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Week 11: How Do Finnish Classrooms Use Math Tech?


I originally wanted to compare US and Western European mathematics instruction, paying particular attention to the use of tech.  After I did some preliminary research (and had my imagination sparked by two articles from Dr. Droujkova), I realized that 'Western Europe' is too broad a topic.  Therefore, we will be focusing on mathematics instruction in Finland, whose education system has been getting a lot of positive press lately. 

Search tips:

If you wish to search for articles written in Finnish, Dr. Droujkova has kindly offered this tip (originally posted in Drafts):

"I just used Google Translate to find out what "mathematics education" is in Finnish, then put that phrase in the search, then translated what I found into English using the Chrome "translate" button on the results page:    "

This is the same method that I use (you can search by terms like 'blogs by finnish teachers, teacher blogs, mathematics technology, etc.).  Words that don't translate directly are usually easy to figure out by context clues.

Task 1:  Please read the following articles that were originally posted by Dr. Droujkova:

Find at least one additional article about Finnish mathematics instruction (it can be about tech specifically, or about a subject that you feel influences tech use (such as funding or teacher training)).   Post the link and give a brief summary.  Discuss what you personally find the most intriguing/useful about the article.  Some examples:  What are the main differences/similarities between the US and Finnish systems regarding tech use, how do you feel tech might figure into the achievement differences (if at all), do you feel that Finland's approach might rely more or less on classroom tech (used as instructional aids) than the US (if so, why).   Please include your personal opinions about the information presented in your article.

Task 2:  Find a blog post, discussion forum post, or article written by a Finnish math, science, or computer literacy teacher that mentions instructional tech.  The item can be as formal or as informal as you wish - what matters is that you, as a future (or present) math teacher, find the content enriching.  Please provide a link and summary.  As with Task 1, discuss what you found the most intriguing/useful about the item.  Some examples:  How is tech use similar or different than in the US, what types of tech are used, does one nation's system seem to be more accepting of tech, or not?  Lastly, please include your personal opinions about the information that you found.

Task 3:  This last task centers around ways that tech can unite the international learning community.  How can we use tech to help students who don't speak our language (aside from translation software)?  This includes ELL students.  Find a piece of tech (video, manipulative, iPad resource, etc.) that a student unfamiliar with the language (or written numerical system) could use to learn about a concept.  Please share it along with reasons why you like it.



Task Discussion

  • Katherine Hanisco   April 27, 2013, 9:40 p.m.

    I was just reading through everyone's responses and I realized I totally overlooked task 3! Sorry about that, Sue.

    Task 3:

    I found an iPad app called Motion Math. I love this app because it's very visual and interactive, which is perfect for younger kids and it does not rely on knowledge of the language, so it would be perfect for ELLs. It covers many of the important math concepts such as place value, negative numbers, fractions, and overall number sense. 

  • Green Machine   April 24, 2013, 3:12 a.m.

    Task 1



    I really enjoyed this article because it pinpointed some of the major differences between US and Finland education. I must say that I agree with the no homework policy because mastery should be attained in the classroom. I would tweak that policy by providing the scholar with meaningful extension or research that could be completed at home independently or with family. Finland education sounds like utopia to me. They don’t emphasize competition at any aspect of education; they have no private schools; and much of their budget goes into the classroom. One major aspect that I absolutely adored was the fact that there is no standardized testing. I believe that our educational system could learn a lot from the Finnish education system. Imagine if our administrators were paid the same as the teachers and more of our money was funneled directly into the schools and we did not have to teach the test; allowing our scholars access to the best resources and optimizing education to meet their needs. Do I ned to move to Finland? Lol.


    Task 2



    I had a difficult time finding an article but this one did briefly mention the use of technology in a Finnish classroom. The article painted a vivid picture of an observer’s observation of a 5th and 7th grade math Finnish class. They did have home exercises; there was a seamless infusion of technology; the classes were orderly; scholars could independently and harmoniously; and there were deeper applications of the math. The article actually has me approaching my lesson plan for tomorrow from a different angle. I even found a website about Finnish teachers using technology to publish their own educational materials. The article also mentioned the slim textbook and motivation of the scholars.


