Tag Archives: Don Buckley

Notes from visiting learning spaces in #Helsinki, #Finland. It was an excellent trip from start to Finnish! #edchat #globaled19

I’m just back from Helsinki, Finland since a former colleague from The School at Columbia University, Dr. Sabrina Goldberg, is currently there on a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Award. Don Buckley and his wife, Leah, met me in Helsinki. While Leah toured and shopped, and Sabrina had appointments, Don and I visited schools, libraries, and makerspaces. We were very lucky to reach out to our network and connect with teachers and heads of schools who graciously made time to speak with us, tour us around, and answer our many questions about Finnish education, teacher training programs, and informal learning spaces.

Sabrina is interested in learning more about how Finnish schools integrate Phenomenon Based Learning as it’s part of the national curriculum followed by Finnish public schools — some schools follow the national curriculum more closely than others and some have developed their own curricular materials more creatively than others. (More about PhBL via Wikipedia here.) Sabrina commented many times that Don and I saw more schools in our three days of site visits than she’s seen in three months. It’s all about the network, and Don and I have worked enthusiastically and strategically to grow ours! We introduced Sabrina to many people in Helsinki (even ones we just met), and now Sabrina has a wider network and more schools to visit, too. 🙂

As for the trip, I took a red-eye from New York to Helsinki on the evening of March 18 and arrived suitably red-eyed on the morning of March 19. Here’s what I can recall about the trip…

Day 1, Tuesday March 19

Getting to Töölö Towers, a dorm-like hotel, was a piece of cake. The 415 bus goes directly from the airport to a few blocks away the place. I wanted to be close to Sabrina and not spend a lot of money, so this was a great, safe, clean, no-frills, conveniently located option with kind receptionists, plentiful breakfasts, and lots of academics staying short- and long-term in the efficiently furnished rooms.

Lunch at Friends & Brgrs, a walk around the main city center, and visits to a few Marimekko storefronts, as each has slightly different merchandise showcased. Our trip to Temppeliaukio Church, commonly referred to as the Rock Church, was enlightening. Dinner at Ravintola Savel included a Finnish salad with salmon and shrimp. After seeing the word ravintola used at most eating establishments, it became clear that it is Finnish for restaurant.

Day 2, Wednesday, March 20

Met Don, Leah, and Sabrina for coffee. Then Don and I peeled off to visit a Music and Movement class for first year music teachers in training at Sibelius Academy, Many thanks to Soili Perkiö for hosting us and Sheila O’Shea (another fantastic former colleague) for introducing us via Facebook Messenger to her former Finnish classmate — Soili and Sheila met while taking Music Ed classes in New York City!

Below is a video of a fourth-year grad student leading a lesson for first-year grad students. I love how she transitioned the group from voice to claps to stomps!

Pretty much everyone speaks English in Helsinki (probably most of Finland too), and the class had some full group discussions in English critiquing the more experienced grad student’s submitted lesson, so Don and I could be included. Some of my favorite lines from the students: “You can never do too much body percussion” and “We can mod the activity it in many ways.” and “It’s okay to fail.” Don suggested the speaker try a tactic he uses with his grad students for self identifying areas of strength and growth: “I like, I wish, What if?” I really liked Don’s approach, I wish I’d participated more in the discussion, what if I had started writing their ideas down on a big notepad in front? (See what I did there?)

After our visit to Sibelius Academy, Don and I made our way to the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Educational Sciences Building to speak with Laura Salo, Innokas Network Project Designer, who graciously made time to tell us about Finnish education, teacher training, and her work developing and growing a network of teachers engaged in professional development around integrating Technology into the Craft component of the 2014 Finnish National Curriculum (which corresponds with the STEAM and Maker Movement in America).

