Use of Technology – Different formats don’t replace but strengthen each other

Finnish schools have above-average levels of ICT infrastructure. In primary grades (PIRLS 2016) Finnish students use computers for information search and writing stories more often than their peers in Europe. However, in lower secondary grades, the use of ICT is below average. Thus, there is a need to improve ICT use for pedagogical purposes, and the Finnish government has introduced digitalization in education as one of its special investment areas There is also a need to integrate ICT skills and digital literacy into teacher training for all teachers (currently only a few ICT modules are an obligatory part of teacher training). National strategies specify that teachers should have outstanding ICT skills at all levels of education. [1]

The interim report (2017) of the ongoing, government-funded Comprehensive Schools in the Digital Age project (‘Digiajan peruskoulu’, project period 2017-2018) analyzes the current status of digitalisation in basic education from the perspectives of strategy, operating environments, the digital competence of teachers and students, utilisation of digital resources, as well as development and support. It shows that teachers’ competences and attitudes towards ICT have positively developed during the project, and overall progress has been made in the schools’ digitalization process. Many schools have digital strategies but their implementation, development and monitoring efforts are still ongoing. Schools’ purchases of equipment and digital learning materials should support their digital strategies, while purchasing needs should be based on pedagogical considerations. [2]

The use of digital learning materials at schools still remains at quite a low level though new digital materials are constantly being created. Textbooks, notebooks and exercise books continue to play a key role in everyday school life. Teachers support each other in development of digital operating methods, while the practice of using teacher tutors has already spread widely into different schools, which is proof of the positive development. [ibid]

The ICT resources and digital practices of individual schools contribute to the learning of multiliteracy, an important feature in the new national curricula (2016 onwards). The concept of multiliteracy consists of several related literacies, such as ICT literacy, media literacy, visual literacy, critical literacy, computer literacy and network literacy as well as traditional literacy of printed texts. A multiliterate person can process and transform the multimodal information which means he or she can search, retrieve, inter- pret, reflect and use texts, signs, pictures, videos and sounds properly in different situations and contexts. Multiliteracy even includes ethical evaluation of information, concerning both content and media. [3]

Simultaneously, reading habits are changing in all age groups. Even babies and toddlers spend more and more time on smart devices. The results of the Finnish VUOKKO study [4] indicate that children aged 2-3 read more books than watch TV, but watch more TV than use smart phones or mobile devices. However, children at the age of 6 spend much more time on television than on books and use mobile devices as much as they read or browse books and magazines. Almost every Finn under age 55 has access to the Internet at home via a digital device. Schools, however, have far fewer digital devices. According to a 2013 survey, comprehensive schools had an average of 1.63 desktop computers and 0.84 laptops for every 10 students. [3]

Although the access to digital texts has to be ensured in all schools, there are recent studies indicating strongly that electronic texts are not sufficient in the literacy formation [5]. Indeed, reading fiction frequently and engagement in various reading literacy activities are still the most important factors in promoting literacy skills. Computers and the Internet cannot replace these activities, but they do provide alternative reading material and modes. Versatile use supports the literacy skills and practices needed in the 21st century. How adolescents really handle the skills and knowledge required for electronic texts is an interesting challenge for future research.

Despite the growing popularity of smart devices, recreational reading is still very much tied to books and papers. Books and printed materials continue to have a central position also in library materials, but libraries are already seeking ways to provide more for children and youth in digital and other non-printed form.

Different formats do not replace but strengthen each other: e-books, designed to serve busy lifestyles, are consumed in a different manner than printed books. Audio books can also attract potential readers who are not interested in traditional books.

While the learning materials are more and more frequently established online in Finland, schools use their digital devices to a varying extent, and the use of them still remains at a relatively low level in many schools. 96 percent of Finnish youth has access to computer or smart device at home. Kindle and other ebook readers are not very popular yet, since 92 percent of the youth announced they don’t have any ebook readers at home. [3]  However, some schools have invested in digital devices since then due to the new curriculum.

 

Sources of information:

1] Literacy in Finland: Country Report. Children and adolescents. March 2016. ELINET European Literacy Policy Network.

2] http://tietokayttoon.fi/documents/10616/3866814/72_Digiajan+peruskoulu_2017.pdf/6867a8b6-a79c-4db7-9855-09c1fc339bbf?version=1.0

3] Kaisa Leino: The relationship between ICT use and reading literacy: Focus on 15-year-old Finnish students in PISA studies. Finnish Institute for Educational Research Studies 30, 2014.

4] Lerkkanen, Salminen, Pakarinen (2018). Varhaislapsuuden lukuhetket tukevat lukutaitoa. Onnimanni 1-2/2018.

5] Malessa, E. (2018). Learning to read for the first time as adult immigrants in Finland : Reviewing pertinent research of low-literate or non-literate learners’ literacy acquisition and computer-assisted literacy training. Apples : Journal of Applied Language Studies, 12 (1), 25-54. doi:10.17011/apples/urn.201804051932