    Task 3



    I really enjoyed this video. I was exposed to a high level of thinking strictly from visuals. The music also lured me into the presentation. I enjoyed the correlation of the golden ration to many aspects of life and the math that was infused through a few examples as well. I believe that ELL scholars would be able to grasp what was going on because no spoken English was involved and there were familiar images.

  • Katherine Hanisco   April 7, 2013, 10:07 p.m.

    Task 2: I found a blog written by (I think!) a Finnish teacher: which I see now is the same blog Gina found. The title of the blog is “Matematiikan ja tietotekniikan ope”, which according to Google Translate is Mathematics and Information Technology Teaching”. As Gina mentioned, there was a lot of discussion about different uses of technology in math classes. One post I found very interesting was this one which included a link to a documentary called “Stupid in America.” It was interesting to read about the perspective of a Finnish teacher talking about American schools. One thing I noticed was that the author of the blog seemed to stress the importance of the positive caring teacher-student relationship as a major factor in Finland’s success. I thought it was especially interesting since this was a blog that focused so much on technology.

  • Katherine Hanisco   April 2, 2013, 10:24 p.m.

    Task 1: Here is the article I chose for this task: What the US can’t learn from Finland about ed reform 

    I thought this article was interesting because it pointed out how the differences in educational systems between the US and Finland go well beyond instructional strategies. The three issues mentioned are funding of schools, well-being of children, and education as a human right. Those are deeper cultural issues related to how society values education, and we can’t replicate Finland’s success without addressing those issues.

    While this wasn’t specifically about tech, I believe it’s relevant since funding is related to tech use. In Finland, all schools receive equitable funding that is not related to the wealth of the community. Last semester, I took a course in urban education and we learned about the “two-tiered” educational system, which is where students from low-income homes receive an inferior education at schools that often lack even the most basic resources compared to their privileged peers. In Finland, you wouldn’t have a situation where one district is able to build a brand new school complete with high tech classrooms while another school just ten miles away lacks the resources to purchase up to date textbooks and make repairs to an aging building, which is something I experienced in my fieldwork over the past two semesters.

    In the US, there are issues of accessibility in low-income schools when it comes to technology in the classroom. Even when teachers make use of free resources (like we do in this class) if there are no computers or not enough computers available for student use, the technology is going to be hard to implement. Based on the equitable distribution of funding in Finnish schools, there wouldn't be accessibility issues related to technology in the classroom due to economic status.

  • Maria Droujkova   March 31, 2013, 6:40 p.m.

    Task 3

    The piece of tech I found are these math ed videos, in Spanish:

    The reason I ran into them was that Ever Salazar, the author of the videos, also illustrated a book I co-authored, "Moebius Noodles." I have a lot of respect for Ever's work and his dedication to mathematics education, so I am pretty much following all of his projects. Here's a sample video:

    I know about ten words total in Spanish. Yet when I watch, I have that amazing feeling that I understand everything that is going on, and everything that is said. Ever has a clear, crisp way of presenting math - a combination of infographics and cartoons. The organization of information on the screen is so logical that the language barrier breaks down!

    I shared my excitement on Facebook, and this is what Mary O'Keeffy, a Math Circle leader I respect a lot, had to say: "Thanks to Maria Droujkova for bringing this wondrous, brilliant, and engaging series of math videos in Spanish to my attention! It is a terrific way for me to pick up at least a little bit of mathematical Spanish before my trip to lead activities at a math festival in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico this weekend."

    Take-home message: clear visual organization of information helps to reach across languages. I am going to strive for that in my math.

  • Maria Droujkova   March 31, 2013, 6:08 p.m.

    Tasks 1 and 2

    I wanted to read parts of the book mentioned in one of the articles, "Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland," By Pasi Sahlberg, which I found on Google Books, with a large number of pages available for the preview. I searched for the words related to technology first, but it turned out the author does not think tech is all that important in the general picture of "The Finnish Way."

    However, one wonders! And the reason is that all the three waves of the Finnish ed reforms (63, 79 and 90s) were designed by the government as tools for dealing with economic crises of the time. Finland switched from "heavy" industries to high-tech and service industries, with companies like Nokia leading the way. The ed reforms were seen as a method toward it. 

    Sahlberg writes, again and again, that Finnish schools stress group and social work, as well as individualization. But individual learning does not mean "lone internet searches" or sticking each student in front of the computer. It's more about teachers finding what works for each student, in the context of the whole class.

