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Digitizing a rural school

A step-by-step plan for a school in the digital age

The digital leap doesn’t need to be a leap into the unknown. A rural school can become digitized step by step, genuinely and methodically strengthening their own local identity as a part of the global world. This model provides you with a variety of digital opportunities with tried-and-tested solutions.

Finland 100


HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100






March 2017
Digitalization is a way to make lasting change, like developing the local community in relation with the rest of the world and so broaden our view of the world surrounding us.

About the innovation

What is it all about?

As technology goes forward the world opens up. At the same time we can see an enhancement in appreciation for local communities and cultures where our roots are based.

Rural schools are very local in a sense and the school has an important role in creating and maintaining relationships and a feeling of community between the different generations of habitants.

World citizenship comes naturally when based on the foundation of local identity as this helps children face change. Schools have to bring up citizens that have the required skills to act in our changing world. Digitalization can offer different kinds of viewpoints and opportunities to develop these skills. The required skills are universal: proactivity, innovativeness, life-long learning, communication skills and collaboration skills.

Introducing digitalization into schools can be difficult when starting from scratch. In this innovation, we show you different ways to start small and fast so that you can build the process along the way. The following experiences come from the digitalization of a school in Kautiala, Finland. The Kautiala school wanted to emphasize a pedagogical approach while implementing new technology as well as maintain a feeling of control over the change.

In this innovation, digital and traditional methods complement each other. Traditional methods that have proven themselves useful have not been abandoned, but instead developed to suit the digital world. These new ways of working become a routine to students through experimentation and repetition.

By taking advantage of collaborative learning methods, the new working methods are easy to transfer from one student to another and one class to the next. Digitalization has helped the school of Kautiala to diversify, modernize and individualize teaching, and bring it into new physical and digital learning environments.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


This model combines a person’s local identity, world citizenship and learning digital skills of the future.


Creating a functioning solution through small steps: students experiment, discover and share new things and ways to learn while inspiring each other.


The model is an example of how school digitalization can be carried out without any previous knowledge.

Implementation steps

Letting go of prejudice towards digitalization
The most important tool of a teacher is personality. We must humbly acknowledge that giving instructions for providing a definitive path to success is an impossible task.

However, this attempt to describe the experiences at the Kautiala school can give you the necessary guidelines for implementing them yourself. Let go of your fears and prejudices – you must take the first leap towards digitalizing.


The most important digital step made by the Kautiala school was giving students the opportunity to use computers more often than before. In practice, this meant letting students use computers during the morning before school, allowing class monitors to use computers, free use of computers after school, having students do extra work on the computer as well as small writing, drawing and research exercises in addition to traditional lessons. Gaming was restricted to educational games and applications.

The school saw a change in the students rapidly. Students gathered together in pairs or small groups to collaborate and share ideas on the computers.

Assessing needs and sparking collaboration
Survey the technological needs of your school.

Think big, start small and start now. Digitalization is a process where success is reached through trial and error. It requires patience, commitment, and setting goals for the practice.

Contact potential partners in your local community and start collaborating. These parties can include the local library, the education department, or the parents’ association. You will need all the support you can get, and others might have the technological knowhow to help you or some devices you could use.

Do a device count
Check the devices your school already has. What kinds of devices does the school own and how could they be better used during lessons? What kinds of possibilities do you have for device acquisition and what are the smartest choices for new devices?Ideas for building a list of resources:

  • Infrastructure: wireless network etc.

  • Students’ own smartphones: a diverse and easy resource, ability to download different kinds of useful applications

  • Tablets: easy-to-use in active learning because of their mobility.

  • Computers

  • Applications

  • Computer programs

For example

Kautiala school was well equipped with devices right from the beginning. The municipality had arranged for good technological support, which was a great help to the project. Without their support, implementation would have been much more challenging: teachers have full work days and little extra time.

As devices were used more, the network bandwidth proved to be an issue for digitalization. If just a couple of students worked on a few computers, there were no issues. But when several students were online, the computers froze and wouldn’t log onto applications. They essentially became useless.

As a solution, the school upgraded to a network with five times more bandwidth . This allowed the whole class to work simultaneously online. This was the true starting point for Kautiala school’s digitalization.

Defining goals and school rules, ensuring student commitment
Create a plan for the next six months and the whole school year on how to proceed.Discuss:

  • What are your goals for the actions, learning and student output?

  • What kind of school culture are you creating?

  • What should you preserve and what should you update in the daily practice of your school?

The school rules are meant to help students commit to working towards the goals while using technology. A common problem with digitalization is that students use their devices for other things than the lesson objectives. This cannot be solved by having the teacher to go around checking on what students are doing. There has to be an understanding between students and teachers on what is the goal and how the devices are used when you are on you own or working with others. The role of the teacher is to support students in their work and assess their progress.

As students understand the goals of each lesson and module, they can commit to the work and can be given more freedom to work and feel ownership over their learning.


Explain the value of digitalization to your students. Digitalization doesn’t have intrinsic value. It is a tool that helps automate certain basic functions so that there is more time for creativity and developing thinking skills. It also helps students develop social skills, because working in pairs and groups is unavoidable.

