We visited Oulu vocational school at Myllytulli on our Expertise -course. Juha and Janne had prepared a nice session for us. We learned about the vocational school and vocational teacher education. It was very interesting to see the new learning environment, Innomylly, that Juha had created at his school. Seeing that some of the ideas of our Eduzen group had actually been implemented in practice brought a totally new level to the learning experience we had last spring. A year ago our Eduzen team, Juha, Virpi, Ari, Kirsi and I, designed an innovative learning environment and one central aspect in our team’s suggestion was learning tents, that were sort of like wigwams. The Innomylly space clearly provides great pedagogical affordances, but it may take a while for the teachers to discover all the possibilities the space provides. Changes are always slow, but I was glad to hear the space is already put into actual use. Our EDUTOOL-studies have clearly indicated the significance of the environment, both physical and emotional, to learning. If I will have a job as a teacher in the future, I will most definitely use creative learning spaces and try to build an inviting and stimulating classroom with the resources at hands. With relatively simple ”ingredients” and a dash of creativity you can make a huge improvement in the class environment, if you want. The only down side is that you don’t often have your own classroom unless you are an elementary school teacher, and it makes the task a little more complicated.
Janne presented us a very thought provoking short film “Dimensions of teaching” that they had filmed for their students. The film discussed teacher’s role as an expert in the class. It reminded us on how the best learning takes place when the teacher adapts his/her teaching according to the needs of the students and allows the students to figure things out on their own. The expert does not “transport”, that is to pour, one’s knowledge into the students’ minds, but merely facilitates and guides the learning process. The film also reminded us of the importance of avoiding ”the pedagogy of walking through”. The pedagogy of walking through is one of the most common mistakes by young teachers. I admit, I have practiced it as well. Our EDUTOOL-studies have taught us the importance of avoiding such a pedagogy. It is vital to allow the learners to proceed at their ZPD. Teachers should always take the circumstances into consideration and adapt their teaching to meet the needs and desires of individual learners. Too often the teachers stay ”faithful” to the course books and feel obligated to walk through the entire book . That is, they feel tied up to the structure of the books and try their best to follow each and every chapter in the book. In the future, I will pay more attention to the curriculum and to the individual needs of the students and less attention to the structure of the course book. It is important to have enough room for the students to solve problems and inquire according to their personal interests. The teachers should adapt their teaching to meet the needs of the individuals. This calls for adaptive expertise.
We had prepared for our own group of mentees a day that focused on individual strengths and learning to present and market one’s expertise in the job markets. Our session started out with an opening activity where we threw a ball to each other and the one catching the ball had to point out one of his/her strengths that started with a specific alphabet. It was a fun activity and it forced us to be creative, especially if the letter was not the most common one. After the warm up we introduced a general list of strengths and weaknesses that were prepared by Julia Penny. Everyone, including us mentors, had to prepare a two minute marketing speech on why an employer should hire us. After that we had simulated job interviews with Jake being an excellent interviewer. We had purposefully included in the interview questions that are not supposed to be asked at an interview, and hence had very fruitful discussions after wards.
As I was preparing my marketing speech in the midst of our mentoring session, I sought a place where I could concentrate on the task. I ended up at a tent where Ari and Jaana were presenting their photo diary task for their group of mentees. The presentation caught my attention, and I too was curious to try it out someday. Luckily on our Creative Collaboration course I got hands-on experience on a photo diary and set up a photo diary of my own. I must say I truly enjoy the method and am, for sure, going to implement it in practice with my students in the future. At least to a person like me, to whom visual stimulants significantly facilitate learning, a photo diary is a great tool for reflecting, and it significantly promotes deeper learning.
Here’s Ari’s intake on reflective photo diaries.