    So, I asked myself, do they even have computers there? One of the articles casually mentions SmartBoard and a 3D virtual lab, as something teachers regularly use. I headed into Swedish blogs and forums to find more. 

    It looks like different teachers experiment with different things. Here is a presentation from three high-school science and math teachers who loved "flipped lessons" (video lectures, problems and projects in class). The term comes from the US, by the way. 

    Here is a beginner teacher blog, talking about Eija Moilanen's explorations of tech - Second Life (a virtual world), MindMeister (mind-mapping software, which I happen to like a lot), Prezi: The blog posts are structured by pedagogical, social and technology affordances. 

    From the book, and the discussions such as the above, I see much emphasis on the social use of technology. So computer software is seen as a social tool, used if and when teachers see individual and class needs. 

    I wonder if mathematics itself, and other subjects, are seen the same way - not as end goals, but as rationally used tools to help students and communities reach equitable well-being.

  • SueSullivan   April 10, 2013, 1:15 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   March 31, 2013, 6:08 p.m.


    Hi Maria! 

    I visited the sites that you posted for Tasks 1 & 2 and agree with you that the social envirionment/aspect of learning seems to be very important to Finnish teachers.  It makes sense; how can humans be expected to learn from each other and collaborate to solve problems when their social skills/desires aren't accounted for?  This will probably sound trivial, but one of the things that really caught my attention was that Molianen seems to imply that the inability to use emoticons in Google Docs was a minus (the translation wasn't exact, I'm just going by context clues; my interpretation might be incorrect).  In my own coursework, I've often heard about encouraging collaboration among students, but very little about the social aspect of that collaboration.

    Thank you so much for your statement "I wonder if mathematics itself, and other subjects, are seen the same way - not as end goals, but as rationally used tools to help students and communities reach equitable well-being."  This is such an excellent question that I will be pondering for a long, long time!


  • MgnLeas   March 31, 2013, 11:25 a.m.

    For task three I found this article.  The authors talk about a variety of research that has been conducted to show how to us technology to help ELL students. One thing that I found most interesting was computer books. These are like interactive books on the computer. The story can be read aloud and the text also is highlighted to allow the reader to follow along. I like this method because it can be used for any type of book. So textbooks could be easier to use for ELL students. Another topic discussed was how to help vocabulary development. Three group were given different interventions; definitions, pictures, and context. It was found over time that the students learning the words with the “context” intervention learned better and more over time. Technology would allow for this process to be easier. There are so resources online to find situations to help learn words and subjects.

    The piece of tech I found is;  This can be downloaded on ipad, iphone, and ipod touch. It is an interactive vocabulary and spelling app. I thought this would be very helpful for ELL students. I love the interactive piece. There are flashcards and games to help students stay interested! I also like that teachers can set up classes and list for the students to learn. There are quizzes that the students can take and the teachers can see how they did.

  • SueSullivan   April 8, 2013, 1:30 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MgnLeas   March 31, 2013, 11:25 a.m.


    Task 3 - I agree that technology is a wonderful tool for helping ELL students - this article reminded me of something I've never thought about before, that many books written for new readers are written for young readers, rather than older students.  I would have totally overlooked this fact, when it's so important that students be presented with age-appropriate materials.  I like how offers apps; the portability has a definite appeal (as I'm wishing I was able to sit outside right now and type this, it's such a beautiful day).  I also like how the site provides various kinds of vocabulary lists; parents who are ELL learners themselves might be able to use something like this to get an idea of what their child is expected to learn, and could then direct their own learning so that they could have maximum involvement in their child's education.  Thanks for the link!


  • MgnLeas   March 31, 2013, 11:06 a.m.

    Here is an interview I found with the Minister of Education in Finland.

    She talks about the school system a little and the teachers. One thing I found very interesting was the part about the unions in Finland. She says they are more like partners and have the same goals. They work together to ensure good quality of education. I have not personally had any experience yet with teachers unions but I hear many negative things from others. So this was interesting to me.

    This is an article and video I came across on BBC America. I thought it was interesting so I wanted to share it.

    So onto to task 2… I found this video about a Finnish Science teacher.