Laura explained more of the expectations for Finnish teachers: A BA is the minimum for a Kindergarten teacher working with the youngest children (ages 1-6). An MA is required for teaching in Primary/Elementary School Grades 1-6 (with children ages 7-13). Subject teacher of students in Grades 7-12 (ages 13-19) have an MA in their field and is qualified to teach whatever subjects they chose as their major/minor area of focus for their Masters degree. Finnish teachers are highly educated and master a subject! The teacher training programs are also highly competitive, and university and graduate education in Finland is free, FREE! Plus, graduate students get a stipend to help with living expenses while they take classes. It is so respectful and thoughtful. Laura shared a ton of information and I took photos of slides rather than jot down everything she said:

After, Don and I joined Leah and Sabrina for an inventive and delicious tasting menu dinner at Gaijin.

Day 3, Thursday, March 21

Paul Marra spent time in Finland earlier this year and plans another trip soon. She reached out to her friends at Kalasatama Primary School to see if we could visit, but as Don and I planned our Finland trip rather late, and since Finnish schools receive a ton of visit requests, it was disappointing and understandable that they could not accommodate us. However, rather than just leave it at that, it was so thoughtful that Kalasatama kindly arranged for us to visit Jätkäsaari Peruskoulu, or Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School. It is in a growing neighborhood with a lot of construction along an expanse of land near the wharf — it reminded me a bit like a combination of Red Hook, Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. Just as the neighborhood is expanding, so is the school. They have a new structure being completed, and while the school currently serves students Grades 1-6, next year they will add Grades 7-9.

Kirsi Myllymäki, Principal of Jätkäsaari, kindly invited us to observe Morning Meeting where young students engaged in a call and response with teachers about the date, the weather, the day’s schedule and more in four languages: Finnish, Swedish, English, and Spanish! Later, Kirsi recognized how team-teaching is so important as children can see how adults cooperate and work together. Don and I were invited to introduce ourselves to the group of children, and then the teachers asked the children to repeat what they’d heard to check for comprehension. Children were invited to ask us two questions, and they inquired about our favorite colors and our favorite animals. So cute! Then there was a musical interlude where students sang and played a variety of instruments. After, the Lutheran kids (or those whose families haven’t opted out of Religion class which is part of the Finnish National Curriculum) had a brief lesson, and the other kids (whether they are non-Lutheran, non-religious, or just had parents who opted out) engaged in some sort of life skills lesson. I found this fascinating. The newest National curriculum was introduced in 2014 and the newest Helsinki curriculum came out 2016.

While explaining about about the school, we learned from Kirsi that the children have two hours of Craft time per week. She used the terms Soft and Hard  to differentiate between textiles/food and wood/metal. This particular week, Kirsi said students were looking at news (what is news, what’s the title, you can write your own news). Peppered around the school we noticed children reading or working independently, in small groups, or with the help of an adult. Kirsi reinforced that there is a lot of trust with the children, even with students in the youngest grades. They are encouraged to self-monitor and they have practice doing this throughout the year, so the general expectation is students understand their responsibilities within the classroom and school community, and they are trusted to behave accordingly. (This sense/level/expectation of trust was mentioned at each of the rest of the schools we visited on the trip.)

Kirsi pointed out that Jätkäsaari is an inclusive school, so they have children with a wide variety of learning skills and some special needs. As an example, she showed how they use online games and modules from Popunet.net which are accessible to a wide range of children. There were laptop stations set up in the common areas where students could practice using these online modules at their own pace and without necessarily under the direct supervision of an adult. There are other schools available for children with distinctly more advanced special needs. Finally, Kirsi used the term “positive discrimination” (which I heard again many times throughout the week) to describe how more municipal monies are applied to areas that have less wealth and vice versa.

