What Does a High Quality, Global PBL Program Look Like in Your Classroom?

During Project Based Global Learning (PBL) students are working on over a period of time.  The project engages students in solving a real-world problem or perhaps answering a big picture question. Here my friend principal Marjo Rantanen, Kartanonranta School, Finland  writes what does it look like in her classroom and school.

My school participated in an EU funded Erasmus+ project called Innovative and Entrepreneurial Solutions to Climate Change. The partner organizations were Haukilahti School, Espoo and Kartanonranta School, Kirkkonummi, Finland ; Henriette Breymann Gesamtschule, Wolfenbüttel, Germany and Balwearie High School, Scotland, UK.

Main objectives

This project focused on three main objectives:

1. to develop the transversal and basic skills supporting students chances of going on

2. to further employment or education following school

3. to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning and share pedagogy 4. across different educational regions within Europe,to increase knowledge on effects of pollution and global warming on the environment and EU policies on climate change.

What students learned

Throughout the course of the project the student’s communication skills were developed and improved. During the whole project the students stayed in contact via email and social media. Furthermore, they were working constantly on their presentation skills. Not only had they to present their results within their peer group but also to professionals, representatives of the surrounding communities and nearby schools. All participating students did an extensive amount of research – market research as well as scientific research.

As English was the common language throughout the project, the Finnish and German students improved on their verbal skills significantly. Scottish students had to adjust their English to match the mixed audience. In order to plan projects and to exchange ideas, students had to use IT such as e-Twinning, Twitter and social media like Facebook.

By designing prototypes and using 3D modelling, students improved their entrepreneurial skills. They learned to evaluate peer work and team work results. Based on the feedback they were given students further developed their ideas and projects. In addition students gained experience in different job sectors, for example electricity (Germany), car industry (Germany) and renewable energies (Scotland, Finland, Germany).

As a result of participating in the project the pupils gained the John Muir Award in recognition of their work, a recognized award of achievement by employers.

 What teachers learned

Teachers observed different teaching methodologies in Germany, Finland and Scotland. All participating teachers took part in regular, cross subject lessons. There were regular informal discussions about the curriculum structure and procedures on both an international and national levels. In addition to the teachers getting an insight to teaching in different countries, the pupils also took part in regular lessons in their partner schools. Thus, they developed a sense of how lessons are taught in different countries and cultural awareness.

Broader environmental understanding

All students increased their knowledge on the effects of pollution and global warming on the environment and EU policies on climate change.  There were four studies that were done by all participating schools: a tea bag study, an earth worm study, a lichen study and a water study. The pupils had to interpret the results and thereby gained a better understanding of the underlying science. The pupils shared their knowledge and the results of their research through presentations throughout the project and during an after school event.

To get a closer insight into EU environmental policy politicians from all three countries gave presentations and took part in the discussions that followed. During the international trips there were interactions with professionals, for example at Cruachan, Ardroy, Geobus, Lammi Forest Nature Reserve and the Technical University of Braunschweig. In addition to all mentioned above, the students also made lifelong friendships. After the project they have visited each other in different countries and learned how to be global citizens.

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is the answer of Marjo Rantanen to question of November: What does a high quality, global PBL program look like in your classroom?

If We Make Teaching a More Financially Attractive Career Will it Improve Global Education Overall?

According to the data released by the OECD it seems that our Finnish teacher’s salary is just above OECD average. It also seems that during our career the difference between the starting and ending career don’t grow much. If money is not the reason to become a teacher in Finland, so what are the reasons?

In our society education is still appreciated and this shows directly in the number of appliers to teacher education. For example the Helsinki University takes 120 starters yearly and under 10% of the appliers are chosen. The teachers have Master’s degree in every school level. The salary increases by the working years and you can also achieve a so called bonus, which is granted by the principal of the job well done.