    This teacher has integrated ICT (information communications technology) into her classroom. The lesson shown here is on bids. First the students take a prequiz so she can see what they know already. I really like that she use the computers for this. She can see the results instantly. It also allows for her to be able to see who has or has not taken the quiz. The students then look though books for different types of birds. The students draw a bid they hope to see on a nature walk. These drawings are uploaded onto the computer so that everyone can see them. They are also used by future students as references. The teachers talks about this process of growing the data year by year. It is very collaborative. One thing that stood out in this classroom was one boy was having a hard time finding something on the computer and a fellow classmate simply got up and went to help him. The teamwork in the classroom is evident. They are more of a team. I loved that the environment allows for this type of interaction. It was great that the students used both books and computers for the lesson.

  • SueSullivan   April 8, 2013, 1:30 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MgnLeas   March 31, 2013, 11:06 a.m.


    Hi Megan,

    Task 1 - I too was interested by the comments concerning unions.  Unions generate much political debate here in the US, and it often seems that teacher salaries/benefits are the center of the conversations, not the quality of students' education.  The purpose of a union serving as a trade group that promotes professional development is often overlooked.  Very interesting point!  Also interesting to me is Virkkunen's statement that time spent in a classroom doesn't necessarily increase learning, as students need time to pursue hobbies, etc.  I agree with that completely; this is also referred to in the BBC article that you posted.  The BBC article also mentions that Finnish children start school at age 7, and primary and secondary education is combined, so teachers often teach the students for several years.  Plus, middle school is often a time when adolescents are undergoing emotional, social, and physical changes; it makes perfect sense to me to avoid the additional stress of major school transitions/changes.


    Task 2 - I enjoyed this video so much - it showcased so many positive teaching moments, such as using tech for assessment before introducing the lesson and allowing students to collaborate and help one another with tech questions.  It's wonderful how the teacher asked students to draw/describe birds that they had actually seen; this firmly established the connection between learning and real-life, local experiences.  Having the students use tech to keep a historical record of their sightings and assist in discerning trends demonstrates another connection between tech and real-life, as computers are an incredible tool for storing, manipulating, and analyzing data; it's more likely than not that a student's future career will involve using tech in this way.  The lesson is interdisciplinary (my favorite kind) and integrates learning about tech, taxonomy, birds, and, by extension, the environment; social skills are also practiced (classroom collaboration, appropriate behavior on the field trip).  Love, love, love this!

    As a fanatical birdwatcher ('birder'), I'm very familiar with how tech enables us to share information and am so grateful to have access to it.  But, so much of that information is provided by people doing just what the Finnish children in the video are doing; making observations, verifying their results, and posting these results to a place where others can have access to the data.  Many of these 'system' allow/encourage access by both professionals and non-professionals (such as  This isn't just particular to birding; this type of information 'system' (not sure what to call it) is has countless uses, whether it's scientific study, marketing, or just for fun.  This 'system' has infinite uses and benefits, and that's why I'm so impressed with the video of the Finnish classroom - the students will be able to use this knowledge for the rest of their lives, in so many different environments.  Kiitos (thank you, in Finnish) for sharing this video!

  • Lisa Ritt   March 30, 2013, 8:17 a.m.

    Task 3:
    The above prezi has some great suggestions on different ideas and basic important steps to take with ELL/ESL students. A virutal hangman, using virtual math word walls, sounds fun. This presentation has many links to other manipulatives to use to keep students from getting frustrated with their language barrier and visual stimulating.

    Here is a link to some cool manipulatives that I think would work well with ELL learners because the images are good:


    This link above has a few links within it the really helps ELL students use imagery and book writing in different languages to help bridge the gap between their home language and learning english.The brooklyn teacher talks about how she has little support to help the 7 of 20 students who are ELL in her classroom and that she uses technology often to make a difference in their learning.

    This article talks about software called "HELP MATH" which has proven to be an invaluable tool to help ESL (or ELL) students learn math. It says that "   By the end of the year, all of these students (using HELP MATH) tested high enough to be integrated into mainstream algebra classes the next school year.

    Here is the link to the HELP MATH website:

    When I tried to use the free trial, I waited for an email with a link, but it hasnt shown up yet. Hopefully it will and I can tell everyone a bit more about the program offered.

    this is another software system that is geered towards ELL students learning math:

    This homepage makes a good point "To be successful, ELLs need to be able to explore mathematical concepts in a way that's less language-dependent than other teaching materials and methods."-- seems obvious, but we are so automatic with our natural language, its important to keep this in mind...also I'm always surpirsed at how often a student will say they "get something" when they really don't so having tools like these is so important.The demo they show I didnt feel it showed much for the ELL learner though.

