Thursday, April 30, 2009

Monday - the 20th - Teaching Principals

After the busy weekend I still had an extra task on Monday. I had promised to give a lesson about blogs and Wikis in education to some of the gymnasium principals in Turku. My part started after lunch but I wanted to be present from the beginning to hear what the other lecturers had to say.

There were two very interesting parts I have to mention here.
There first one to start the day was the chief of the gymnasium and adult education office in Turku. He had very advanced opinions about the direction where teaching should go. Distant learning must be used also to give different options for the students and also to make learning more interesting. Lately the gymnasiums have had less appliers than before. It seems that professional trading is more interesting than the higher all-round education which basically tries to prepare the students for universities. He made it very clear that even the last ones opposing technology in teaching should change their opinion now! I agree :)

Even more interesting was the demonstration of two students about their use of Facebook. My children are too old; they have learned about Facebook after they had graduated but these two girls use Facebook in their everyday life. All events and parties are announced to friends in Facebook and people confirm that they are definitely attending, are not coming or don't know yet. Facebook is like e-mail to adults with the exception that you can really handle several people at the same time. Only a couple of their friends did not use Facebook which created some problems to others. I can imagine that; to me nowadays it is hard if I can't send e-mail to someone.

One of the principals asked how long times the girls spend on Facebook pages. I think that showed how much the worlds of us old people and young students differ. I have heard about the studies that students using Facebook are getting worse grades than those not using it but I think these two girls were already on the next level. Facebook is a tool for them, not the place where you use the childish applications. People who do that are people like me, having fun in a different way for a change.

I introduced the audience my Finnish blog, the Wiki I used in my computer science class and also told about Twitter. Like Saturday I was again talking about something no one knew. Fortunately I had info about the use of Twitter in classes and even universities and I had blogged about the Twitter conversations Saturday. Also I had to promote myself a little showing my story on Conceptis pages.

I am not sure if I convinced any of them. The good thing about all this is that my own principal shares my opinions totally. She even said in her introduction about me that I am "wonderfully nuts" about technology in teaching :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday - Class Reunion

On the cruise ship I happened to meet one of my classmates who attended a conference on the same ship. It was not very uncommon because she works for the same employer as I do, the municipality of Turku. The amazing thing was that we already had arranged a meeting for Saturday. 35 years have passed since we graduated from the Gymnasium (check the link for more information).

We have had these reunions before, the last one 5 years ago. The group has stayed together; at least someone knows about those who could not attend this time. There was only 17 of us on the class and 11 showed up.

The school we attended had an interesting start. The school was founded three years before I started it and at the time we did not have a building. This is the picture with my elementary school and the gymnasium was hosted in some extra buildings around that school. Those buildings were old, the first ones built in 1899. Today those old wooden buildings are gone, replaced by the lower building on the left.

© Samuli Lintula / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

There was not enough room for all the classes and sometimes the classes took place in the dressing room of the sports grounds down the hill like you can see in this picture. We even demonstrated on the streets of Turku carrying posters "We need a school buiding". This picture was published in the newspapers at that time.

We got the building when I was on the fifth class (of 8). We got to spend the last four in a brand new place. The school was not very popular in those times but soon after I graduated it became one of the most hardest schools to get in. It also changed targeting to science. Here is the building and basically nothing has changed from the original.

© Samuli Lintula / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

The reunion started in the school. Also 3 teachers came to see us, the principal, our English teacher who also was responsible for our class and our German teacher.

Because the school was new when we started it, most of our teachers were very young then and most of them have retired not so long ago. We were at the same time having a burial of the gymnasium. The name of the school had changed earlier but now the whole school has been integrated to another gymnasium in Turku and the building is used by lower classes only.

I also worked in the same school two years after I became a teacher so this did not come to me as a surprise; the interior of the school is still mostly the same. The walls have been painted lighter. The originals were dark green, red, and brownish yellow.

We drank coffee in the school, took a tour and talked. After that we continued the discussion at dinner in a restaurant in Turku. We had a wonderful time! It is amazing to notice now how original and strong personalities we were already 35 years ago. It was like going back in time; even though we all look older, we still have the same characteristics and interests. I admit I was very lucky to be in that class. Those were probably the happiest years of my life. During all my teacher years I have not seen group spirit like that. Also the teachers were part of our group and we shared wonderful memories together.

