Reflections on ITK2013

By Kiarii and Eva

From 10th to 12th of April, the 2013 Interaktiivinen Tekniikka Koulutuksessa took place in Hämeenlinna. First day was dedicated to several pre-conference workshops such as the researchers meeting, while the other two days were focused on the presentation of experiences in the use of ICT in learning contexts.

The conference has a long tradition in Finland and it is mainly addressed to a national audience (in fact, most of the presentations were in Finnish). Therefore, for non- Finnish speaking attendants, the conference was, besides a knowledge exchange, an introduction to the Finnish interactive educational technology community. The profile of the members of such a the community was quite diverse since among the attendees you could find teachers, researchers and representatives of the ICT sector.

Keynotes speeches were focused on the impact of ICT research, possibilities of tools for making and the potential of games in learning. It was interesting to have access to well-known nationally and international voices such as professor Erno Lehtinen, from the department of teacher education & Learning at the university of Turku, and Walter Bender, researcher and technologist leading the Sugar Labs initiative. In the first case, professor Lehtinen offered some interesting insights about how different learning theories have produced partly successful ICT supported learning environments. His speech was an invitation to review other traditions and avoiding limiting the researches to constructivist approaches. On his side, Walter Bender presented the software-development and learning community, Sugar Labs. Sugar is open source software, initially intended for One Laptop per Child, but that currently runs on any computer. Its constructivist approach clearly draws on Seymour Papert’s ideas. By introducing the kids to computational thinking and making culture, Sugar aims at raising a generation of critical thinkers with the ability of problem-solving skills. For us, the possibility to chat with Mr. Bender was extremely valuable as we were able to identify common areas of interest in Sugar and the Square1 prototype.

Some of the ITK2013 recurring topics and approaches in the use of educational technology dealt with games, design of learning environments and tools, mobile learning with especial attention to the use of iPads, collaboration and participation, as well as digital skills. The session dedicated to the future of education offered a good synthesis of the most trending topics in the Finnish arena: games, m-Learning and MOOCs.

LEAD projects fell mainly in these categories. For instance, in the design of tools for collaboration and participation, proposals such as Square1 and Presemo offered an innovative view of how to support group learning in different contexts. Collaboration was also analyzed from the teachers’ perspective through a research focused in the collaboration among teachers to support the educational use of ICT.

In relation to the design of learning environments (LE), Gemilo’s social learning solution and the research proposal for designing a visual dashboard that supports reflection about learning performance and wellbeing presented new approaches in the understanding of LE. Other presentations such as “How to design learning in the 21st century” and “Agile in the educational domain” addressed some of LEAD’S main aims: to bring design thinking to learning design and design expertise to the development process of technological learning solutions. The LEAD team also offered insight about future trends in the use of ICT in learning.

It is interesting to highlight that most of ITK2013 reported experiences were focused in formal education, with a great emphasis on the use of ICT among Primary and Secondary students. Although this is a first impression, and also quite difficult to contrast due to minimal understanding of Finnish, it raises some questions that are worth to take into consideration:
1) In which contexts do innovative use of ICT have greater impact in learning? and 2) Is there a big difference between formal and informal education, and why?

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