The Digital Threshold Still High For Many Teachers
[SUN JAN 8; A6-A7; ”Digikynnys on yhä korkea monelle opettajalle,” Johanna Puukka]
* According to reports, the proficiency of teachers in information technology varies greatly.
* The government allotted 7,5 million euros for creating a chain of digitutoring in schools.
Information technology is a useful tool like any other for teachers, but one that doesn’t provide help automatically. It has to be learned to be able to properly utilize it.
Just before Christmas, the board of education allotted 7,5 million euros to municipalities, to spread the tutoring method nationwide. In many municipalities, the financial aid is used for hiring peer instructors, who specialize in digital learning environments.
– Teachers are required to have a pedagogical understanding of utilizing information and communication technologies. The ways of utilizing them vary with the given subject, says Pekka Lavi, a teacher in Forssa.
Lavi teaches mathematics and information technology to his students, but his colleagues also attend his digital learning classes. He’s also the school representative in the IT management team of Forssa.
Local government specialist Leena Pöntynen says the tutoring method is an efficient and pleasant way of learning. Through the tutors, information technology gets intertwined both with the school subjects, and the broad know-how of the new curriculum.
– As the level of know-how varies, tutoring can provide the corresponding tier of counseling. Also, knowledge gained in a familiar environment, with familiar equipment, and with familiar students, is much more easily applied in practice, as opposed to that gained in arranged courses, assesses Pöntynen.
The colleague-instructing Lavi confirms Pöntynen’s assessment.
– With a peer tutor, your thoughts and wishes are heard, and you can discuss how to get to the desired result. Follow-ups are also possible, remarks Lavi.
For a tutor, it’s ideal to instruct one person at a time, and focus on that person’s questions.
– Mostly, the required spare time is found during recess, but even short moments can help in practice, confirms Lavi.
According to Lavi, his colleagues are interested in digital pedagogy, but there are great differences in skill. The variance creates challenges for tutoring and extra training. Lavi has taken note that teachers have a high threshold to trying out a new device or program.
– Teachers aren’t required to handle the devices perfectly, they can learn together with the students – the new curriculum makes this possible, Lavi highlights.
In Kaarina of Turku, parents rose up against the city’s decision to use digital learning material, partly replacing books with tablets. Parents weren’t convinced of the learning outcomes.
– The new can be combined with the old. We sometimes use notebooks in class. I offer text books for the students to take home before exams, but few of them choose to, states Lavi.
Based on last spring’s research conducted by the Trade Union of Education, OAJ, there is great variety in the proficiency of teachers regarding information technology. A lot of teachers admitted their know-how to be either moderate or lacking.
In the survey, the know-how in question was more related to the use of devices and and programs, not pedagogy.
Regional ombudsman Katri Juvonen of OAJ Kanta-Häme states that the networks and their connections also have differences – even within the same municipality.
– There still exist network problems. When the connection drops out, the teacher, along with the rest of the class, has to get medieval, she points out.
A fifth of the municipalities refused the government’s money
Approximately 80% of municipalities applied for government aid to further and apply the tutoring method.
– The idea of local support and education has taken root. Many municipalities that had never applied for government aid, did so now, says project manager Sanna Vahtivuori-Hänninen of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
She further adds that it’s important to find out why about 20% of municipalities didn’t apply for aid. The situation in the municipalities in Satakunta, and South and Central Pohjanmaa, is of interest.
In the study, special attention is paid to the gray area, meaning the municipalities that haven’t yet applied for government aid.
– It could be that the schools in the municipalities already have good systems for information and communication technologies. Or maybe they don’t have the resources to apply for aid, ponders Vahtivuori-Hänninen.
The National Board of Education is planning a sparring model for school-specific aid for the schools in the gray area. The differences between municipalities are great.
– Some of the municipalities have barely gotten started with it, some have been at it for longer, Vahtivuori-Hänninen notes.
Good examples can be foud in Hämeenlinna, Tampere, Ylöjärvi, and Kajaani.
Municipalities also receive instructions for tutoring and management thereof.
7,5 million euros to 250 municipalities
* A tutor counselor supports other teachers in adapting to the changes in school culture, bringing new pedagogy to practice, and properly utilizing information technology.
* The National Agency for Education has allotted 7,5 million euros of tutoring aid to 250 municipalities and to 40 other organizers of education.
* Almost 80% of municipalities applied for the aid.
* Funds are to be allotted also in 2017 and 2018. 23 million euros are to be used to instill the tutoring method.
* The goal is for there to be one tutor for every 220 students.