I have a full autonomy in my teaching. I can choose the materials and teaching methods myself. Usually the teacher colleagues together choose the study books but I can still teach the way I want to, even with my own material. There are no school inspectors or. We don’t have standardized tests. The only exception is the National Matriculation Exam, which is for students at the end of an upper-secondary school.  I myself observe the learning daily and have my own tests when I think they are needed.I make my own tests for students or make them together with a colleague. We don’t give much homework.  The principals have conversations with teachers where they discuss and plan their future training. I feel that I have a possibility to be creative in my work!

The students have many breaks during the day. They go out and play together in the school yard.

In our society childhood is also about being together with your family and friends and getting a lot of active exercise outside. We don’t belong to stereotype of the hard-working, rote memorization of Eastern Asian study and work ethics. Many of these countries, like China, Singapore, and Korea among others routinely rank in the number one spots in both math and science. With totally different approach to education we have been in PISA research in the top during it’s beginning! Our education might be a better and healthier way to continue. Our results don’t lie.

Flexibility of the curriculum means that I know which contents belong to different year classes and what my students are meant to learn during the year. With my colleagues we can plan and carry out study modules with the best way we want. We of course take notice of the current local events. We can also arrange the core contents so that it supports the learning best. The curriculum isn’t a list of things to do it’s a guideline for our planning and executing our teaching.

Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing and a list ranking our schools we have warm relationships with our students and we collaborate well with our colleagues.  We feel we get highly professional teacher-led mentoring and assessment,  Of course we would like to be better paid!  But if you had the choice of the above conditions or a better salary, which one would you choose?


As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is my answer to question of October:  If we make teaching a more financially attractive career will it improve global education overall?

How Much Time Should K-12 Students Spend at School During a Calendar Year

The K-12 schools around the world can differ from each other more than we think. I have been visiting quite a many schools and seen from great to sad ones. They can differ in their daily life from day structure to the teaching content not to mention the student’s status. I have seen schools where students move to one lesson to another without any breaks. I have seen schools where there is no space for students to spend their breaks. And then totally opposite; schools with breaks between the lessons and areas where they can spend their time. Students have an active role in their learning and making decisions.

Photo by Maarit Rossi. Children in Arusha, Tanzania

Let’s talk now only how much time students spend at school!

I am happy about the time students spent their time in the Finnish schools. They have 190 days in a school year, as I think many children have around the world!  But this information doesn’t show us the whole picture. How many hours do they spend at school in one week tells us more. What kind of school days do they have? Do they have a good lunch and snack if the day is long? Do they have breaks between the lessons? Do they have a place where to spend their breaks? Do students learn in the school or do they have to go after school? Does the quality of teaching influence to the length of a school day!

In Finland the minimum number of hours is in the following list:

• 1st and 2nd class 19 hours per week

• 3rd grade 22 hours per week

• 4th grade 24 hours per week

• 5th and 6th grade 25 hours per week

• 7th and 8th grade, 29 hours per week

• 9th grade 30 hours per week.

In high school, grades 10 to 12, the minimum number is 75 courses, each of which lasts approximately 38 hours.

In grade one they have 722 hours a year, amount of hours growing so that in high school students may have average 950 hours.

 What about the time used out of school?

15-year-old’s spent globally average of 5 hours on homework based on OECD study. Students e.g. in Shanghai spend 13.8 hours a week on homework and in Russia 9.7 hours. Students in Finland and South Korea spent fewer than three hours – the least among the 65 countries and regions surveyed – on homework each week.

What if that is not all? There are after schools! Yes, you read right, there are countries, like Japan, where most kids have school after school. It is possible that students in Singapore leave home at 8 am and return at 10pm! Asian countries have achieved good Pisa results, but there has been a rush of hours of study!

What if that is not all? There are after schools! Yes, you read right, there are countries, like Japan, where most kids have school after school. It is possible that students in Singapore leave home at 8 am and return at 10pm! Asian countries have achieved good Pisa results, but there has been a rush of hours of study!

How many hours does your child spend at school?

