Lumipallo also included the possibility to carry out international projects so as to increase understanding and information about different cultures and to improve language skills. A number of themes were proposed for the projects. These included: curriculum development; development of teaching methods; development of learning materials; development of foreign language studies; creation of an innovative international network; ICT in learning; cultural heritage; language studies; protection of environment and sustainable development; natural sciences and mathematics; and religion and ethics.
Based on a Canadian project called Crossroad, Lumipallo involved providing small sums of money (officially 1,500 euros) to teachers to be used for such things as software or translations. Rather like “micro-credit” projects in development work, administrative hurdles were kept to a strict minimum. By keeping things simple, the organisers felt there was more chance of reaching teachers working for the small municipalities. A number of conditions were imposed on applicants. In their application, teachers had to indicate that ICT would be used in relation to the curriculum and that work would involve networking between several teachers. Innovation was not a criteria, but it was hoped for. On completion of funded projects, teachers had to write a short report indicating what sort of work had been done. For administrative reasons, money couldn’t be used to pay teachers salaries or to buy hardware. In addition, money had to transit via the Municipality as the FNBE is legally not allowed to pay directly to teachers. This caused no problems, however, as money was clearly earmarked for use by a given teacher.
Calls took place once a year and staff from the FNBE selected the projects. Of some six hundred applications between 2000 and 2004, 431 were accepted with an overall budget of 300’000 euros. Guidelines were drawn up to help teachers prepare projects and those who wished to were able to telephone staff at the FNBE for advice. An evaluation of the project1 pointed to a number of challenges. Technical difficulties were a problem especially as the programme offered no technical support. Another problem was lack of time on the part of teachers. In addition the level of commitment of teachers was sometimes such that it was difficult to ensure involvement. Finally, when it came to the project reports, few teachers mentioned problems they had in carry out the project.
Money and recognition
Finnish schools have no budget. The municipality handles all money matters. It is possible then that the small sums made available to teachers by Lumipallo were seen as significant by the actors concerned and as such had a certain leverage that might not have been the case had schools more money available for use. However, according to one of the organisers, the projects could probably have been done without the money, but participants welcomed the money as a form of recognition.
Projects and the curriculum
The openness of the Finnish core curriculum allows room for project work and collaboration between teachers, making an activity like Lumipallo relatively easy to integrate into the curriculum. Furthermore, efforts within the Finnish education system are geared to a developmental culture in which improvement of schools and ways of teaching and learning are key activities. In such a context, the developmental aims of Lumipallo were in agreement with overall culture.
Keeping it simple
One of the main forces of the project was to keep conditions as simple as possible so that barriers to participation were kept to a minimum and the overall cost remained very reasonable. One of the unfortunate effects of such a policy was that no technical support was available to participating teachers, many of whom, being relative beginners, often needed help.
Transferability to Switzerland
With the participation of Andreas Fehlmann2 and Christian Stamm3 of the Swiss Agency for ICT in Education (CTIE), an experiment was carried out in assessing the transferability of the Lumipallo project to Switzerland. A number of questions arose about the Lumipallo project. Several of those centred on the money: what was it used for and was it a real incentive for teachers in the project? It was felt that using money for travelling might be an incentive for teachers in Switzerland (if it could not be used for replacements to free time for work on the project). A further question was how the project had been presented to Finnish teachers and how the selectors had made sure they got only those teachers new to such projects. Experience in Switzerland shows that when you launch a project, it is often only the “pioneers” who are interested. There was some discussion why teachers would not want to get involved. These included lack of time, lack of interest and fear of being shown up by pupils who were more competent in ICT use. It was thought that the Swiss system uses a certain amount of control, in particular a detailed curriculum and testing, as a source of reassurance for teachers. To lower barriers for participation of such teachers, it was felt that support and possibly individual mentoring might be a good solution. This would argue in favour of carrying out projects locally (on a cantonal or regional basis).
As trust was seen as a key element in Finland, means would be needed to increase trust in such project work in Switzerland. In seeking “trustful” contexts, it was suggested integrating such a project into teacher training programmes. This would keep procedures simple by having only a short application form counter-signed by a teacher-trainer who agreed to act as a mentor for the project. An additional factor in favour of participation was felt to be simplicity. Various suggestions were made to increase simplicity. These included limiting the target audience to one age group and/or using only one aspect of the technology, for example e-mail or images. It was felt that the pre-conditions were very important, but these depended on the targets to be met. For example, one of the CTIE’s tasks is to encourage international collaboration on the part of schools. This would need to be a prerequisite of any project. In development work for ICT4D, collaboration within the class would be a prerequisite. A more suitable final evaluation than that used in Finland would have to be found, emphasising the learning process undertaken by participating teachers.
At the end of an hour’s work we came to the conclusion that, although the aims of Lumpiallo were compatible with much of the Swiss pedagogical context and the idea of simplicity was very appealing, the use of money as a lever, especially if it were only to be used for software or translations, would not be much of an incentive in Switzerland. As mentioned above, money for travel to meet partners was however felt to be motivating. The major barrier to transfer was seen to lie in getting trust and motivation on the part of teachers. The Swiss system is more centred on a control paradigm than Finland. In addition, a major challenge was seen to be in getting beyond the small circle of pioneers to attract those teachers that have not yet taken part in ICT-based exchange and collaboration projects. All agreed that adding mentoring to the project would help to counter problems due to lack of support and increase trust and motivation. Solutions were sought to keep any support as simple as possible, for example by funding exchange projects in the context of teacher training with the possibility of granting credits or a certificate to teachers for work done.
Participants felt that they had been able to identify the key factors in the Finnish model and compare them with Switzerland. They felt, however, that the results reached in terms of a potential project were so different from Lumipallo that it was not accurate to talk of “transferability”. At the same time, they were excited about the creative nature of the work done on the basis of Lumipallo and thought it could be further developed to make a viable Swiss project. This might suggest that the work we are doing is not strictly about “transferring” a policy or project from one country to another, but more about learning from one context to develop new ideas at home.
1 Laura Pohjanpalo, “Lumipallo - Projekti 2000 - 2004 L’oppuraportti”
2 Andreas Fehlmann is currently working on a twinning project between Swiss teachers and those in neighbouring countries, centred on the theme of citizenship. He also works on ICT-related aspects of special needs education.
3 Christian Stamm works on the ICT4D project. (…).
Last changed: Monday, 22 August 2005