Coding in school: Finland takes lead in Europe

What is coding in school in practice? The Finnish national curriculum takes coding farther than any other European country. In Finland, starting fall 2016, coding is a mandatory, cross curricular activity that starts from first year of school. Coding becomes another learning skill for pupils to utilize when appropriate. No other European country has taken as advanced an approach to coding.
Continue reading

Latest prototypes, publications and conferences

In the LeGroup we work with the principle theory based, design oriented. This means that relying on theoretical understanding of and empirical research on what makes sense in teaching and learning, we aim to create new ways of doing things with new tools designed in the group.

We have several new prototypes. Many of them have been already presented in some conference or in a research article. Some of them are relatively mature prototypes when some of them are still proof-of-concepts. We also have some new publications and conference presentations we have been working on lately. You will find a list of them from the end of this post. Continue reading

Edukata rollout in Finland confirmed

Our group’s success in the 4 year iTEC project culminated in the production of Edukata, a participatory design model for teachers, which helps teachers constructively address new ideas and challenges and design concrete learning activities for themselves and their peers. A few days ago, we received confirmation that the Finnish Board of Education has granted us 175,000€ for a 1,5 year rollout project (Future Classroom Network, FCN). Continue reading

Ach So! – the end of the year

In the last post to this blog I was listing some of our latest publication and activities in conferences. Now I felt that it is good to write down about our major research projects and to highlight some outputs from them.

During the autumn term the iTEC: Designing the Future Classroom project has kept us busy. From the last six months the Edukata — design toolkit has been one of the major outputs of the project. Edukata — design toolkit is targeted for educators to help them to design great learning activities with their colleagues. We currently have an open beta of the guide book for downloading and gathering feedback from real situations of using it. The current plan is that the final version of the guide book will be translated to 16 languages and distributed widely in Europe.

In the Learning Layers research project we have designed and developed a new prototype for informal learning in construction sites. The Ach So!-prototype is an Android app to shoot videos, to annotate them and to share them. When starting a video you choose a genre for it. The options are: (1) site visit, (2) problem, (3) trick of trade, (4) good work. When you are done the video can be annotated so that you point at something in the video and write a text that is then displayed as a caption next to the pointer. The video will also come with all the available contextual metadata, such as location etc. The current development version of Ach So! is available for downloading. In order to install Android software from third party sources, “Unknown sources” setting needs to be enabled from the Android device. The setting can be found either under Settings > Security > Unknown sources or Settings > Applications > Unknown sources.

In the LEAD: Learning Design – Designing for Learning project we have focused on case studies with the Presemo participation platform and Feeler prototype that aims to combine data about wellbeing, such as physical activity and rest, with data about learning performance in order to generate visualizations that support learners’ reflection process. Our partners in the University of Tampere have continued to gather and analyze (big) data gathered from close to 900 schools in Finland. With the Square1 prototype we have been a bit on hold because of lack of programing resources. Also the Feeler project needs soon some developer resources. Anyone interested in working in open source projects like this? If yes, please contact us.

In the LEAD project we are also studying the future of online learning. For this purpose we have setup the OpenEdX platform for research purposes. The server is here: and open for Aalto experiments (anyone can register as participants, but let us know if you wish to create courses in there). In the online learning research we are focusing on design. We are particularly interested in studying the user and learning experience of the online learning services, such ah EdX and Eliademy. Therefore the research touches some major pedagogical issues, too. Designing great services is hard and when it comes to complexity of different services, educational services are for sure high in the list.

We have noticed that although the most satisfactory part of the work for many of us is the design and development of prototypes we must publish about them, too. We do lab and design studio work, test our prototypes in the field and then report our finding from all the phases of the work. Getting this in balance is difficult but I have a feeling that we are learning. During the spring term we are expecting some major publications from the research group discussing results from the lab, studio and the field.

Finally, I just updated our Research -page of this site. It now gives an overview of all the research projects, both current and past.

Recent publications, conferences and workshops

From the last six-months we are happy to report several interesting new publications. I’ll simply list them in here with the links:

(1) To the first book in Finnish about design-based research in education (Kehittämistutkimus opetusalalla edited by Johannes Perna) I wrote a chapter with the title Muotoilututkimus: tutkimusta, kehittämistä ja prototyyppejä (Design Research: Research, Development and Prototypes).

Our fellow Juha, a doctoral candidate got a paper accepted to the Nordes 2013: Nordic Design Research Conference. The article is available in the online Conference Proceedings:

(2) Juha Kronqvist, Heini Erving, Teemu Leinonen (2913): Cardboard hospital: Prototyping patient-centric environments and services. Nordes 2013.

Our other fellow Hans Põldoja has been working on his final publications for his doctoral dissertation. The dissertation is expected to be ready in the the end of the year. With his colleagues at the University Tallinn they also have published the following article in the book Open and Social Technologies for Networked Learning:

(3) Laanpere, M., Põldoja, H., & Normak, P. (2013). Designing Dippler — A Next-Generation TEL System. In T. Ley, M. Ruohonen, M. Laanpere, & A. Tatnall (Eds.), Open and Social Technologies for Networked Learning (Vol. 395, pp. 91–100). Berlin / Heidelberg: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-37285-8_10.

