countries are expected to attend a free 3 day virtual conference, The Reform Symposium, #RSCON3. This free award-nominated e-conference is going to take place on July 29-31st, 2011. Participants can attend this online conference from the comfort of their homes or anywhere that has Internet access. This amazing conference provides educators new or currently active on social networks the opportunity to connect with educators and professionals in the field of education worldwide. With over 12 Keynotes, 80 presenters, and 3 keynote panel discussions you are bound to be inspired!

We would like to thank the incredible organizers– Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkely, Chris Rogers, Lisa Dabbs, Melissa Tran, Clive Elsmore, Mark Barnes, Ian Chia, Cecilia Lemos, Jerry Blumengarten, and Kyle Pace- and Steve Hargadon of Classroom 2.0 and The Future of Education online communities for making this incredible conference possible.

We hope you can join us for this incredible professional development experience!

Number Fourteen – Build An Ideal Classroom Culture – The 30 Goals Challenge

An ideal classroom culture is achieved when everyone enjoys being there! (Picture from http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics, taken by Adam Simpson, @yearinthelifeof)

The fourteenth goal is, in my opinion, a very strong foundation for the rest of the goals to materialise. An ideal classroom culture has been successfully created when:

– Students feel comfortable in their classroom and view it as a place where they love to learn.

– Educators and students co-operate and see each other as members of a great learning team.

– Parents and caregivers are welcome to come in and visit at times, in order to enjoy the great learning atmosphere.

– There is mutual respect and everyone is valued.

– Students do not leave immediately when the lesson is over, but enjoy staying at school and working on their school material or helping each other. (Sometimes they even stay after school to help the teacher tidy up the classroom, which is very nice and reflects the atmosphere of helping and co-operation!)

– Educators feel comfortable in their classrooms, love what is happening there, that they even go there on weekends or stay longer after school (as long as they don’t overdo it!).

Number Eleven – Give Students Reign – The 30 Goals Challenge

Time to get back to the 30 Goals Challenge! Give your students the chance to become teachers for a day … or more!

Give your students reign - they can come up with some really good ideas! (Image taken from caitstanley.com)

This one has to be one of my favourite things to do in class. It depends on how educators use it and can be very successful if planned carefully beforehand – and it also depends on the students’ age.

Young Learners:

With children, I have seen that it works particularly well when a portion of the lesson time is devoted to their deciding on a new activity. If it is the whole lesson, chances are they might run out of things to do, or even worse, things may get completely out of hand in terms of classroom management.

So depending on when you think it is appropriate, it can be the first or last fifteen or so minutes of the lesson. Sometimes I give them a list of ideas – so we have, this, this and this to do…which one would you like? You can either have them quickly vote and go with what the majority decides (and promise to do the other activities another time in case some children start complaining – but keep to your word, they sure will remember!), or split them up in groups and they can do the activity they chose.

Adult Learners:

With adults, you can let them know beforehand that sometime during the year you will be giving them the opportunity to choose the course of the lesson. If a teacher just goes in class and announces, Ok, so what would you like to do today? your students may think that you have not prepared  (even though you may have the best intentions) or they might feel insecure about learning anything that day.

Again, as with young learners, either a portion of the lesson can be devoted or even the whole lesson, if they wish to. Once, I told a group of bankers that I teach that they could have the opportunity to choose to do whatever they wanted. They chose to prepare some presentations and they were so enthusiastic about it, that they had made the best presentations ever, complete with  PowerpointTM and this was one of the best lessons ever with them. (I just told them to e-mail me beforehand on what they would be doing, so I prepared some notes for them concerning presentations. And while they were presenting, I was keeping notes of all the super expressions and language they came up with, just to put them on the board afterwards for the rest of the group to see and use.) So if you participate in any of these ways, it shows that you do give them reign, but as educators we also have something to give back to them and not only let them do all the preparation  so we can revel in the free time. It is not why we are doing it anyway.

By giving them reign, we give them the opportunity to actively engage in their learning process and find out how they learn best. As educators, we can also gain insight into that from the ideas they come up with.

If you have any other tips on how you choose to give your students reign, I will be very happy to read about them!