In Finland most of students, teachers and parents are satisfied with the time their children spend at schools. Finnish students spend less time at school than students in many other countries, they have a lot of breaks during the school day. They have free school lunch, transportation and free books. Now we are talking about ending the school later in June and starting later in the autumn. Other discussion is when it would be good to start the school? Pre-school starts now at the age of six and 1st grade at the age of seven in Finland.  Politicians are planning to advance the start.  I appreciate our system today. Finnish children have a childhood. Learning at the right age is like driving a bicycle. If you try too early or too late, the result is not the best.

Do you want your child to have a childhood?

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is my answer to question of September: How much time should K-12 students spend at school during a calendar year?


Finding the Common Ground

Solutions, not penalties

Boys from 7th grade have been calling each other names very badly for couple of days. This has come to the attention of 9th grade peer mediation. Pursuit of this solution-centered approach is to resolve conflicts between pupils in everyday life of the school. How does this work? How is it different from the other ways that the schools are using when someone violates the rules? Many institutions use a punishment or a reward orientation to instill obedience to rules. This approach reinforces a view of people motivated by self-interest.

Slightly older pupils trained as mediators help the students involved to find the solution to their conflict. The 9th grade peer mediation invite boys e.g. during the school brake to a quiet place just for this cause. There is also a teacher who knows and follows the incident, even if he/she is not present. The 9th grade student is impartial and asks the students involved; what happened, why this has happened? The parties share their own view of the event. The mediator helps the parties themselves to find a solution. If a solution is found, a written agreement is made. The mediator says that the situation is monitored. Similarly, a follow-up meeting will be held between the parties.

Where and when does this student’s mediation fit? Restorative mediation (peer mediation) method has been successfully used in following situations: Naming, shouting,  feeling anxious commenting on the other answer, persistent perplexity, talking behind, or talking about false gossip, spanking, throwing, catching, fighting, threatening, submitting or forcing, for example, “bigger or stronger law”,  unauthorized lending, tampering or concealment of another property and so on.

Migration, urbanization, social and cultural diversity reshape our communities and our classrooms. The ability to build healthy communities, reconcile tensions and resolve conflicts is now paramount.   Youth need to become skilled at handling conflicts and school is a perfect place to develop these skills.

According to recent surveys, peers have learned, for example, intercultural skills, understanding of diversity, encounters of cultures and peacebuilding.

There are situations in the school that students cannot solve. In this case, according to school practice, the problem is solved by the teachers, principal and / or guardians together.

Every society needs to find ways to raise its children to become responsible citizens. This process of socialization involves internalizing the expectations and norms of society and becoming capable of conforming to them. This enables the child to become socially active. On what basis do we wish children and young people to comply with social norms, institutional rules and laws? A restorative approach strives to develop compliance with social norms and rules through the internalization of responsibility for one’s actions and a respect for the rights of other people.

Restorative mediation (peer mediation) gives schools a genuinely participatory and socially safe process, through which the parties of a conflict can themselves take part in the resolution of their conflict. This participation enables pupils to change their behavior in a positive way and to take responsibility for their own lives. The aim of the program is also to strengthen children’s rights, to avoid social exclusion and labeling, and to prevent violence.

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is my answer to question of July:  Please share specific strategies from your own experience of how classrooms are teaching the skills to resolve tensions and conflicts so as to find the “common ground” in an increasingly diverse world?

Literacy Skills for a New World

As an answer to this month question To what extent do you believe the literacy skills required for a new world will be more or less the same as they were before, I think the answer would be that we need to make sure the number of literate people will keep growing because literacy is a key to a good life and prosperity and education in general, is a way especially for girls out of poverty. But, we will also need to acquire new literacy skills because our societies are constantly changing.

We can think of literacy as the ability to read and write or as the understanding of something. Literacy is also a way to measure population’s level of education.