    This above website talks a good bit about how the curriculum has to be very different for adolsecent ELL students using a combination of social and academic contxt vs academic only which is more traditional. The author also speaks to technoloy being very important.

  • SueSullivan   April 7, 2013, 7:58 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   March 30, 2013, 8:17 a.m.


    Wow - this is such an informative prezi, thanks so much for sharing it!  I love how it explains the language learning process as related to math (i.e. a student needs to first become comfortable with how numbers are referred to in the language that they're learning) and then takes a logical progression from there.  I often think that math is extra challenging for ELL students, because they not only have to be able to interpret the characters/graphics that they see, but also be able to follow instructions (graphical or textual) that tell how they should manipulate them.  I also love how this prezi refers to different types of learners (visual, auditory, kinesthetic); having a knowledge of a particular ELL student's learning styles might give valuable insights on how to 'reach' that student.  Very complicated; it's easy for me to get lost in thought.  That's why I think that tools that provide a structured outline/approach (such as this prezi) are so valuable.

    The article that you shared from is really thought-provoking.  It addresses many of the particular challenges that ELL students face, but what is most helpful to me is that the article highlights things that teachers need to pay particular attention to (such as considering the academic background of students when trying to develop and education plan).  This article does an excellent job of listing some of the the various reasons why a student may have difficulties learning English.  In order to best reach a student, we need to try and discern the actual cause of their difficulties; just labeling them as 'ELL' isn't enough - we need to look further, and this article is a great reminder.

  • Lisa Ritt   March 30, 2013, 7:25 a.m.

    Task 2:

    Not by a Finnish teacher, but I just had to share this article I came across saying that Finland’s reputation for education is not necessarily all its cracked up to be:

    here is a video clip from a Finnish math teacher’s classroom:

    This video shows a UK journalist/teacher travelling to Finland to a math teachers classroom (middle to early high school) and what he found distinguished the Finnish classroom from his at home. The is a good amount of one to one conversations with teacher and students. Also- very little technology. The class was only about 17 students and they talk about this being wonderful as well. The Finnish teacher was really caring and committed and had a great relationship with students.

    This was interesting to me because its Finnish math teachers talking about how to set up good lessons for coordinate planes on their promethean boards. One teacher gives specific directions on how he does it. Since my task surrounds the use of smart boards, I found this particularly helpful.

    I love one of the comments that says “COW-SIZED thank you”..I’m going to use this!

    I liked feeling connected by the fact that we use promethean boards here as well and we can get ideas from Finland about how they’re presenting material as well.

    Here was a link that someone provided…a Finnish math website with games, activities , etc on it:

    This sight is similar to ixl or other math websites we have in English testing skills, etc. Again- just giving students this perspective…sending them through google translator and having them know that they are working on a Finnish website solving math equations is very powerful!

    P.s. the google translator, which I’ve never used is fantastic! Sue- a COW SIZED thank you for introducing it to me!


  • SueSullivan   April 7, 2013, 2:50 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   March 30, 2013, 7:25 a.m.


    Hi Lisa, the first site that you shared (the Deseret News article) brings up a very important point about how not all tests are created equal, and that it's important to distinguish what types of skills are being tested for.  I believe this is especially important with math, which too many people have misconceptions about to begin with (this was discussed during one of the Web Chats a while ago). 

    Thank you for sharing this video.  There were so many interesting things, such as the teacher giving a slight bow to his students to show his respect for them.  That really impressed me, as I think that sometimes those in a position of authority are so concerned about maintaining it that they fail to acknowledge the importance of others.  I'm really moved by the Finnish teacher, it would be interesting to see how other countries address such acts of respect between teacher and students.  I also noticed a lot of discussion about maintaining high expectations for students, which is something that I've come across a lot in my coursework - this was a real-life example of how high expectations have positive results.  A COW-SIZED J thanks!

    I love the third site you mentioned, as I'm always curious about the types of games that children in other countries enjoy, and has lots to choose from - I will definitely explore these in more detail! 

  • Gina Mulranen   March 29, 2013, 11:28 p.m.

    Task 3

    I found a website that included the top 10 resources for ESL and foreign language students.