Rehtori Esa Kukkasniemi kertoo suomalaisesta opetuksesta maailmalle

Esa Kukkasniemi avaa rehtorin
näkökulmaa haastattelussa.

Kanadalainen englannin opettaja Vicky Loras törmäsi suomalaisiin rehtoreihin ja opettajiin Twitterissä, mm. #finnedchat-aiheisessa keskustelussa. Hän haastatteli eilen blogissaan Esa Kukkasniemeä, joka on Jokikunnan koulun entinen rehtori ja on juuri aloittanut Vuorenmäen oppimiskeskuksessa (jota ei vielä oikein netissä näykään; katsotaan mitä Esa saa aikaan). Tässä on Vickyn ja Esan luvalla vapaa käännös haastattelusta. Voit seurata suomalaisten rehtorien visertelyä rehtorit-listan kautta tai Rehtorit visertävät -uutislehdessä.

English summary: This is a Finnish translation of Vicky Loras’ interview with Esa Kukkasniemi, published by permission. You can follow Finnish principals on Twitter through the “rehtorit” twitter list or on paper.li. (both English and Finnish to be expected).

1. Miten päädyit opettajaksi?

Molemmat vanhempani olivat sisustusarkkitehteja, joten minunkin oli tarkoitus päätyä sille alalle. Pyrin Taideteolliseen korkeakouluunkin kahdesti, mutta en päässyt sisään. Sain tällöin ajatuksen ryhtyä opettajaksi; ymmärsin, että haluan työskennellä ihmisten kanssa, en papereiden. Pääsin opiskelemaan Helsingin yliopistoon. Näin nopeasti, että juuri tätä halusin tehdä. Olen aina ollut kiinnostunut kaikesta. Oli hienoa voida opiskella monipuolisesti, sitä sun tätä. Sanonkin usein, että peruskouluopettajat tietävät vähän kaikesta, mutteivät syvällisesti mitään…

2. Mikä on innostavinta rehtorin työssä?

Olen toiminut rehtorina nyt kuusi vuotta ja se on ollut todella mielenkiintoinen jakso elämässäni. Joka ikinen päivä on opittava uusia asioita eikä yksikään päivä toistu samanlaisena. Juuri tästä nautin. Tätä ennen työskentelin kaupallisen radion palveluksessa vuosien 1996 ja 2004 välillä. Kun huomasin puhuvani samoista asioista päivästä toiseen lopetin työni ja menin takaisin kouluun. En ole katunut tätä päätöstä.

Uusien ja innovatiivisten opetustapojen luominen innostaa minua. Rehtorina minulla on mahdollisuus pohtia asioita ihmisten kanssa, oppia muilta ja muotoilla oppimastani uusi paketti omaan kouluuni. Ihailen opettajia valtavasti. Kunnioitan heidän ammatillista ja henkilökohtaista osaamistaan. Näen oman roolini valmentajana tai pelinrakentajana, jonka tehtävä on auttaa opettajia löytämään vahvuutensa ja loistamaan!

3. Kansainvälisesti puhutaan paljon Suomen opetusmallista. Mitkä ovat mielestäsi tämän menestyksen tärkeimmät syyt?

Suomeen tulee paljon ihmisiä kaikkialta maailmasta. He tekevät muistiinpanoja ja löytävät eri syitä menestykseemme. Ja suomalaisen opetusjärjestelmän takana on varmasti monia eri syitä. Omasta mielestäni suuri osa menestyksestä johtuu suomalaisesta opetuskulttuurista: Opettajat ovat arvostettuja ammattilaisia, joilla kaikilla on yliopistotutkinto. Kaikki suomalaiset saavat maksutta yhdeksän vuoden koulutuksen ja siitä eteenpäinkään opetus ei maksa juuri mitään, edes yliopistoissa. Verrattuna muihin maihin, Suomen tuloerot ovat varsin pieniä, ja tämä on myös tärkeää. Meillä on vahvaa tieteellistä näyttöä, että kun tuloerot kasvavat, oppiminen kärsii.

Me emme testaa opettajia lainkaan emmekä oppilaitakaan kovin usein. Me luotamme vahvasti ammatilaisiimme. Me emme pane heitä kilpailemaan keskenään. Edes koulut eivät kilpaile toistensa kanssa. Media yrittää aina välillä laittaa kouluja paremmuusjärjestykseen, mutta ne tyrmätään joka kerta.

