The Finnish school has proved to be successful in international assessments of school achievements, but the virtual and game-based learning environments are not widely experimented and exploited in Finnish schools. The problem seems to lie within the inability for these new environments to effectively pervade into the curriculum, or it is due to teachers’ suspicions or lack of technological resources and further training.
This study aims to develop a teacher- and curriculum-friendly programme to involve secondary school teachers in virtual and game-based teaching and learning environments in order to renew pedagogy and to enhance students’ motivation as well as experimental, problem solving and collaborative ways of learning. The programme is part of a larger co-ordination project Learning games and virtual environments supporting the renewal of teaching and learning (LEVI) which is conducted collaboratively by the schools of Konnevesi municipality and Jyväskylä University’s Agora Center and funded by the Finnish bureau of education.
Theoretically, the study is grounded in the socio-cultural view of learning and in-service teacher education where knowledge is shared through social interaction and where games and virtual environments can serve as spaces for mediation between individual and collaborative experiences and shared knowledge construction and communication.
Methodologically, we follow the design-based approach, which combines the virtual game environment, the needs of in-service teacher training and theoretical knowledge of socio-cultural view of learning. Design-based study simultaneously aims to renew learning environments and to use such environments in authentic settings to study learning and teaching. In practice, we invite teachers to experience available learning games and virtual worlds such as Second Life.
As a first step in this study we have collected links to learning games and curriculum suitable learning environments in Second Life to our project home page http://www.peda.net/polku/ovi. As well, we have built “Discovery of Another World” -gallery to our High School Island (Lukiosaari), where is a camp fire as a gathering place, screens which contains the basic instructions for use, move and live in Second Life as well short bursts of video clips of different learning environments, and prints screens direct SLurls to those places. The instructions operate self-study basis, and are simple and clear.
Second step of this project was to assemble teacher experiences using learning games from the perspective of special education and gifted students needs. Games are found very motivating and effective in special education to practice basic skills, like mathematics or grammar. Game based learning gives great possibilities for gifted students to progress in their studies individually. As well virtual worlds give equal possibilities for every student to act despite disability or other problems in real life. Start point in this project is survey where we sort out students’ personal learning strategies or styles. Students can choose learning games to create their own PLE, which is suitable to their learning strategies and skills.
In our game platform the free games from the Internet are sorted by categories, the subject, age group and game-type. The curriculum based sorting in the subject category is one of the major support for the teachers. The games are played and they are recommended to fit in the curriculum. The listed games are also sorted and recommended for the different age groups from preschool to high school (K-12).
The third category is the game type. The recommended games are sorted by the game generations in two categories: the pedagogical games, like drilling, filling and practising games and the story or adventure based games.
We provide teachers with a space to discover and share pedagogical ideas and resources, discuss projects, make presentations and explore good and not-so-good practices, both virtually and in real life learning sessions. Through these environments teachers can meet students, other teachers and technical tutors, communicate their experiences, solve problems, get support for their learning process, develop individual or collaborative exercises and network to develop inspiring instructional practices and new culture among participating teachers and schools. The participating schools (8 network schools) and teachers (approximately 100 teachers) are further encouraged to disseminate virtually mediated practices and new instructional culture to other schools and teachers as well as to teacher training institutes.
Teachers share good practises in the national Teacher Card database (OpenKortti), which is open to all teachers. Teachers have been visited this database very actively.
The data of teachers’ ideas, communication, shared knowledge and discovered best practices are further analysed to design and disseminate new game-based pedagogy and culture for other schools to keep up with the pace of technological, pedagogical and cultural change.Löytöretkillä toisessa maailmassa, vol 1Lauri Pirkkalainen & Petri Lounaskorpi (toim.),5/2013, 16.5.2013