    I looked into the first tool listed, which was and is now called iKnow.

    This tool can be downloaded and used on PCs, tablets, or even smart phones. It’s most basic feature is generating flash cards for students to learn formulas or facts. The flash cards can be read to you and there are options for games to help the students study and remember the flash card information. I think this is a great tool because it can be used by students who know very little English and students who are familiar with the language and can practice with the flashcards.

    The website also keeps track of the student’s progress so they can monitor it and the teacher can also see a report of the student’s work with the program. There is even a scheduling component that reminds students to continue to study on a daily basis! I really liked this aspect of the program because many students do not have study skills and this program is already helping them by promoting them to study daily instead of the day before a test.

    The only down side to this program is that I saw that you can sign up for a free trail, which means there is a cost involved. I’m wondering if schools would be able to include tools for ESL students into their school budget if it is proven to help them both in and outside of the classroom. These tools are really fantastic!

  • SueSullivan   April 7, 2013, 2:01 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gina Mulranen   March 29, 2013, 11:28 p.m.


    Gina, thanks for sharing the link - the iKnow site really gives a good explanation of their product, which looks like it might be helpful, especially reminding students to study. 

    The other link that you shared ( seems like an an excellent resource for finding all kinds of free teaching tools - thanks for sharing both of them!

  • Gina Mulranen   March 29, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

    Task 2

    This is a blog I found after putting in the Finnish words for “math teacher blog” and then translating different pages until I found this blog that included talk about technology. I found a topic in one of the entries by this teacher that I thought was true for me as well. The teacher mentions that the study of mathematics includes a lot of abstract thinking skills and different problem solving strategies. This makes technology important to integrate because it applies the same skills and introduces a new platform of learning that students are excited about! The teacher in this blog does mention that technology relies on mathematics, which makes learning math even more critical for understanding how technology works.

    Another thing that the teacher mentioned is that the “studies should be fun and memorable.” I do think that students remember and retain information better when it is presented to them in a fun and memorable way. I still remember the preposition song from 6th grade because we sung it together in class and made it fun! The teacher included a link to a video in this blog post that is a funny song in Finnish about integrals, which also brings me back to the point about students remembering songs and stories that concepts are taught in. It seems like the teachers in Finland have also been exposed to School House Rock trend of using songs to help students remember math concepts. I love it! I use songs in my curriculum as well and have had a lot of success with it.

    In scrolling through the blog, I found links to different uses of technology like links to sign up for academic courses (if I understood that translation correctly) and even mentions of Javascript and revising code to make a website more accessible. The teacher posted a log of the updates and changes to a site called “Wilma.” The teacher seems to be heavily involved with the updates to Wilma. It is really interesting to see all the similarities in the technology language that I noticed: instant messaging features, Windows compatibility, HTML code, and gigabyte limitations. This led me to thinking that many of the terms associated with technology and computers are universal. When I was reading about the capabilities that this teacher was trying to do to the Wilma system, I was able to follow it because it related to the code I use for my online website and the instant messaging feature I have on my website to connect with kids. It was really neat to read and understand technology in Finnish! (Thanks to Google Translate!)

  • SueSullivan   April 4, 2013, 7:37 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gina Mulranen   March 29, 2013, 11:09 p.m.


    LOVE the tune!  I will probably be humming the melody for the rest of the night.

    Integrating music with learning is one of my favorite things - I feel that music can create yet another path to the student and make things much more exciting.

    I was really surprised by the US influences in the video and music itself - the video uses the mtv term 'unplugged', and the music uses a blues scale and progression.  I certainly don't expect people in other countries to only sing folk songs and such, and didn't expect this video to use them either.  What I'm trying to say is that one often hears about music's universal appeal (of all genres/ethnicities) but seeing/hearing an actual random example that's not geared towards marketing (or a particular musical audience) is very refreshing for me.  Sorry to digress…

    My love for blending music with learning began in my early childhood - I was (still am!) a big fan of School House Rock (it was shown on PBS every Saturday around noon or so).  This was at a time when children 'learned' multiplication tables by memorizing - this video certainly helped me memorize!  To this day, I still find it hard to count by 3's without singing

    Thanks so much for sharing the Finnish video, I really enjoyed it!


  • Gina Mulranen   March 29, 2013, 10:26 p.m.

