Monthly Archives: June 2014

Finnish Teachers Feel Valued – Let’s Keep It That Way

OECD recently published the report on TALIS 2013 (Teaching and Learning International Survey). The survey interviewed lower secondary teachers from all over the world. The press release of the survey is titled: Teachers love their job but feel undervalued, unsupported and unrecognised, says OECD.

This is quite sad and if things continue as is, they are not going to love what they do for much longer. We should give them all the support we can and recognize the importance of their job. They are educating our children, what could be more important! Or, as my colleague put it, teacher is the killer app in education.

Luckily in Finland the situation is not as bad as in some other countries. 57% of Finnish teachers feel their profession is valued, whereas in Denmark the corresponding percentage is 18% and in Estonia only 14%.

This is, however, not good enough. The percentage should be closer to one hundred. What could we do to increase it? One immediate thing to address is digitalization and the challenges it brings to teaching. Teachers used to master the learning materials, namely textbooks and workbooks. Now they are bombarded with tablets, learning environments, BYOD policies, educational games, etc.

It is only natural that digesting new things takes time. We must be there for the teachers as they adopt these new innovations, guiding and mentoring as they proceed. Running a classroom is challenging enough as such, we shouldn’t make it any harder with poor edtech. Each technological innovation we introduce in the classroom should make the lives of teachers and students easier, not vice versa.

Human face and connections with real people is important even (and especially!) in a rapidly digitalizing world. Let’s not forget about the teachers, but help them get started with these shiny new innovations. It will pay off in the end.



We Want Immediate Feedback, Nothing Wrong With That

As you might’ve noticed, I like gamification and am interested in how it could be applied in education. I see gamification as an important way to drive student motivation and engagement. Engagement, in turn, together with tools and services increasing teacher efficiency, can lead to better learning outcomes.

Feedback loop.

Wow, lots of big words. So let’s stop and elaborate a little. First of all, by better learning outcomes I don’t mean just good grades. No, they entail actually comprehending things and being able to apply them in various ways. (Think Bloom.)

Secondly, what do I mean with teaching efficiency? I mean facilitating the teacher in any way possible to reduce the bottlenecks slowing down important classroom activities. Teachers need communication tools, automatic grading, intuitive presentation materials, etc.

Finally, motivation and engagement. When students are motivated, they tend to spend more time studying (quantity), but also, and more importantly, they are “open” to learn things (quality). That is why students need engaging exercises and other content.

This is where gamification kicks in (again, as one option among many). I don’t see it as a grand learning theory, not at all. It shouldn’t get us into any Skinnerian dystopia in education. No, I just see it as a means to an end, a way to engage students. There are many many parts in learning and education where gamification plays no role.

Sometimes gamification is criticized for relying on external motivators such as badges, leaderboards, rewards, and immediate feedback. More “noble” would be to find the intrinsic motivators like mastery & creation and tap to those.

Agree & disagree here. I also think indeed intrinsic motivators are more important. However, extrinsic motivators can kickstart the process and lead to craving for mastery and actually learning new things.

It is no accident we play these casual games and spend lots of time in doing so. They carefully build on our need for feedback and advancing in levels. After a while we find ourselves not being so interested in badges and points any more but actually wanting to crack the game. If we can leverage this phenomenon somewhere in the learning process, what’s wrong with that?

A final comment on feedback: it doesn’t always have to be positive. Negative feedback in appropriate doses, forms, and contexts can also drive motivation and learn to better learning outcomes. Mere positive feedback creates spoiled brats.

Flickr image CC credits: stoic