In the classroom of the future everyone produces information

In the classroom of the future everyone produces information

As tablets and other mobile devices have conquered the market in the last few years, technology that supports inclusion can be introduced to lecture halls. That provides a space that is physical and mental at the same time: a social event complemented by a virtual space created by devices, says professor Kirsti Lonka. Kirsti Lonka is professor of educational psychology and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences at University of Helsinki responsible for community relations. She has been professor of medical pedagogy at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and Johanna Bijtel professor of the Faculty of Medicine at University of Groningen, Netherlands. In September the University of Helsinki elected her the 2012 Communicator of the Year.

– RYM is an innovative and truly multidisciplinary project based on public-private thinking. Our contribution is Finnish learning research which has been found to be second to none in international comparison, Lonka specifies. We don´t have to look far for an example of the cooperation between behavioral science and construction: the recent university reform turned universities into property owners, and the University of Helsinki owns properties worth EUR 2.1 billion.

– They must be cared for. When renovating old properties or building new ones in the future, we must think of ways to make use of the expertise of our faculty. Discussion between behavioural scientists and builders has often proved highly challenging – yet, the more we engage in it, the more it gives us. Education also requires solving increasingly hypercomplex problems impossible for a single person or profession to solve. They are conceptually interesting as well as highly practically oriented which makes them enticing topics of research. Several master´s theses and conference presentations have already been produced as a result.

Mobile technology modifies the learning environment

The “New Learning Environments” work package of the Indoor Environment research program includes Living Labs where participatory and inspiring learning environments are developed. – Yet, interest is always more important for good learning results than zeal, Lonka stresses. – Interest always has an object. Academic feelings with an object, which involve mental concentration and a positive charge, predict success and results. An interested student studies considerably more. In team work this is highlighted since the object is common to all participants.

– Earlier it was thought that learning was just cognitive processing and the brain just an organ that processes information. How little did we know: the hippocampus that transfers information into long-term memory is also part of our emotion regulation system. Consequently people remember better things that have aroused interest or positive feelings in them. Good indoor air in itself does not make an environment inspiring and engaging. There are indications that even mass education in a traditional environment can be engaging and provide flow experiences.

– Yet, I would no longer build traditional lecture halls with fixed seating where one speaks and a hundred listen. They are not suitable for daily teaching and will certainly not be the central learning environment of the future. – As tablets and other mobile devices have conquered the market in the last few years, technology that supports inclusion can be introduced to lecture halls. That provides a space that is physical and mental at the same time: a social event complemented by a virtual space created by devices. The information practice may involve knowledge building even in a big lecture hall where students upload information on a screen with the instructor. Collective information practices have a bigger impact than the belief systems of an individual!

RYM has already created new services

New technology has produced new challenges as well as new solutions. Professor Kai Hakkarainen, a specialist in online pedagogy, has found it a problem that researchers are overly interested in hardware and software – not so much in the inclusion of people in learning. What is needed are social practices connected to working with information: personal, collaborative institutional routines.

– For instance, the curriculum is a routine guiding information practices, Lonka explains. – It defines how the learning assignment is performed, how problems are solved, and which tasks are done. A reflection diary and an examination are totally different information practices. New conceptual creations are established, such as design products, computer software and research reports.

The Living Lab: World Design Capital 2012 Engaging Learning Environment (ELE) space was inaugurated last August in Helsinki. There 150 people can create knowledge together interactively. It includes e.g. a future classroom primarily for educating teachers of the future. Enterprises have also expressed their interest in using it.

– As today´s children use tablets, game consoles and the like in their freetime, why don´t we introduce them to the learning situation and allow them to learn how to use them as tools. Questions can be posted by a cell phone directly on the screen, Lonka explains.

– Teaching has to keep up with the huge technological change in society! Many people from around the world have already visited the space which has also been widely portrayed in the media.

– Services that did not exist earlier have sprung up during the existence of RYM, Kirsti Lonka emphasizes. – They involve different technology entrepreneurs, products and paradigms based on novel pedagogical theories.

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