    Task 1

    This is the article that I found on the Finnish education system, with a focus on their use of technology.  In this first part of this article, the author summarizes the aspects of the Finnish education system that has lead to its success. One aspects of the education system that I was very surprised to read about was that education was free, up and through college! Universities are all free, even for those studying abroad. I was shocked! I think about the thousands of high school students dreaming about college in the United States, but cannot afford the tuition that universities cost to attend. The students in Finland do not have these limitations, which makes learning so easily accessible.

    Another aspect of the Finnish education system that I think adds to their success is that teachers are required to get a masters degree in order to teach and the teaching profession is highly valued and sought after. I think that student success can easily linked with teachers who are highly motivated to teach and attending higher level education, working to improve their methods of instruction.

    Another point that this article accredits to successful education is the pre-school program that focuses on “self-reflection and social behavior.” The school system also does not have a lot of standardized tests so the teachers have more freedom to teach to THEIR tests. I personally think I would be less stressed when I was teaching my Algebra 1 class if I didn’t have to focus on the Keystone exams.  I think that the Finnish education system is so successful because the teachers seem to focus more on instruction and educating the child as a whole instead of teaching to standardized tests, which I feel is a big emphasis in our education system.

    The beginning of part 2 of this article talks about Finland not having a large emphasis on technology in their curriculum. However, the city of Oulu in Finland has started to implement more technology into their education department because of the 21st century skills needed by young students in today’s society. It is said in this article that the Finnish educational goals of Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking will soon include 21st century skills, which would include technology skills.

    What I liked about this article is that it summarizes the different points that I was skimming on a lot of articles on the Finnish education, but it also included how Finland ranked in terms of technology education. I was surprised that Finland was not more advanced in technology education given how high their scores were on standardized tests in math, science, and reading. However, I do think that without a large emphasis on technology, this education system can give more focus to improving methods of instruction and focusing on meeting the needs of weaker students.

  • SueSullivan   April 4, 2013, 6:31 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gina Mulranen   March 29, 2013, 10:26 p.m.


    Hi Gina,

    Thanks for sharing this article - as you said, it provided a great summary; the reader didn't have to sift through a lot of verbage to get the key points.

    I agree with you about spending a lot of time preparing for standardized tests - I once happened to do classroom observations at that time of year, and just couldn't believe the whole atmosphere.

    I also like how the article stresses that Finnish students are personally responsible.  I agree that their climate probably has a very strong influence on their work ethic and culture, but I think that people sometimes overlook the fact that some students might have to literally be taught to be responsible.  The solution to this is not to look for someone to blame, but teach them how, just as with any other skill.

    Lastly, it was very interesting to hear that Finland was average when compared with Europe for ICT and last among the Nordic countries.  Seeing how Finland evolves will be even more interesting, as the international community can benefit from observing their brave experiment.


  • MgnLeas   March 29, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

    This article talks about the teacher preparation.

    So one major difference that I came across in finding my article choice was that teachers must have a master’s degree in order to teach. I found this very interesting since here we only require a bachelor’s degree for teaching in elementary, middle, or high school. Finland’s commitment to research-based teacher education means leads to the teacher’s preparation programs including theories, research methodologies and practice. Basic school teachers teach all subjects while lower and upper schools teachers are subject specific. This is similar to the US. The teachers are well respected by everyone. It is very competitive to become a teacher, and many students try to become teachers. It is more for the desire to teach and care for the younger generation. They are given freedom in their classrooms to teach in a way that will help every student achieve. There are no standard tests for students other than a matriculation test after lower school. Teachers play a vital role in assessing their students; they have the ability to use whatever assessments they choose.

    In another article (sorry I read parts of a few and I cannot remember where I saw this) I read that every student has access to computers and the internet every day. I did not see anything specific about teaching using technology, but with all the available access I would imagine it would be easy to use. This made me think about blended learning more. They would be able to implement blended learning. I feel like in the US we are pushing for using more and more technology because that is the world we live in. I did not get the feel that Finland is making that same push. I feel as though they seem to focus more on the individual needs of each child. If a method is not working they just try something else to help that student. SO if technology was not helping a student then I would imagine it would not be stressed to be used.