Just a few blocks away is the International School of Helsinki (ISH). Don’s former student at Teachers College, Columbia University connected us to Alwyn Roberts, Teacher of Design at ISH. Alwyn offered a great tour of the building. They are in the nearing the end of a stretch of intentional prototyping of different classroom designs and furniture options for flexible use of spaces. I liked how they called hallway seating/working options as “Study-Stop areas”. We also met Ben Thrash and Minna Tammivuori-Piraux from the Leadership team, and it was really interesting to talk with them about how their school is evolving spatially and pedagogically. Unlike the Finnish schools, ISH is a State-supported private international school and has tuition fees. ISH began as a British prep school and is having its 55th anniversary.

It turns out the Director of Technology, Anita Chen, was at CIS in Hong Kong with my great friends and former colleagues Akio Iida and Tabitha Johnson. Plus, they all worked with my dear friend and edcampBangkok co-founder, Chissa Duangnet Mireles who is now based at NIST in Bangkok. Such a small world! Kathleen Naglee, Head of School, invited us to meet with her in her gloriously decorated office, dubbed the Blue Room, which is shared with students and faculty whenever they seek a calm place to meet, work, or reflect. Speaking with Kathleen was a true and distinct pleasure, and I was really enjoyed learning her thoughts about “compassionate spaces” and “cognitive coaching”. I love meeting inspiring, brilliant, and fascinating women in leadership. Here’s an article Kathleen wrote, Who’s Missing at the Table? Preparing women for international school leadership.

After these two enlightening school visits, Don and I walked to Oodi Library and had a marvelous time exploring the varied, stylish, multi-purpose, and thoughtfully designed spaces inside (including all sorts of tools in their makerspace). Per their website:What can I do in Oodi? Oodi is exactly what you want it to be. Borrow books, read magazines, have lunch, work, hang out, go to the movies, study, hold a meeting, organize an event, take a glass of wine, get to know the EU, create music, meet friends, sew curtains, play with children, play board games. Oodi is all this and much more.” I shared a bunch of photos previously in this post and included them below as well:

For dinner, we gathered Leah and Sabrina to eat at Ravintola Lasipalatsi above Amos Rex, a fantasticlly designed Art Museum space. At Lasipalatsi, I ate two different reindeer dishes, a tartare and a fillet. Later we shared crazy desserts including licorice cake and a sorbet of some super sour berry, maybe it was sea-buckthorn?


Day 4, Friday, March 22

Don and I made our way a bit North of Helsinki to Raini Sipilä‘s school, Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu, commonly referred to as SYK. We met Raini a few weeks ago at FabLearn and immediately introduced ourselves. Don toured Raini around the Marymount School, and in turn, Raini offered a visit to her school! It was an awesome visit! While SYK is a free Finnish private school, it is most similar to an American charter school — students take a test to get in and enter in Grade 3. They are considered a specialized multi-language school, and their library has many different books in a variety of languages. The school has been around since 1886, and the current brutalist interior is full of soaring concrete walls and ceilings. It reminded me of the interior of Erdman Hall at Bryn Mawr College, a structure designed by Louis Kahn.

I was fascinated by how students at young ages have a 3-hour Craft period per week with both hard (wood) and soft (textiles) materials. By 7th grade, they choose to specialize in either wood or textiles. Our 7th grade tour guides (who led us around the building without additional supervision, because they are awesome students and trusted members of the school) told us that electronics more integrated in woodwork than textiles and more girls choose textiles and more boys choose wood. I hope this balances more in the common years. At SYK, the woodwork teacher told me that he incorporates design and technology into his program. The new curriculum due out in a few years, however, explicitly integrates technology into all Craft classes.

Assistant Principal Sampo Lokki, was kind enough to meet with us for an interesting conversation about what he/we think about schools, education, and technology. Sampo actively seeks out good ideas and is interested in prototyping. He’s currently in the midst of a pilot to have the kids answer a few curated questions every morning using their 1:1 iPads and a custom Wellness app. He’s already determined that some students shared no one greeted them with a “Hello” or “Good Morning”, so that helps him and the faculty identify ways to model behaviors for the children, discuss strategies for socializing, and improve the culture of the school.