Responsibility brings freedom. Give students more freedom as their sense of responsibility grows. Let let them study outside the classroom. Remember to praise them for good work. Guide kids fooling around back to work and give them a second chance.

Changing the learning environment
Digitalization will change the learning environment. It is unavoidable. Students have more ways to gain knowledge and more opportunities to develop media literacy and critical thinking skills. Learning can happen both in and outside school.Discover new learning environments:

  • Broaden the physical environment outside the school (the village)

  • Use digital learning environments (online platforms, applications, search engines)

  • Think of your school building in a new way – is it enough to work in a traditional classroom or could school spaces be used more creatively?

A culture of sharing among students
Teach students to share. All knowledge and skills should be shared between all learners. Inspire students to teach each other and use advanced students as student agents who can help the teacher in teaching skills to others.

Encourage students to familiarize themselves with a program or application on their own and then teach a small group how to use it during a lesson. This is an easy way to spread knowhow.


On a small scale, a culture of sharing can mean student participation and trusting them. For example at the Kautiala school, a teacher wanted to try out Spark, an application that combines pictures, sounds, texts and videos, with the students. However, the teacher did not have the required skills or the time to learn it because of their other duties.

The teacher asked a digitally skilled student if they would like to explore the application at home over the weekend with a school iPad. The student was excited and agreed.

The following Monday, the student showed the teacher a presentation about their family pet, with video, pictures, sound and music. The teacher praised the student and encouraged them to teach these skills to three other students. The teacher now had four assistant teachers, who taught the rest of the class in smaller groups to use the application. The students were able to create Spark presentations before their teacher had even had the time to familiarize themself with the application.

Planning and implementing lesson structure
ICT skills are transversal and can be learned in any subject.

Think about what kind of phenomena would be fun to discuss during environmental studies or visual arts – how would the phenomenon apply to mother tongue and literature or mathematics, and what kinds of opportunities for discussion does technology provide?

Start from small things. You can begin by choosing one topic with which you will use technology. For example in environmental studies, the topic could be animals during the winter, or in mother tongue and literature, interviews as a way of communication.

Write down your plan and goals on an online platform. If you are collaborating with other teachers, an onlineplatform like Office 365 or G Suite is a great tool for collaborative teaching.

Basic skills

Start with a notebook. A notebook is a great user interface for students to start out with, as you can glue pictures of applications in it to explain vocabulary. The student can search the internet for information about a given topic and write the information in their notebook by hand. Ask students to summarize what they have read in full sentences. Students should have the skills to work traditionally in case the network is down or the computers won’t turn on.


Give students different kinds of exercises, including writing short texts, drawing, searching for public domain pictures and adding them to documents, as well as saving their work on the computer and looking for it in the computer files.

These exercises can be used in all subjects. Students can save their work in their own digital portfolios or other online platforms, that give the teacher the ability to see and assess the work.

Getting to know the programs and applications

Purchase and download applications that promote learning on your tablets and let students try them out alone or together.

Applications could include word processors, drawing applications, publishing applications and spreadsheet applications.

We recommend you pair beginners with more experienced learners. Allow students to use the educational software freely and spontaneously. The students will surprise you with how quickly they will learn to use the applications.

Encourage students to figure out how the applications and programs could be used during the next lesson or during a project. Note down methods, goals and assessment criteria.

Traditional lessons

Every now and again have a very boring, teacher-led lesson. At the end, boast out loud how nice it is to have a traditional lesson after a while and that you should have them more often. Repeat if needed.

Repetition and routine

Repeat the best of the old and new practices so they become a routine. Repetition is the best way to adopt new practices. As new methods become a routine, the teacher will have more and more time to help and support the students in need.

Building collaboration and sharing information
Collaborate with other schools in your area by contacting teachers.

Best practices will quickly spread, if the schools are interested in digitalization. Use peer learning and have teachers teach each other or students teach other students.


At Kautiala, village schools shared their best ideas with each other. Kautiala school visited neighboring schools to teach a joint Spring Biology course. The course was online-based and Kautiala students taught other students how to use web tools. The outcome was encouraging.

Improving the village community
A village school serves it’s village and should bring joy not just to the students but to other inhabitants as well. This can be done in several ways.

Village School Café and musical performances

Kautiala school’s monthly Village School Café is a place where students and villagers can meet each other. Students also give musical performances at the Café. Using iPads, students practice playing all kinds of different instruments during music lessons. To everyone’s surprise, you could hear a whole orchestra at the Café!

Village website

The village has a website to present students’ works. It also has an online learning platform where neighboring schools can coordinate their collaborations.

With Spark videos, the school can show off student works and activities. Students can add music to pictures of their artwork, or produce and film music performances, speeches, poetry recitals, or other performances.

Assessment and consolidation
After piloting the model, you can add the best practices to your school curriculum. Teachers will become guides for learning, students will grow to be independent experts of digitals tools and life-long learning, and the school will become a part of the village community.

Spread of the innovation

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