In Finland, Bike Trips to the Coast and 21st Century Skills

In Finland, Bike Trips to the Coast and 21st Century Skills


Piia Martikainen teaches third grade at Torkinmäki school in Kokkola, Finland. Here is a day in her life.

6:43 a.m.

My alarm goes off. It’s two minutes earlier than the rest of my family wakes up. This way I get a little head start. I go downstairs, and at the same time, check my emails via my cell phone. There are only notifications from new conversations in LinkedIn, and one email showing that someone new is following me on Twitter.

7:05 a.m.

I’m dressed and making coffee and oatmeal porridge for the kids and checking my Facebook. While drinking my coffee with milk, I read some newspapers on my Surface Pro.

7:30 a.m.

I’m dressed in my Gore-Tex shell suit just in case it starts raining. You never know in Finland. (That’s why I use waterproof mascara nowadays.) I put my helmet on and jump on my bike. It's a 12-minute ride to school. The odometer on my bike says that I have saved about 82 liters of gasoline so far by riding my bike to work.

7:45 a.m.

I’m at school. There are about 330 students here, from first grade (seven years) to sixth grade (twelve years). At the moment, we are teaching in temporary shelters. The old school had to be torn down because of a mold problem. But the brand new Torkinmäki school is rising right next to us! I have been teaching here for 13 years and last five have been in the temporary buildings. In a year and half and we will have the most amazing school you have ever seen.

I go to the staff room and get another mug of coffee. There are a few teachers here, and we have a very nice chat and lots of laughing. The conversation is usually about something other than school. We share what we have done last night or something fun from the classroom. Yesterday one student asked a teacher why he had hair in his ear…

8:00 a.m.

I go to my classroom, open my document camera and PC. Next I open my OneNote and see what I have planned for today.

8:15 a.m.

The students come in. First we have math. The students take out their devices and play some math games, practicing addition and subtraction. At the same time I work with those who need more help. The lesson is quickly over and students go to recess. Meanwhile I go to the staff room and grab a little more coffee. One colleague has some problems with her tablet device, so I help her. (It’s an easy problem this time). Raisa, my MIE friend, comes into the staff room and we go through our next lesson plans together.

9:15 a.m.

For the second and third lessons, all of the three third grade classes work together. We have different projects in each room. Our big theme now is the coast and waterline. Yesterday we took a field trip by bike with 58 students, three teachers, and lovely weather. The outing was a success; the students explored the coast in two’s and three’s and took photos. They had to observe the weather and the animals they saw, and measure various plants.

Today we are studying the plant samples we gathered on yesterday’s field trip. In my classroom, the students search for information from books and the Internet and take notes about the plants. They also have to color animal pictures and write a few details about them on pieces of paper. We gather all the information together to form one big “painting.”

Raisa’s classroom resembles an art studio. Students paint and print the plants with different methods.

In the third classroom, students write screenplays of life near the waterline and make little animations with Windows Live.

Somewhere in the middle of all of our work, we go to have lunch. (It's free for students!)

12:00 p.m.

After the morning’s "full of voice and action" lessons, it’s time for students to go to recess. I go to the staff room for more coffee.

12:15 p.m.

The last lesson of the day is gym. We take footballs and go to a nearby park and just play. My students love football, and luckily, it doesn’t rain. There isn’t time to practice any skills today, but next week we will practice shooting and goal-tending. 

1:15 p.m.

The students’ day is over and I am sitting in the staff meeting. Our principal has put all our meeting notes and memos in our school's shared OneNote. We can check it and fill in details whenever we need to. Today we are going through our plan for this year—what big themes we’ll have together as a whole school, what field trips we will take, etc. Thankfully I have my trusty coffee mug next to me…

2:30 p.m.

I’m on my bike again and heading home. There is time to let my thoughts fly. I am a strong advocate of project based learning. I’m thinking how technology has made me a more modern teacher as I try to teach my students 21st century skills. But a device isn't the solution to help students learn; it’s only one tool among many. My students are only nine-years-old, which can make using technology a little challenging. There are so many other things I need to teach them first… But luckily I have four more years with my students; I have time to get to know them. And imagine what they will be able to do with technology after couple of years… more than me!

3:00 p.m.

As I relax after work, I go through my Facebook and Twitter. My daughter and husband are ready to go to soccer training; I stay home with my son, who goes outside to play with the neighbor’s kid. I have time to check my next day’s plan. We’ll continue our coastline project and have some writing in Finnish. 

I put the lasagna in the oven and start to work with Sway. There, Raisa and I have made a presentation about our teaching style and how we use technology. We can both edit it at the same time… I notice that she has made some good additions. We have been invited to talk in Helsinki next week at NetForum. It’s an event where teachers from all around Finland can meet and get to know the latest technologies in teaching. To participate, I’ll travel 450 kilometres each way. I feel amused… Funny I have gone this far just by learning on my own. No one has held my hand and told me how to do things.

7:00 p.m.

Time to relax. The sauna is ready. Yes, almost every Finnish house has this little “room” where we sit, warmed by water on hot stones. I think about all of the wonderful shared ideas from today, and reflect on how to teach different subjects and themes. The ideas goes around and around in my head and I’m too tired to “organize” my thoughts.

9:30 p.m.

The kids are sleeping. My husband is watching football. It’s not my favorite team, FC Bayern München, so I decide to watch my favorite soap opera, “Lemmen viemää” (Storm of Love), instead. Before I fall asleep, I check Facebook one last time…

This article was sponsored by Microsoft and not written by the EdSurge editorial staff.
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