  • SueSullivan   April 3, 2013, 12:26 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MgnLeas   March 29, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

    Hi Megan,

    Your final comments about the Finnish system's being more student-centered with the goal of meeting the child's needs really interested me.  I agree that tech should be taught in schools, but if something isn't working for a student, the reasons why should be examined; tech is a tool, not a miracle cure.  Is it possible that Finland's high literacy rate results in more people (i.e. parents, students, legislators) being aware of what works best for students, and that those methods are backed by research?

    Your article mentioned that, prior to full acceptance into Finland's teacher education program, students must pass a pegadogy exam and have their communications/social skills observed and evaluated.   I am sad to say that I've observed many teachers whose communications/social skills are a determent to their classroom.  My own sons had a Jr. High math teacher who had formerly taught at the college level; they often complained that Dr.______________ didn't know how to relate to kids and often lectured the class about being immature (though both classes were motivated honors students and disciplinary problems weren't an issue), many parents complained that he was condesending towards them as well.  I often wondered how this man even got (or could keep) a job - his academic credentials were quite impressive, but his interpersonal skills were sorely lacking.  As undergrads, we are evaluated while student teaching, and have to pass certain classes with a certain GPA.  But evaluating our interpersonal skills before we enter college could give future teachers an idea of what they need to improve upon, a better idea of what grade levels they'd like to teach, or even if teaching is right for them at all.



  • Lisa Ritt   March 29, 2013, 2:43 p.m.


    Task 1:

    Here is an article from the OECD website which was interesting:

    Its talks about Finland’s slow and steady approach over the past few decades being responsible for much of the country’s education success today. Some notes that are unique to Finland and different than the U.S.:

    -In 1968, the country adopted the current national system of a core comprehensive curriculum for grades 1-9…the goal being to create a system serving all students equally well.

    -All teachers are required to obtain a masters degree to be employed with a long in service teacher training including 1 full year clinical time (very different from U.S.) The new system also implemented greatly heightened the demand for secondary education.  ---On page 5, there is a good diagram showing the Finnish system. This quote :“one important decision that allayed the fears of some of the critics of the comprehensive school was to allow some differentiation in the upper grades to accommodate perceived differences in ability and interests, especially in mathematics and foreign languages.”

    -Finland has a deep social commitment to the overall well being of children, which is very evident in public schools which provide many health services as well, all free to families.

    -less daily teaching hours- Finland is 600 hours per year of lessons compared to U.S. of 1080 hours

    -teachers build the systems for continuous assessment of their students –NOT the govt or local agencies.

    -they have minimal administrative overhead expenses compared to other European countries.

    This article also address Finnish future obstacles to deal with as well as lessons we can learn from them in general.Article has a ton of great facts about the Finnish education system…very enlightening!


    Ok- here is another article and although its older than I’d like (2005), it has some great points”


    One point I’ve read in this article and a couple others is that the difference between the strongest students and the weakest students in Finland is minimal. Also, its important to note that the Finnish students overall did very well and the students that were considered weak was minimal in general as compared to oterh OECD participaters.

    The article talks about the PISA test which is done for 15 year olds in the participating OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries which has many developed countries (not including China)

  • SueSullivan   April 2, 2013, 9:49 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   March 29, 2013, 2:43 p.m.


    Thank you for sharing your articles and thorough summaries!

    I find the comparision of US vs. Finnish teaching hours very interesting; what is creating this efficiency?  Does their language structure contribute (i.e. can they express something in Finnish in less time than in English?  I know that might only be a small part of the hour difference, I was just brainstorming).  

    The articles you posted also mentioned that Finnish students seem to take more 'ownership' of their learning, and exert more personal responsbility/involvement in their learning than US students.  I think this is a very pertinent point - the US concept of 'accountability' often fails to address the need to teach our students how to be accountable, which involves letting them experiment with responsibility and the possible consequence of failure (which can be a valuable learning experience when it occurs in a supportive and nurturing environment).   As the Finnish say (according to, anyway), "Parempi karvas totuus kuin makea valhe." (Translation: "Better a bitter truth than a sweet lie.").

    I also was intrigued by the interview with the Nokia executive (the OECD-authored article), who mentioned their appreciation of the Finnish educational system's ability to produce creative and flexible thinkers.  These traits are valuable not only in the tech sector, but in all areas of life (at this very moment, I'm grateful to those to invented the tech & ideas that enable me to 'attend class' while sitting at home in my pajamas).