In the end of July we will present some early results from the Learning Layers–project (Scaling up Technologies for Informal Learning in SME Clusters) at the ISTAS 13 -conference, The IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in Toronto, Canada:

(4) Teemu Leinonen, Jukka Purma, Kiarii Nguya, Alexander Hayes (2013): Scenarios for peer-to-peer learning in construction with emerging forms of collaborative computing. ISTAS 2013.

The following short papers will be published in the conference proceedings of the Interactive Technology in Education 2013 – conference’s research track.

(5) Jukka Purma, Kiarii Ngua, Eva Durall & Teemu Leinonen (2013): How to design learning in the 21st century.

(6) Anna Keune & Teemu Leinonen (2013): Square1 hypothesis: Building computational and collaborative learning tools in school.

(7) Eva Durall & Teemu Leinonen (2013): Digital dashboard for visualizing learning progress and well-being.

In the ECSCW 2013 (European Conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative Works) and in the EC-TEL 2013 (The European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning) we are organizing a workshop Backchannels and live participation tools.

(8, 9) In the ECSW / EC-TEL 2003 workshops we will present some results from the LEAD-project (Learning Design – Designing for Learning) and from the iTEC –project (Designing the Future Classroom).

(10) For the iTEC –project (Designing the Future Classroom) we are also working on a publication with the working title Edukata — Designing Future Classroom Learning Activities. The guidebook is intended to be a “source of inspiration for educators to strengthen their confidence as designers of future classroom learning activities”. It will be published before the end of the year and it will be translated to 16 languages.

(11) From the iTEC –project we are also preparing some research papers: one conference workshop paper about Ambire (an ambient display for 1:1 laptop/tablet classroom reflection) and a journal article with the working title Designing tablet apps for individual and collaborative reflection in learning.

(12) From the research done in the LEAD -project we also have submit a journal article with the title Design Thinking in Research of Collaborative Tools for Learning.

Publishing is good but demos / prototypes are great. We have some new demos and prototypes, too. The Fle4 – knowledge building tool has been redesigned with a map view. The Square1 (a collection of single-task dedicated learning devices) hardware, interaction design and software are nicely coming all together.

iTEC website re-design

iTEC blog screenshot

In the spirit of participatory design, and as result of the merging of the iTEC work packages WP2 and WP3, we redesigned our iTEC website. The new URL is (old URL redirects). The new site acts as the place for teachers and students across Europe to interact with the iTEC project from scenario development to prototype and pilot design.

The page directly calls for teachers and students to participate, and includes news, scenarios (provided by Futurelab), information on participatory design workshops, descriptions of our prototypes, learning stories and learning activities. The page is still under development and growing as the project is going on. To keep the design process even more transparent and open for teachers and students, we are planning to publish summaries of Focus Group sessions, as well as design challenges and opportunities in the near future.

New projects and collaboration

It’s been a hectic end of the year.

The iTEC -project is moving forward with testing in school and new cycles of scenario creation and design work. The annual review of the project went fine. The reviews are important: they are quality control but also an opportunity to learn. We past the “control” and learned a lot.

The formal results of the iTEC project’s first year are available in the project website. We think the Report on Design Prototypes and Design Challenges for Education is worth of reading.

We have, however, some new and exciting projects going on and coming up. Some are small, some are large.

With the Learning + Technology Group at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering we have started a project studying, developing and designing online learning tools and social media for computer science learning. The group has developed many great software tools serving computer science studies and has interesting educational practices of teaching computer science. In the research project we are now looking possibilities of integrating the services, motivational questions of students and coherent design of all this.

Another national project we are involved in is called (in English) Open Networks for Learning. In it we support production of open educational resources by training teachers and other experts, creating and supporting networks and services and this way strengthening active citizenship and democracy. For this project we are, for instance, maintaining, supporting and training people to use LeMill, Wikimedia -services, and Creative Commons Finland -services. The project does not include a lot of research per se but provides as possibilities to bridge research and practice.

A third national project is service design project with the Pirkanmaa Hospital District renewing their organization to focus on value created for patients and to prepare the way for a construction of a new wing in the hospital building. In the project we are applying some learning theories and participatory design methods, as well as considering the role of new media (online, an in hospital) services and devices in the hands of the patients and hospital professionals. The first research publication (in press) from the research project is titled Games as Design Medium —
Utilizing Game Boards for Design Enquiry with Cancer Patients
by Juha Kronqvist et al.

Our colleges in the Tallinn University are getting together an interesting consortium of European top research groups in the field of mobile learning. With them we are right now preparing a research and project plan with several companies to start a new project in mid 2012.

We also have ongoing discussions with library operating bookmobiles: to study and redesign the service by introducing new media tools (tablets, projections, touch screens/tables, RFID etc.) and services in their offering. The possibilities to implement new kind of media education, youth work etc. with bookmobiles are huge. It is a great opportunity to do people-centric and participatory design research.

In addition to the European research in 2012 we are interested in to take part in the national Learning Solutions program by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. Let’s seen.

One more thing: As part of the Aalto on Waves we organized a Future of Learning study project with graduate students coming from the fields of art and design, engineering and technology and economics. We may expect interesting results.