Following our visit to SYK, Don and I traveled further West to Espoo International School (EIS). Thanks again to Paula Marra, we were able to connect with Anne-Marie Rapo, Head of School, who took us on a tour and shared some of the pros and cons of the fantastic new space. Like SYK, EIS offers free education and students for students in their primary and middle years (ages 5-16), yet students are required to take a test for entry. It is a trilingual school with courses in Swedish, Finnish, and English.

Upon entering, I couldn’t help but notice how the concrete walls and soaring ceiling were reminiscent of SYK. It turns out the architect of EIS supposedly graduated from SYK! The school is in the new Opinmäki (Learning Hill) campus and was very expensive to construct. Therefore, space is rented out for many purposes (sports, events, adult learning…) — there’s a municipal library and a daycare which are unaffiliated with the school yet share a roof. Initially, there were glass walls or no walls separating informal learning spaces and classrooms. However, learning is noisy and children get distracted, so loosely woven white curtains were hung over many of the glass walls and heavier curtains and walls were constructed to separate open areas. Also, I learned that every municipal building has a shelter/bunker in the basement. Espoo International School actually conducts classes down in the bunker, but only for limited amounts of time as there are no windows down there. I loved the plentiful sweeping areas for art, craft, woodworking, and textiles!

After touring these two unique schools, Don and I took an Uber to Iso Omena Library on the third floor of a big mall in Espoo. Iso Omena has a makerspace, tons of books, meeting rooms, designated rooms for music and gaming (online and offline), services for families, a health clinic, forms assists services for immigrants or non-Finnish speakers, and many other assets for the community. Just like the notion of the Cathedral as the center of a community’s life, so too does this library seem to provide all sorts of resources to entertain, enrich, and support a community.  I also added a bunch of photos to an earlier post, but here are the same photos pasted below:

After this full day of exploring, we met up with Leah to check out Kaapelitehdas, otherwise known as the Cable Factory. Then we headed over to  to Fat Ramen located in the Hietalahti Market Hall for dinner.

Day 5, Saturday, March 23

Sabrina, Don, Leah, and I traveled to the Iittala and Arabia Design Center followed by a visit to one of the Marimekko outlets. That was an expensive detour. Then we were invited to Raini’s house for a traditional Finnish dinner of sweet potato soup, blinis with all the classic toppings (caviar, salmon, whitefish, sour cream, pickles, onions, mushrooms, and more), and then a homemade apple crumble a la mode for dessert. It was such a special treat to join Raini at her home, meet her family, and have a delicious meal!

Day 6, Sunday, March 24

Sabrina, Leah, and I took the two-hour ferry to Tallinn, Estonia for a day trip. It’s a magical medieval city! We walked around all day, had a great lunch (with elk meat) at Rataskaevu 16, walked through the amazing Balti Jaam market on our way to the artsy hipster area of Telliskivi. We had a quick snack at F-Hoone before hoofing it back to our ship (a converted luxury cruise liner which now has multiple floors to ferry cars and people). I lost all my photos from the day because I was having issues with the gyro sensor on my iPhone and I thought resetting to factory settings would fix it. I forgot to check that all my photos had backed up to iCloud before making that choice. Womp womp.

Day 7, Monday, March 25

Alwyn kindly invited Sabrina and me (Don and Leah flew out in the early morning) to join him on a visit to the Aalto University Design Factory. A parent from ISH school offered the tour, as International School of Helsinki is about to launch a new Design/Engineering/Maker space. Alwyn and I are in the same boat! I offered to connect him with the awesome educators, designers, and makers of the K-12 FabLab Group, and Alwyn suggested we think up a project where he and I can facilitate a collaboration between our students. Fingers crossed! I was prepared to be jaded by the Design Factory, partly because I’m a New Yorker and partly because I’ve seen fabulous spaces around the world. Nevertheless, Aaltoo’s Design Factory is something to behold! I particularly noted how rooms/purposes were divided, how materials were organized, and how the signage reminding people to be respectful, clean, safe, and responsible. Behind the Design Factory is the Sauna where you can give a pitch while nude with your audience. I guess nothing is in the way of your presentation at that point?! I also heard about Polar Bear Pitching where you deliver your pitch while in the icy Baltic Sea, so the speaker gets to the point as efficiently as possible before hypothermia sets in…

After this illuminating visit, Sabrina and I had lunch at Vapiano and then went to see Jordan Peele’s new movie, Us. I hate scary movies!