Mutta meille tärkein kysymys ei ole, miten me tähän pääsimme, vaan mihin meidän tulisi nyt jatkaa? Mikä on visiomme tämän menestyksen jälkeen? On aina helpompaa olla askel johtajien jäljessä ja oppia heiltä, mutta meidän tulisi olla tiennäyttäjiä.

4. Luuletko, että sosiaalinen media ja teknologia voidaan onnistuneesti liittää koulutukseen? Käyttääkö oma koulusi niitä?

Sosiaalinen media ja sosiaaliset verkostot ovat osa nykymaailmaa eikä koulu voi jättäytyä pois kehityksestä. Joten meidän on nyt liitettävä nämä teknologiat oppimiseemme.

Sosiaalinen media antaa opettajalle valtavat mahdollisuudet saada oppilaat toimimaan yhdessä, keräämään tietoa ja luomaan uutta ymmärrystä. Prosessin jälkeen opettajalla on mahdollisuus seurata kaikkea tapahtunutta ja nähdä koko prosessi alusta loppuun. Olen myös kokeillut verkossa oppilaiden itsearviointia. Annoin oppilasryhmälle 13 pistettä ja pyysin heitä jakamaan ne keskenään. Heidän oli keskusteltava jakosäännöistä oppimisverkostossa ja päädyttävä lopputulokseen. Vaikka pisteitä ei voitu jakaa tasan, he pystyivät tekemään jaon hämmästyttävän hyvin.

Opettajalle sosiaalinen media mahdollistaa oman henkilökohtainen oppimisverkoston (PLN, personal learning network) rakentamisen. Minulle Twitter on ollut keskeinen väline viime vuosien aikana. Ja juuri Twitterin vuoksi olen tässäkin haastattelussa. 🙂

5. Onko mielestäsi tärkeää, että opettajat kehittävät itseään ammatillisesti sosiaalisen median, kuten Twitterin, Facebookin, blogien ja wikien kautta? Mitä itse käytät ja oletko hyötynyt niistä?

Minä ehdottomasti saan hyötyä sosiaalisesta mediasta päivittäin. En käytä Facebookia, sillä se ei tällä hetkellä kiinnosta. Käytän mieluummin Twitteriä ja blogeja ammatilliseen kehittymiseeni. Sosiaalinen media antaa minulle myös mahdollisuuden muodostaa yhteyksia erilaisiin opettajiin ympäri maailman.

Kirjoitin blogiini kolmen vuoden ajan, mutta olen juuri nyt vaihtamassa koulua. Minut valittiin juuri uuden koulun rehtoriksi, mutta minun on vielä viimeisteltävän vanhan kouluni arviointi. Pidän siis taukoa bloggaamisesta, mutta aloitan varmasti taas pian.

6. Kiitos paljon, Esa. Haluaisitko vielä lopuksi sanoa jotain?

Kiitos sinulle, Vicky, kun sain kertoa viestini blogissasi. Haluaisin rohkaista kaikkia opettajia luottamaan siihen, mitä he tekevät. Jos arvostat oppilaitasi ja todella välität heidän kehittymisestään ja elämästään, et voi mennä pieleen. Oppiminen on elämän mittainen matka, joka kannattaa kokea loppuun asti!


Tarmo Toikkanen

Vicky’s Note: My warmest thanks to Tarmo Toikkanen, who works in the fields of pedagogy, entrepreneurship, psychology of learning, technology, copyright, creative commons, research, social media. He blogs on many sites, but his personal website is http://tarmo.fi/blog . On this website one can read a multitude of articles and watch presentations, both in English and in Finnish.

Interview with Esa Kukkasniemi (@Esa_Kukkasniemi), Finnish Educator

This new post is an interview with an excellent educator from Finland, Esa Kukkasniemi, who is a principal at at Vuorenmäen Oppimiskeskus, Kirkkonummi Primary School.  I am very fortunate to have connected with Esa on Twitter and have learned a lot about Finnish education, which is a worldwide model as far as the quality of education is concerned. He and other great educators (among them the enthusiastic teachers  Timo Ilomäki and Rochey who started the chat) have their own chat on Twitter, where teachers from all over the world can post questions on Finnish education every Thursday. You can follow their discussions and find other Finnish educators as well under the hashtag #finnedchat.

