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Reforming The Local Curriculum

location_on Riihimäki, Finland

Management model for integrating a new teaching module into the local curriculum

This innovation helps you integrate a new teaching module into the local curriculum. This allows education to be all-encompassing without separate study modules. We introduce the innovation through the example of integrating robotics into the curriculum.

Finland 100

Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100

2016

Established

-

Children/users

1

Countries
Target group
Teachers
Updated
November 22nd, 2022
Understanding the basics of robotics is a part of basic knowledge, however, many are unfamiliar with the subject. We wanted to create a practical model of integrating robotics into the curriculum.

About the innovation

What is it all about?

Schools create education innovations all the time. The challenge is that success stories do not spread to other schools. This is due to a lack of leadership and a clear direction which are necessary for change to occur. Schools need resources to experiment new things. Otherwise nothing gets off the ground.

Municipalities or education providers must invest in planning, leadership and readjust their resources in order to implement new teaching modules into local curricula and integrate them to every local school successfully.

Some reforms require entirely new learning environments. If a municipality wants to implement these types of changes into every school, it must be done in an organized manner locally. Real change requires commitment from the municipality or the education provider.

Below, we present a model developed in Riihimäki on how to implement an education innovation into the local curriculum. The City of Riihimäki has 11 comprehensive schools and all of them committed to the program. The model was created in 2014 when Riihimäki decided to implement continuum model of robotics studies into all the local comprehensive schools.

The long-term goal is that students can continue with robotics studies commenced during basic education in any local upper secondary institutions as well as tertiary education institutions, both in vocational and academic settings.

These seven steps present the reform process on the municipal level. The steps can be applied to the implementation of any broad innovation or new teaching module into the municipality-specific curriculum working under a national core curriculum.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Innovativeness

The management model incorporates innovative contents of instruction into standard teaching.

Impact

Local students can all benefit from the new teaching module equally.

Scalability

The basic elements of the model can be applied to various government structures.

Implementation steps

Piloting new teaching modules
Anyone can suggest a new teaching module: a teacher, the school or the strategic goals of the education provider.

Applying education innovations and new teaching modules to several schools requires municipal-level decisions on budgeting etc. In order to provide sufficient information to the municipal councils, you should start with a small-scale experiment.

The experiment can be conducted by a volunteer pair of teachers in a single school. They can execute the experiment, collect data and assess the experience. It is important that the information collected provides useful data on costs, impact and personnel know-how and their need for further training for the politicians and public servants.

Case Riihimäki:

The educational department of Riihimäki developed this innovation during 2014–2016. In the spring of 2014 the importer of VEX IQ robotics platforms provided the City of Riihimäki an opportunity to test a revolutionary robotics platform.

The head of the department of education and cultural services provided every local school with an opportunity to teach robotics in after-school clubs. The pilot program required minimum of two teachers from the same school to assess and report the experiences of the platform. The school received the robotics platforms free of charge.

The teachers reported that the VEX IQ platform could be implemented in after-school clubs after a two-day training course.

During the piloting, the robotics club operated out of facilities the students could access even outside the sessions. This motivated the students to study independently.

In the spring of 2016, Riihimäki started developing a municipality-wide basic education curriculum. A team of students from Riihimäki participated in VEX Robotics World Championship held in the USA, in Louisville, KY. The newly aqcuired international contacts and insights convinced the local government education officials and consequently the politicians to embrace robotics to the curriculum.

Robotics teaches the students basic technology skills and how to build devices designed for digital information collection and specific purposes as a team. These are skills of the future where robotics and smart appliances will form the majority of everyday and work activities.

Building commitment
In order to ensure equity in education, new teaching modules or education innovations should be included in the local curriculum. This way they can be implemented in every local school and every student can benefit from them.

Including innovations into the local curriculum also ensures that municipal councils assign appropriate resources to the implementation process. If your innovations can be connected to local businesses or industry, you can also include it in the municipal plan.

After the experiment, you should make a presentation about:

  • The education innovation tested
  • The goals and estimated benefits of the innovation
  • The implementation of the innovation
  • Experiences and reflections
  • A potential curriculum for the teaching module
  • Resources necessary, both human and capital

An education policy official creates the presentation for the education policy makers.

Case Riihimäki:

In Riihimäki, centralized leadership as well as active external and internal communication have been integral in developing the robotics teaching. This has required commitment from the educational department officials, teachers, students as well as their guardians.

