“Okay kids, see you in the evening!” I stepped out from our apartment heading to the university.
It’s the first day I left my wife and kids at our new home in Finland, while attending my morning classes at Linnanmaa campus, one class at 8:15 in the morning on the Introduction to Learning and Educational Technology, and another one at 10:15, our class on Survival Finnish Language. There will be around two hours break before another meeting with my Demola Oulu project at 2pm in the City Centre.
I wasn’t feeling good leaving my family at home. I reminded them to step outside, find some squirrels, and please make some videos of their own, using their newly bought mobile phones. It was impossible back home. But here in Finland, I determine to shape my children on using the gadgets as their tool for learning, rather than simply for entertainment and fun. I decided to skip my lunch and went straight home to see if everything is okay before heading back to the City Centre for Demola.
Something pop up in my mind.
While riding the bus, I created a quiz titled “Road to Oulu” using Socrative, for my kids to try. I asked them 10 questions, three types of question; the multiple answer, true or false answer and a short answer. The questions were combining memorising, understanding, and evaluating, from the easiest to the most challenging. After completed the quiz design in its most simple way, I get off the bus and arrived home.
“Yes, abi (daddy) is home!” they welcomed me.
I had the key with me, but I rang the door to teach them how to open the door because it’s a bit tricky, different from the door we had back home. They shook my hands and went back straight to their gadgets in the living room. This is not nice. But I abstained myself from nagging or blaming anything.
To cut the story short, while I was in the bus back to City Centre, I sent them a message:
“Download Socrative, or you can use the browser on Macbook. Download the student’s version. Here is the code for the quiz. Answer them and the winner can claim a gift when we do our groceries this evening”
I sent the message to their mobile phones, and via my wife, asking her help to remind them to join.
In Socrative, we as teachers who create the quiz have 3 options:
- STUDENT PACED WITH IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK: Students receive immediate right/wrong feedback and explanations after they answer each question. Students answer questions in order and cannot skip or change their answers. You are able to monitor their progress via a live results table.
- STUDENT PACED – STUDENT NAVIGATION: Students have the ability to edit questions, skip questions and navigate the quiz their own way. Once they’ve completed the activity they can submit the entire assessment. You are able to monitor their progress via a live results table; or
- TEACHER PACED: Teachers control the flow of questions. You send one question at a time, and visualize the responses as they happen. You can skip and revisit questions
I chose the second option. I wanted them to join the quiz, but wait until I come home to discuss the result and feedback. I can monitor their progress on my mobile phone. I don’t have a high expectation for them to do it, but it is interesting to see how they react to my plan.
As expected, they didn’t participate. My wife told me non of them joined the quiz and kept busy playing Minecraft. I told her its okay. Don’t worry about it because I expected this to happen. When I am home, I will see how to sort out this thing, and I explained to my wife, this is what we are learning at the university. We are not learning how to use technology as a user, but as an educationist. We have to design a learning environment with the enhancement of technology, taking into account many non technological aspects such as motivation, reward, freewill, etc.
When I reached home, my eldest son Saif, and daughter, Naurah, were helping mommy doing the DIY for the sofa bed. The other two, Imad and Muiz, were playing Minecraft using the ‘intranet’, walking around the same ‘neighbourhood’ which amazed me. Setting up an intranet Minecraft play could be something difficult for adults, but these two 10 and 7 year old boys did it by themselves.
After we had a chat, asking them how the day went on and I caught their attention, I began talking with them about the quiz.
“So, everybody is busy playing Minecraft, I was waiting for you to join the quiz, but nobody did.” I said.
“Oh, I wanted to join. I downloaded the apps but the apps asked for a code which I didn’t have.” Imad answered.
“Aha, I actually sent the code and instruction to Naurah, Saif and ummi (mommy)” I responded.
“I didn’t know that” he said.
Naurah took his mobile phone and found my message.
“This is the code!” she said.
“Imad, stop! Wait for me, I want to join the quiz too” Saif used the Macbook to login the quiz.
“Okay, you guys can start answering now. I can see your progress from my mobile phone” I said to them.
Naurah was with Imad, and Saif did the quiz on his own. Muiz showed no interest and he was focusing on his Minecraft.
We discussed the answers one by one.
I asked, “where did you transit on your way from Kuala Lumpur to Helsinki?” Then “Istanbul is the capital city of Turkey, true or false?” It was followed by “Finland is located to which direction from Turkey; north, south, east or west?” and I gave them a photo we shot in Helsinki two days before and asked them “what is the name of the shopping mall behind us?”. I then offered them the question “the first capital of Finland is Turku, true or false?” followed by “how do you feel being in Finland today?” This is an open question which has no fixed answer. I then continued with another question, “what are among these exist in Oulu; an airport, rocket launching station, a public library, and Indonesian restaurant, and a zoo?” There is also another true or false question, “The most northern part of Finland is the habitat for both polar bear and the penguin.” I ended the quiz with two more questions. One was using a photo taken in Oulu asking them “what is this building (the mosque)?” and the last one is “which one of these does not belong to the rest, “nelja, yksi, tiistai, seitsemän and viisitoista?”
It was really fun discussing with them the answers.
At the end, the quiz was interesting enough, and they asked for another one with the real chance to claim a present from me.
Using the appropriate app is essential. Socrative is very simple, and my kids understand how to download the right version (student version, not the teacher version). Everybody can use the app except Muiz who is 7 years old.
I gave a very clear instruction, but it was a written version. If they read it carefully, they could easily understand it and can start working on the quiz. But they didn’t read it.
Imad gave a good example on how it is important to nurture a good self regulated learning. He had the spontaneous decision to join the quiz. But he didn’t know where he could find the code. He didn’t search for it and had no motivation to do so. He immediately left the task and continued with his play on Minecraft.
When I came back, I didn’t nag or express my disappointment. I reminded them that their mobile phones can be used for many other interesting tasks related to learning. Mentioning to them that in our department we have some students doing their master research on Minecraft, helped me to gain their trust that I do mean it when I said, Minecraft has the possibility to be a tool of learning. It is essential for a teacher to gain the trust from students, and create a safe environment to do the shaping process.
When we did the quiz together and discussed the answers, it became a fun and entertaining session. I was so happy because I miss them a lot since we live separately for about two months.
“A present’ for the winner, is not necessarily a significant reward to extrinsically motivate them.
I do not have (yet) the knowledge to describe this whole experience but I understand that learning is learning, technology can only enhance it when you know how humans interact with it. By studying Learning, Education and Technology (LET) in Oulu, we are meant to become experts who understand learning and education, and then how technology can be used to design an effective learning environment. This objective will somehow change the role of a teacher from being the traditional expert in transmitting knowledge, to someone who is an expert in designing a learning activity.
My kids will not start their school for quite sometimes here in Finland. So I welcome my friends to ‘use them’ to run any simulation on any project. It is not because they are good at it. But I can assure you, they will give you the real response as ‘normal students’ which include some headache!
LET, Oulun Yliopisto.