Esa has also started teaching me a little bit of Finnish!

Kiitos for this interview, Esa!

1. How did you decide to become an educator?
Both my mother and my father were interior designers in Finland. I was also supposed to be one someday. I even applied for the arts school two times but didn’t get in. At the same time, I also had this idea of becoming an educator. I realized that I actually wanted to work with the people and not with the papers. Then I got into the University of Helsinki, in the Department of Teacher Education. I soon realized that this is what I want to do. I’ve always been interested in everything. It was nice to be able to study a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I always say that primary school teachers know a little about everything but nothing really about anything…
2. What is the most exciting part of your work as a principal?
I’ve been working as a principal for 6 years now. It has been really interesting time in my life. You have to learn new things every single day. Not a day is similar to another. That’s what I enjoy. I used to work for seven years in commercial radios from 1996 to 2004. All of a sudden I found myself talking the same things day after day. Then I quit my job and went back to school. I haven’t regretted that decision. Life’s been good.
I enjoy creating and innovating new approaches for teaching. As a principal I have the opportunity to discuss things with people, learn from others and then put it all together in a new form in my own school. I admire teachers a lot. I respect their professional and personal skills. I see myself as a coach or as a playmaker who tries to make the teachers find their strengths and make them shine!
3. There is a lot of discussion in educational circles about the Finnish educational model. What do you think are the most important points that have led to this success?
Many people from all over the world come to Finland, make notes and find different answers for that question. For sure, there are many reasons for the success of the Finnish educational system. What I think is that much of it lays in the Finnish educational culture: teachers are respected professionals, who all have university level education. All the people in Finland get a free education for 9 years and after that it still doesn’t cost almost at all, even in the universities. One really important issue is that we have quite small economic differences in the income of the people if you compare us to most of the countries in the world. So, the welfare is good. We have strong scientific evidence that where the economical differences between people grow too big, the learning goes down.
We don’t test the teachers at all and we don’t test the pupils much either. We have strong belief in the professionals. We don’t put them to compete with each other. Not even the schools compete. The media sometimes try to make rankings but they are always shot down.
But the most important question for us is not, how did we come here but rather where should we go now? What is our vision after this success? It’s always easier to be a step behind and learn from the best but now we should be the ones who show the way.
4. Do you think that social media and technology can be successfully integrated in education? Does your school use any of these media?
Social media and social networks are part of the world now and school can’t stay out of the development. So, now we have to integrate these tools to our learning.
The social media give a teacher huge possibilities to put the pupils work together, collect the information together and create new knowledge. Then after the process the teacher can still follow the tracks and see the process from the beginning to the end. I have also tried students’ self-evaluation on the net. I gave a group of students 13 points and asked them to share the points. They had to have the discussion of the rules in the learning network and then come to a conclusion. It was amazing how well they could share the points that couldn’t be shared even.
For a teacher, social media give possibilities of creating your own PLN (personal learning network). For me Twitter has been a great tool for that for the last few years. In fact it’s because of Twitter that I’m interviewed on this blog now 😉
5. In your opinion, is it important for educators to further their professional development through social media like Twitter, Facebook, blogs and wikis? Which ones do you use and do you feel you have benefitted from them?
I definitely benefit from social media every day. I don’t use Facebook. I don’t find it very interesting at the moment. I rather use Twitter and blogs for my professional development. Social media also gives me a playground to connect with different educators from all over the Globe.
I used to write a blog for 3 years but now I’m kind of in the middle of schools. I have just been chosen to be a principal of a new school in Finland but I still have to make the evaluation for the other school. So, I decided to have a break of blogging. I’m sure I’ll start blogging soon again.
6. Thank you very much Esa. Is there something you would like to close with?
I thank you, Vicky, for letting me talk on your blog. I just want to encourage educators to trust in what they do. If you respect your pupils and if you really care for their development and their life, you can’t really go wrong. Learning is a life-long journey, discover it all the way!
Thank you so much Esa!