Literacy rates have grown dramatically during the past couple of centuries. From 1820s to today the overall literacy rate has grown from 12% to 83%. An important consequence of the global education expansion is a reduction in education inequality across the globe. More than 4 out of 5 people are now able to read. Young generations are better educated than ever before. Through teacher training especially in the poorer countries we can grow this number even more.

However, new literacies are needed due to the changes in our societies. In many countries, for example in Finland the day-to-day life has become more digital. How do the elderly manage in societies where one should pay your bills, check your medical records, sign contracts etc. online? This requires new kind of understanding of the literacy skill, computing.

In today’s world news can reach millions of people in a matter of seconds. An important literacy skill is the ability to understand what can/cannot be true, the possibility of fake news and the way people can be influenced by them.

Social media also requires new kind of literacy. As an English teacher I showed my ESL students (12-13 yrs) a list of abbreviations and acronyms generally used in text messaging and surprisingly they knew most of them!

The important question is how to engage the young people in the exciting world of books? Books can teach them, move them, give them new perspectives, and help shape them. Books can influence the way they think. And the most powerful ones can change their lives forever. They should find their Tom Sawyers, Harry Potters, Little Princes and their Margaret Atwoods, John Orwells and even Stephen Hawkins’. But how! Take them to libraries, read out loud for them, give them audio books (they’re attached to their earplugs anyway!) and read yourself, show example. And help those who have trouble learning the amazing skill of literacy!

(Interestingly, I’m writing this on board a plane that has a picture of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, the Finnish national poet, on its tail!)

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is principal Marjo Rantanen  answer to question of June: Literacy Skills for a New World.


What Kind of Teachers will Continue to Flourish in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

A Student is talking with the robot and at the same time entering various steps of the Math task on the robot’s keyboard. The robot is giving supportive feedback to the student all the time.

“Well done Lisa, now let’s try the next task.” The student is practicing rounding with big numbers and the robot is teaching and guiding the student.

Picture: 19 Mayıs 2018, Cumartesi Güncelleme, twitter 

One group of students is connected with students on the other corner of the world. They are telling how they have collected data of the population in near villages and cities. They are discussing what would be the best rounding accuracy for every village and city. They are debating and defending their point of view why they are rounding in different accuracy than students in the other class.

Teacher is looking from the wall monitor one group which is collecting number of cars in the near traffic roundabout. This group is doing a project work of cars and part of project is collecting data and use statistics. The group can ask help virtually from the Road Safety.

It is only couple of years ago when people were talking how artificial Intelligence is going to change the world. The use of artificial intelligence in education has become more common than we thought. We are now daily using applications of AI like:

  • grading students’ written answers
  • Bots that answer students’ questions
  • Virtual personal assistants that tutor students
  • Virtual reality and computer vision for immersive, hands-on learning
  • Simulations and gamification with rich learning analytics

We also have learned that thinking is the most important aspect of the school culture. Teachers have remained as authorities in the classroom on content, analysis and propriety. Teachers have become more vital than ever for steering students to the best, and away from the most spurious sources of information in the digital world. The 21st-century classrooms are marked by not one center of authority—the teacher as all-knowing—but by many more. The students are also authorities on technology, with the teachers as content masters and learned guides.

All this have made us to co-exist and co-create with AI and changed at last totally the Math education to the next level in the school. AI have forced teachers around the world to develop their teaching methods more versatile and students-centered.

Is the text above our future?

Every teacher today is more or less using new technology products with more or less confidence. We need to learn all the time, being life-long learners, and at the same time we think and need to be critical – what is the quality of learning?

At the same time self-driving cars have been tested, and we’ll start to take for granted disease-diagnosing algorithms. It is clear that schools will change as places and how we will teach and learn there.

We need also to be very aware that there is no way to predict exactly what students will need to know. Students are aware that they will need to be flexible, able to work collaboratively, be comfortable with experimentation and be able to embrace and embody what it means to be a lifelong learner.

Hope #AI forces us to change our Maths education

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is my answer to question of May: What kind of teachers will continue to flourish in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?