Teachers at the Hajurinne comprehensive school started a blog on the City of Riihimäki website to document the story of the robotics club right from the beginning. Almost every Municipal Education and Culture Committee meeting has discussed methods to develop robotics teaching. The school has also invited policy makers to visit the robotics club.

The VEX IQ World Championship and its live broadcast brought the initiative plenty of positive attention in the media. This has also aided in building commitment with the City of Riihimäki and the City has even launched the VEX IQ national tournament. During these tournaments the Riihimäki robotics education team introduced a plan of the robotics education continuum from basic education through upper secondary education to the Municipal Education and Culture Committee.

Organizing training courses
Every teaching module is unique so the education provider or the school must ensure sufficient training and provide courses for the teaching staff.

Implementing new teaching modules to the municipality-specific curriculum may take up to 4–6 years. You should provide the teachers further training during this time.

Stage one: Basic training for teachers

During stage one, teachers should have the basic tools to implement the teaching module in their school. If you are executing a municipality-wide reform and the teachers are not familiar with robotics, every school should send at least two teachers for basic training and they will form a working pair in their school.

Stage two: Assessing the situation and in-depth training

You should assess the abilities of the local teaching staff before setting up training for the teachers. This informs you how much training is necessary and what type of tools the teachers already have.

The assessment also provides you information on who can profit from further training.

When you get the results from the assessment, you should start planning the courses. The training should be based on the style and goals of the education innovation or new teaching module. What type of skills are required? The training should be also based on the experiences gained during the piloting.

You should arrange the necessary training until national teacher training programs or teacher training providers can take over the courses.

Case Riihimäki:

The VEX IQ robotics importer trained two teachers who founded the first robotics clubs at Riihimäki. During the spring of 2016 the City commissioned a local plan for VEX IQ platform training. They also reserved the financial resources for the training.

The goal at Riihimäki was to train a working pair of robotics teachers in every eleven comprehensive school within two years. To motivate teachers, the City promised VEX IQ platforms to every teacher who attended the training free of charge. The platforms are provided by the education and culture services.

Twelve teachers from six schools were chosen to participate in the first part of the two-day course. During the first day, the teacher pairs built a robot according to the instructions provided in the platform. The instructions included eight different basic designs for remote-controlled robots.

During the second day the teachers learned the basics of ROBOTC programming. The necessary skills can be taught in one day and prior robotics experience is not required.

In the spring of 2017, the teachers had a one-day in-depth course in programming. Other junior high math teachers who run their school's ICT and programming education also participated.

Riihimäki has planned to provide this training for other teachers during the 2017–2018 semester. The City has prepared to repeat this training cycle until they appoint another robotics course provider.

Designing the curriculum
The education provider or a representative should form a curriculum committee.

The education provider also defines its

  • Goals
  • Contact person
  • Steering team
  • Framework for the curriculum
  • Timetable

The curriculum committee is responsible for creating a presentation on the curriculum for the education policy makers.

The curriculum committee requires a Council Decision and capital resources if the innovation is implemented in the local curriculum instead of a school-specific curriculum. Because the resources available define the curriculum, you should wait until your plan is approved and it has received sufficient funds to proceed with the curriculum.

Case Riihimäki:

The Riihimäki local basic education curriculum continuum for grades 3 through 9 includes three types of robotics education:

  1. Robotics integrated into basic education
  2. Robotics as an optional subject
  3. Robotics in after-school clubs

1) Robotics integrated into basic education

If integrated into basic education, robotics are taught to grades 3–7 mainly during craft classes. Robotics can also be integrated into environmental studies or math classes in the school-specific curriculum.

There are 38 weeks in a school year in Finland. The year is divided into four periods and students are taught robotics 9–10 weeks at least 2 hours per week.

The local curriculum defines the objectives, contents and principals of student assessment for robotics. Robotics affect the final grade in crafts. Grades 7–9 assess robotics together with math.

2) Robotics as an optional subject

During grades 5–6 students can elect robotics as an optional subject with one annual weekly hour.

This means that crafts does not offer any other optional topics in addition to robotics. In school-specific curricula robotics can also be integrated into environmental studies or math classes.

During grades 8–9 students can elect robotics as an optional subject with two annual weekly hours. Students receive a grade on optional robotics on their report card.

During grade 8, the students use the VEX IQ platform and transfer to the VEX EDR platform in grade 9.