Day 8, Tuesday, March 26

I flew back to NYC with an additional duffle bag, because I purchased two reindeer pelts. I was torn between the beauty and the barbarism of possessing an animal’s hide, but Finnish people told me they use the whole animal. Here’s hoping. Anyway, I hope to get back to Finland again! I really want to travel North to Lapland one day, and I want to also experience a Finnish spring or summer. And I want to visit more schools! And Sweden!


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So much to think about after another stellar @Educon at @SLAtweets! I’ve collected my tweets here to dig further into some of the gathered resources. #educon #edchat

It was exciting to be in Philadelphia this weekend to feel Philly Pride in the home of the Eagles (#FlyEaglesFly) and to participate in another Educon hosted by Science Leadership Academy: @DonBuckley kindly took this picture of me upon arriving at 30th Street Station.

Session 1: What does it mean to be a graduate? facilitated by Matt Riggan

Session 2: Future Visioning as a Tool for Creative Thinking facilitated by Becky Lee and Adam Rosenzweig
Here’s a recording from the session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dAqQnxCNF0

Session 3: Assessing Project Based Learning: How Do We Know What They Know? facilitated by Liz Davis, Stephanie Seto, and Katie Morgan
Here’s the recording from the presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFJwrXXdB38

Session 4: Entrepreneurial Mindset in Education facilitated by Jenny Zapf

Session 5: Sustaining Change in Schools and Systems facilitated by Diana Laufenberg and Zac Chase
Here’s a link to the video from the session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEScVwmY_Ls

Session 6: The Evolving Role of the 21C Educator facilitated by Tiffany Wycoff

Plus more to consider:

Here are links to videos from Chris Lehmann’s YouTube playlists of Educon 2018 videos:
1. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCieSOR3Cc9kXX2u15tUzqNw
2. https://www.youtube.com/user/educon204/videos?view=0&sort=dd&shelf_id=0

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Yes, I actually spent time gathering my tweets from @MakerFaire NYC weekend. #MFNY17 #MakerEd

Since I can’t get Storify to embed properly into a WordPress.com site, and I still do not self-host a WordPress.org site, I am gathering below my tweets from the last few days at Maker Faire NYC and some Maker Faire meetups.

Thursday, September 21

I went to the Maker Faire NY “Real World 3D Printing” Panel at Fat Cat Fab Lab hosted by Matterhackers and Ultimaker. It was great to reunite with other independent school technologists and fellow Ultimaker Pioneers, Ian Klapper (@ian32one), Rurik Nackerud (@okay2fail), and Sarah Rolle (@artdabbler13). I’m ever grateful to Liz Arum (@lizarum), the fabulous Education Community Strategist at Ultimaker North America), for suggesting I join the Pioneers, sending me updates about awesome meetups and conferences, and encouraging me to submit a 3D project for the inaugural Design Challenge Starter Pack. I love that my 3D Mandarin Seals project is immortalized in print among other inspiring projects from educators and artists! Here are some of  my posts from the evening:

#NYCIST friends at this @MatterHackers @Ultimaker Pre-@MakerFaire 3D-Mixer. #MakerEd

A post shared by Karen (@karenblumberg) on

Friday, September 22

I attended the 3rd (and my 3rd) annual Make: Education Forum at the NY Hall of Science where I reunited with teacher friends from the NYC Department of Education, technologists from other independent schools in New York and around the country, and exhibitors I met previously at previous Maker Faires or conferences. At the forum, Dale Dougherty, CEO and Founder of Make, exuded inspiration, genuine excitement, and kindness as he launched the day, introduced each speaker, and moderated the Q&As. Here is the schedule of speakers from the day. As per previous years, Dale offered attendees a backstage tour of the Maker Faire after the forum. Below is the description from the website — it’s a great event to attend if you can swing it!

