Mona Jäppinen, Janette Järvinen, Linnea Lamminen, Terhi Tepponen
Teach differently – distance education
We took part to the course “Opettaja työnsä tutkijana” (Teacher as researcher) at the University of Helsinki and were assigned to create a teaching experiment with a new approach to teaching Home Economics for secondary school students. The idea of this assignment was to teach differently from what we were used to and learn to use distance education as a teaching method. We were also encouraged to boldly try new ways of teaching and go out of our comfort zone. The theoretical framework for our lesson and teaching method was based on the socio-constructivist theory of learning. According to this theory, human development is socially situated and knowledge is constructed through interaction with other people. The student´s own activity to produce information is emphasized. The role of the teachers is to guide the students.
As a group of four Home Economics students, we decided to contact a Home Economics teacher who works in a school located in Helsinki metropolitan area. We got to teach two different groups of 8th grade students. The Home Economics teacher gave us the topic for the lesson: Harvest season thinking and how students could make use of it in their everyday life. We thought that by teaching about the harvest season we teach at the same time how to be a sustainable consumer and how to make choices in everyday life.
Harvest season and how to make use of it
Harvest season means the entire growing season of a product. Season is the time when a product’s harvest is at its best and by then the taste is usually at its best as well. The idea of harvest season–thinking is to favor products that are at their best in the harvest season. Usually, the price of the product is cheaper than those that are not on harvest season at that moment. Often the taste of a product is at its best during the best harvest season. It is also better for the environment and more energy efficient to grow and to favor products that are in harvest season. The Finnish nutrition recommendation is to eat half a kilogram of vegetables every day as a part of a diverse diet. This half a kilogram recommendation means that one should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Harvest season thinking does not only mean favoring vegetables and fruits but also favoring domestic fish and game meat. Our harvest season in Finland is quite short but we grow many root vegetables. Many
of these keep well in root cellars and last for several months. This way we can eat domestic vegetables during wintertime when there is very little or no domestic harvesting in Finland. We recommend people to favor these root vegetables and domestic berries during wintertime.
We wanted to do something at first to get the students interested in the topic. We decided to make a short video to be shown at the beginning of the class. We recorded the video at the local supermarket´s vegetable department by using a mobile phone. The voice-over was recorded separately. The recordings were combined and edited by using Apple´s Final Cut Pro-program (paid program). In order to teach students differently, we chose to use gaming as our main teaching method. We created a quiz about the harvest season and why we favor it.
The video was filmed at a local supermarket. Photo by: Mona Jäppinen
The quiz was made with Google Forms Quiz. There were questions in the quiz about vegetables and harvest season thinking. We also used Google Jamboard, an interactive whiteboard where we could work together with the students by writing, adding notes and images for all to see. The students had to follow the instructions, find information and pictures of the fruits on season and add them to the Jamboard. We asked the students to be critical of the sources they used. Afterwards, we went through the writings together and discussed the topics.
Screenshot of the Jamboard platform we were using in our teaching. Photo by: Terhi Tepponen
The lessons were held at the school´s Google Meet platform. We held two different lessons for the 8 th graders. One lesson lasted 75 minutes. We taught the lessons foursome and shared the tasks.
Our distance education experiment went very well, and the students participated in the lesson and did the assigned tasks nicely. We made some changes to the lesson plan for the second lesson because we noticed that some of the students did not participate in the lesson as much as hoped for. For the second teaching lesson, we advised the students to use the chat for communicating if it felt more comfortable. That was a good advice and that way the communication was lively. We also noticed that the instructions given to the students must not be too long. It was better to give only one or two instructions at a time.
Feedback and some thoughts
The feedback we received from the students and the teacher was encouraging. Most of the students liked our lesson because it was different from their normal lessons. Specially they liked the harvest season quiz game and the video we made for them. The teacher praised our lesson and she thought it was diverse and active. She only reminded us to note the students who were late for class. For the future distance education, we need to pay attention to interaction and activating the students. Our plans were made to teach distant but so that the students were supposed to be in their classroom together with their own teacher. Because of the current Covid-19 situation, the secondary school switched to distance education, and we had to teach the class totally remotely. We had to make some changes to our plan to be able to hold the lessons. Distance education requires practice for both teachers and students and special attention should be paid to interaction, materials used, working methods and tools.
Here are some references we recommend:
Vainikainen, M-P., Oinas, S., Ahtiainen, R., Rimpelä, A., Lindfors, P., Lintuvuori, M., Hienonen,
N., Heikonen, L., Asikainen, M., Lindgren, E., & Hotulainen, R. (preprint). (2020). School-level
variation in distance learning practices during the COVID-19 pandemic in Finland. 21.9.2020.
KARVI. (2020). Poikkeuksellisten opetusjärjestelyjen vaikutukset tasa-arvon ja yhdenvertaisuuden toteutumiseen Osa I: Kansallisen arvioinnin taustaraportti, synteesi ja tilannearvio valmiiden aineistojen pohjalta
[The effects of exceptional teaching arrangements in realized equality. Part I: The background report of national assessment, synthesis and estimation based on existing data]. Kansallinen arviointikeskus. 7.5.2020.