3) Robotics in after-school clubs

Robotics are offered in after-school clubs for grades 5–9 in all of the eleven local comprehensive schools.

Robotics clubs are primarily aimed for students who want to participate in annual tournaments in the local, national or international level.

Learning environments
During this step you should make the relevant acquisitions, such as the VEX IQ platform used at Riihimäki.

If you are executing a municipality-wide reform, the acquisitions should be centralized. Acquisitions should be spread over a few years and connect with the teacher training process.

In the long run, you should note that these education innovation acquisitions do not require a bigger education budget because the innovation transforms the teaching methods used and acquisition needs in general.

During the transition period, however, the need for acquisition appropriations often grows. This is due to the implementation being divided into stages. As the innovation is implemented some students study according to the old curriculum and the corresponding textbooks, and simultaneously teachers should undergo further training.

Case Riihimäki:

The schools at Riihimäki acquired “smart” robotics platforms.

“Smart” robotics platforms allow students to design and build robots that are powerful enough to manipulate other objects. The students also learn to control the robots through programming. When children participate in projects conducted on these types of platforms they gain an understanding of their own surroundings and how everyday technological applications work.

Note:

  • The robot building kits should not be difficult to manage and attach. The parts should be compatible with sensors so the students can control the robots' motors and other accessories. This allows the robot, perhaps built with multiple robot parts, to function as desired.
  • The programming software used to control the robots should use a universal coding language. At the moment, ROBOTC is a suitable software option for general education used with VEX and LEGO products.
  • Robotics platforms should be acquired in a centralized manner.
  • Schools in Riihimäki use the VEX IQ and VEX EDR platforms developed in the USA in the early 2000s. They are the leading robotics platforms designed for building, designing and programming worldwide.

VEX IQ is designed for 8–14-year-olds and VEX EDR for older students. VEX also provides curricula and assessment guides.

Students are electrified every year by national robotics challenges. The students can compete in regional, state, national and international tournaments and they culminate in VEX Robotics World Championship held in the USA.

Implementation
In schools, the principals are responsible for the implementation of different pilot programs as well as the actual curriculum.

In the early stages, it may be challenging to engage all the local principals. Early on, the pedagogical innovation can be implemented in just one school by one principal. Principals are ultimately responsible for designing a school-specific curriculum and implementing it.

The government can support the innovation by appointing funds for after-school clubs.

Case Riihimäki:

At Riihimäki, the initiative was formed by a team of two teachers from the eleven local comprehensive schools, one junior high school principle as well as a superintendent and the head of local education and culture department. Four 6th graders attended a pilot after-school club.

During the 2015–2016 school year, about 20 students from grades 6–7 attended robotics clubs.

During the 2016–2017 school year, grade 6 students were able to study robotics as an optional subject. 29 students took optional robotics which translates to 9% of the peer-group. Robotics clubs also reached all three junior high schools in Riihimäki and over 30 students took part in them.

During the next school year robotics in basic education as well as after-school clubs will be introduced into all local grades 3–5.

In 2018–2019, students can study robotics as an optional subject in grades 8–9. Both grades will provide optional robotics with two annual weekly hours.

Assessment and development
The principles of student assessment concerning the education innovation are derived from the objectives set in the national core curriculum.

In addition, the assessment principles must consider any compulsory objectives set for the innovation by the municipal council in accordance with the Local Government Act. The curriculum is a living document that can be adjusted according to any development needs.

You should develop and systemize a methodology behind student assessment that allows you to monitor the implementation and spot any problems.

In the future, the methodology provides you the tools to develop the program, gather feedback and assess the students.

Case Riihimäki:

The principles of student assessment were derived from the Finnish national core curriculum and the municipality-specific curriculum.

The municipality-specific curriculum describes the objectives, contents and assessment principles for robotics in every grade. These are specified both as a part of crafts and an optional subject.

The new curriculum states this considering grades 3–6:

“The students practice programming in robotics and automation, for example.”

Math specifications state that the objectives for grades 3–6 are

“to encourage students to create directives in applications in a graphic environment.”

The objectives for environmental studies for grades 3–6 are

“to guide the students to understand everyday technological applications, how they are used, what is their significance and how they work. Students should be encouraged to experiment, invent and create together with others.”

The Finnish national core curriculum states considering junior high school crafts:

“Students use integrated systems in crafts. In other words, programming skills are implemented into designing and actual crafts.”

(Finnish National Core Curriculum for Basic Education 2014)

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