Focus Groups - Finland Focus Groups - Finland

The first Focus Group meeting took place in Finland on the 29th of February. In the frames of lively and content rich conversations the 20 participants (representing both SE and HE teachers, pupils and students) shared their experiences of using ICT in learning to learn and discussed examples, the most crucial questions, the benefits and challenges of promoting learning to learn skills via ICT use. Until the next Finnish face to face Focus Group activity on the 26th of April (where reflections from the test use will be collected) an online survey will be carried out to gather more initial feedback. A Google site (in Finnish) with all information available was created for the focus group and will be used throughout the FG activities.

Finnish websiteIn the first FG meeting it was discovered that among the SE pupils the most common challenge in learning is how to keep up the motivation to complete the assignments in time, and in general, to start studying when the topic is not personally interesting. The HE students commented that in the university studies in fact, compared to SE studies, an even more self-regulative learning approach is needed and the students themselves need to untangle many problems and not just receive but revise information alone and in collaboration with peers. Also, the learning methods are more versatile. HE students emphasized the significance of communication and collaboration skills in HE studies: when you master and use these, it makes the learning much more effective and fun .

When asked about what kind of ICT tools SE pupils would like to use in learning, digital materials, virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life), portfolios, and blogs were all found interesting and useful for learning. The pupils were most sceptical towards the pedagogical use of games. Some of them had experienced simple drilling games and prefered the new games where they could use imagery when playing.

It became evident that the ways to support the young in the transition from SE to HE vary according to the institutions. In some SE schools the pupils were guided to schedule their autonomous learning period before the matriculation exams and learning to learn skills were enhanced in various learning tasks during the studies. At the university the first year students receive tutoring from teachers and a personal study plan is made for everyone. At the University of Helsinki's Department of Computer Science several ICT-based tools are used to make the threshold lower for the freshmen. The students found these extremely important to adjust to the new learning community.

It seems that operating in a mixed group with SE and HE students and teachers fresh viewpoints of learning to learn with ICT can be found - and undoubtedly worked further in the later phases of the project.

Until the second Finnish face to face Focus Group activity on the 26th of April (where reflections from the test use were collected) an online survey was carried out to gather more initial feedback. In the survey, pupils and students for example, self-assessed their several learning to learn skills.
Our second Focus Group meeting took place in 26th of April. The aim of the meeting was to collect feedback from the participants on ICT-based tools they had used between the meetings. Before the meeting, most of the teachers had shared online short descriptions of the ways of test using the tools. During the meeting more in depth impressions and experiences were discussed. The tools were used in versatile ways for different learning subjects and tutoring.
We were very glad to welcome 12 pupils and students to the meeting to find out how they had experienced the test use of the tools. The students were first discussing as an own group how the test used tools may have enhanced their different learning to learn skills. Based on the discussion they produced a mindmap.

Students' mindmap on how Google document's use can support different learning to learn skills.

We also got interesting feedback on students' learning and what extra methods they had invented to learn better or to make notes. For example, some SE students had videotaped chemical processes in the laboratory by their mobile phones and others had taken pictures from the microscope, again using their mobile phones. We (and also the teachers) were a bit surprised how inventive the pupils and students were. But we were even more happy to hear how well the participating youth were aware of what issues affect their learning.

Students discussing how test used ICT based tools may enhance their learning to learn skills.