Co-hosted with our partner, New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), the event is Friday, September 22, at the New York Hall of Science, home of World Maker Faire New York, from 10am to 4pm. This year, our focus will be on computational making, rethinking professional development for maker education and how making is not just about creating a makerspace but creating a maker culture.

Hear from educators, makerspace organizers, librarians, local and federal state department representatives, and youth organizations who have developed models and platforms to serve this agenda. If you are an individual who is either formally or informally supporting and/or creating project-based learning programs for kids that support general STEM areas, as educational policy makers, superintendents and principals, or youth programing coordinators, please join us.

Here are the tweets I shared during the day:

After the Make: Education Forum, I made it to a Maker Educator Meetup  hosted/sponsored by Maker Promise, Autodesk, and MackinMaker at NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Makerspace. Here a tweet with photographic evidence via Mara Hitner (@3DPrintGirl):

Sunday, September 24

I made it to another Maker Faire NYC! Every year, I try to organize a block of tickets (through the Technology Department budget) for colleagues to visit the Maker Faire on Sunday, as there is a reduced Sunday group rate of 4 tickets for a total of $100. I also recommended people use their personal Professional Development monies if they want to get their own ticket to attend on Saturday. Additionally, I suggest they volunteer and attend for free (!) via the Make Faire Traveler Program. Here are my tweets from Sunday’s Maker Faire:

PS. I want to keep track of these tweets from others as well:

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Pics and notes from the inaugural @EdcampUSA Organizers Summit in PA Apr 30-May 1. #edcamp #edchat

Many thanks to the Kim Sivick (@ksivick), Program Director of the Edcamp Foundation, for inviting me to the inaugural Edcamp Organizers Summit – the first in a series of events where Edcamp organizers will gather, network, share best practices, and be inspired.

Hadley Ferguson (@hadleyjf), Executive Director of the Edcamp Foundation, and @KristenSwanson, Founding Edcamp Board Member, launched the two-day summit with words that made me feel so proud for being a passionate advocate for Edcamp. I especially liked Kristen’s slides stating, “It’s not about events. It’s about empowerment.” and “It’s not about size. It’s about people.” I was so happy to attend the summit and represent EdcampNYC with my friend and co-founder, Ann Oro (@OroAnnM)!

Shannon Montague (@montysays) and @AdamBellow, @EdcampUSA Board members) helped to organize the crowd-sourced conversational topics written on Post-its, and soon after we had an official PHL Summit Session Board schedule of unconference conversations to choose from.

I popped in on a few different sessions while connecting with people I usually interact with online. A particular highlight of the conference was joining the Stop Taking Yourself So Seriously! Let’s Snap, Dub, and Bitmoji! session faciliated by Kristina Peters (@MrsKPeters). Hilarity ensued after a roomful of teachers began to film and share their lipsync videos created in DubSmash. Edcamp gold!

Keynote speakers during the conference included:
Anthony Veneziale, co-founder of Speechless, Improv Thinking: Fostering Creativity and Neuroplasticity who got the whole room to stand and step out of their comfort zone.
Jose Vilson (@TheJLV), Educator, writer, thought leader, and Founder of #educolor which “seeks to elevate the voices of public school advocates of color on educational equity and justice.”
@JamesTSanders of BreakoutEdu which takes an empty box with a bunch of locks and offers teachers a platform to game-ify their classroom.

Look out for announcements from @ksivick and @edcampusa about the upcoming summits: July 25-26 in Atlanta, GAand August 12-13 in Dallas, TX.


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