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.
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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

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.

We are hiring postdoctoral researcher

We are looking for creative people with interesting ideas to work with us as a postdoctoral researcher. The postdoctoral researcher will lead and conduct research and design in externally funded research projects ongoing and starting in the research group, as well as teach (supervise MA thesis projects) these topics in the Department’s MA program. The postdoctoral researcher will also act as the vice leader of the research group.

The position requires a Doctor’s degree (preferably completed within the last five years), management skills, design portfolio as well as research and design skills necessary for the development of digital tools and systems (prototypes) in various contexts of learning.

How to apply? You will find the instruction from the -site.

We are hiring: Doctoral student

We are hiring a doctoral student to work on her or his own research related to the themes of the research group. The doctoral student must possess or apply for a post-graduate study place in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Here is the official call text from the University web site.

Aalto University is a new university with over a century of experience. Created from a high-profile merger between three leading universities in Finland – the Helsinki School of Economics, the Helsinki University of Technology and the University of Art and Design Helsinki – Aalto University opens up new possibilities for strong multi-disciplinary education and research. The university’s ambitious goal is to rank among the top universities in the world in its areas of specialization. At Aalto there are 20,000 students with around 75,000 alumni. We have a staff of 4,500 including 300 professors.

The former Aalto University School of Art and Design and the Department of Architecture of the School of Engineering have merged to form the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. The new school combines design, media, architecture, film, art education and art. The key areas of research in the school are design, digital media, audiovisual representation, art, visual culture, well-being architecture and emerging technologies, and urban planning and design.

Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture invites applications for

DOCTORAL STUDENT, Learning Environments Research Group
The job begins in fall 2012. The assignment is for maximum of two years.

Key Accountabilities and Qualifications
The doctoral students will be part of the Learning Environments research group (LeGroup – ) at the Media Lab, Department of Media. The LeGroup is involved in research, design and development of New Media tools, as well as their use and application, in the field of learning. The areas of research and design practice are in computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL); information and communication technology (ICT) in learning (tablets, mobile phones, touch screens, PDAs, PCs etc.); ICT in creative group work and design; ICT in empowerment through learning; and learning environments enhanced with technology. The group’s approach to research and design is theory-based but design-oriented. This means that besides the academic research papers the outcomes of the group are often software systems, software prototypes, applications and scenarios.

The doctoral student will conduct research and design in one of the above areas based on her own interests. The successful candidate will have theoretical and practical knowledge and skills in order to work within art and design-based academic institution. The position requires a Master’s degree, design portfolio as well as research and design skills necessary for the development of digital tools and systems (prototypes) in various contexts of learning.

The doctoral student must possess a post-graduate study place in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, OR commit oneself to apply for a post-graduate study place in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture by September 15th 2012 (please see If the applicant is not granted a post-graduate study place by December 31st 2012, the employment will not be continued. Sufficient knowledge in English language is also required. The applicant has to present a research plan that is related to one of the focus areas of research in the Learning Environments research group and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture in general. The research plan must include a schedule for completing the doctoral degree.

Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki, Finland.

Wage level
Salary will be paid according to the University’s salary scheme.

Application period and instructions
Application documents, including an (1) application letter, (2) CV, (3) design portfolio, (4) research plan and a possible certificate of the post-graduate study right, should be sent preferably by email to (subject: Doctoral student, Learning Environments) or by mail to: Registry, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, P.O. box 31000, 00076 Aalto, Finland. Applications should arrive no later than on August 14th 2012 by 3 p.m. (Finnish time GMT + 2:00). All application material should be in English.

Aalto University reserves the right for justified reasons to leave the position open, to extend the application period and to consider candidates who have not submitted applications during the application period.

The application materials will not be returned.

Further information
Associate Professor Teemu Leinonen
tel. +358 50 351 6796

LeTech and LeGroup meet and share

Active discussions towards the end of the meeting.

Active discussions towards the end of the meeting.

We just concluded a seminar and a general “knowledge sharing meeting” between the Learning + Technology research group (LeTech) of the School of Science and the Learning Environments research group (LeGroup) of the School of Art, Design and Architecture (that is us). The meeting was organized by Jukka Purma (thank you!) and held at the newly opened Media Factory premises.

The agenda of the meeting was to present and discuss the projects that the two groups are currently involved with, and to show works by other people that the group members find promising and inspiring.

We also have a common project with the groups. In the Interoperability and Social Media in Computer Science Learning Environments, R&D project we are aiming to change how people learn programming, in the Aalto University and beyond, from small children to people already working in the field.

Here a brief overview of the projects that were presented and discussed today. During the morning session, inspiring projects by others were presented.

Jukka Purma reflected about his experiences of participating in the Machine Learning Stanford Open Course, I spoke about my involvement with the Howard Rheingold University (HRU) alumni community, Teemu Koskinen showed us what gets him excited about Code Academy, and Sonja Krogius illustrated killer features of the Khan Academy.

In the afternoon session we shared projects that are under development in the research groups.

The Learning Environments research group featured Forrest Oliphant’s Master Thesis project Meemoo, Teemu Leinonen presented the design process applied for our work in the iTEC project, Jukka Purma demoed TeamUp and illustratively explained the software’s teaming algorithm.

Making use of the tables. :-)

Making use of the tables. 🙂

The Learning Environments and Technology research group included a presentation of the highly promising improvement plans for the interoperability of programming exercise systems and its user interface (Teemu Koskinen, Sonja Krogius), Tapio Auvinen presented his Rubyric prototype that supports the assessment work of teaching assistants, Teemu Sirkiä presented UUhistle, a project about visually and interactively exploring the execution-time behavior of computer programs, and Ari Korhonen and Ville Karavirta presented an overview of the OpenDSA research initiative.

Conclusively, it was exciting to learn about the similarities and differences in the projects and approaches and I am looking forward to our next meeting in Spring 2012 at the Otaniemi campus!

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.