I told of course about my new hobby, social media and technology and we agreed that I will create a wiki for the class. That way people can edit their contact info and those who will arrange the next meeting 5 years from now don't have to start detective work to find out where all people are. Sharing pictures will also become much easier. Actually I should have created the wiki already ...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday on a Cruise Ship

I am finally starting to be back to normal again. Last weekend I was so busy that I can't even remember when was the last time I had my schedule so full.

Regarding Friday I first have to explain something. The following is quoted from Wikipedia under Collective bargaining:

In some countries, such as Finland, collective agreements with enough support are universally applicable, in a particular field, regardless of union membership. Effectively, the universal collective agreement sets the minimum wages and other benefits, under which no employer may go with any employee, union member or not. Personal benefits can be given regardless.
The teacher's collective agreement states that we must have 3 days in a year to get some further education to keep our skills up to date. Mostly I am not so sure if the goals are reached. I have been sitting in numerous lectures and wondered if the subject of the lesson has anything to do with my real life. Sometimes the lessons are very entertaining, sometimes very boring and sometimes held by people who have no idea how the school works nowadays.

Friday was one of the days mentioned above but now I knew it would be very interesting. The only thing I did not like was the place where the event took place: one of the cruise ships between Turku and Stockholm.

These ships are not really a good way to travel to Sweden because the journey takes about 12 hours. They are used mainly for entertainment, dancing and drinking on a cruiser (reminds me of Love Boat) and holding conferences. I guess that way the people attending the conference remain there better; there is absolutely no way to escape except one of the bars, but the chances to get caught are too big.

I was one of the teachers who gave a lesson and I told my co-workers about my journey over the internet and social media. I demonstrated how to use Skype and had wonderful help from Dave Green and Gil Galanti from Conceptis. Besides that they are just the best when it comes to chatting online there was one thing I had really forgotten about because I do it so often. Israel is probably the most exotic country from the Finnish perspective. A group chat from a cruise boat between Finland and Sweden to Israel is not really something people are accustomed to :)

I also introduced Delicious and Diigo, told about Math bloggers and about the article Conceptis published about me and showed how I can find good links by not using Google. I also told how wonderful interacting with people from different countries is. I have really enjoyed all these years having friends outside my own country.

Twitter was something only one of the teachers had heard of and he did not even know what it is about. Twitter is awesome, like I already told in my earlier post. If you have a sufficient amount of followers you always get an answer from the Twitterverse when you want to find out something. By following teachers and other people interested in mathematics and puzzles I have been able to add numerous links to my huge collection of good resources.

Altogether six teachers told about their job and that was really interesting. After all the introductions I could really see why the adult students love our school. We have amazing personalities among the teachers, all dedicated to their job.

Part of the teachers continued the journey to Stockholm and came back the next morning. They did not really leave the ship at all but just turned around in Sweden. I belonged to the bigger group of people who turned around changing ships in Ă…land Islands (Ahvenanmaa) which is an autonomous part of Finland, closer to Sweden than Finland.

The journey back was a bit boring. We had dinner at the Buffet of the ship. They had a Spanish week and lots of exotic foods. Shopping in the ship's Tax Free is also a habit even though we never left Finland not to mention EU and the prices are not free of tax. I tried to use my distant connection with the laptop but the GSM network was not strong enough for pages to load. No chance of getting 3G in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The rest of the time we had conversations among the teachers, which was actually nice. At work we are usually too busy to have deeper conversations.

After the long day I was totally exhausted. I am probably getting old...

The story about the weekend continues in the next post

Monday, April 20, 2009

Teaching Mathematics in Finland With Japanese Puzzles

This is a repost from March for educational purposes with some pictures added here.

In the end of 2008 I had the chance to teach Japanese puzzles in my own school. Now my story has been published on Conceptis website :) I hope this gives ideas to other mathematics teachers as well. Some puzzles in the middle of normal work is refreshing and teaches logic reasoning. Logic is the foundation where mathematical thinking is built. I hope you enjoy the story.

read more | digg story

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Twitter is Great!

I had a school day Yesterday. It was one of the three compulsory educational days for the teachers and I did a presentation to the others about social communities in the internet and what I have learned from my friends. Before I left, I sended a Tweet:

I got a good example of the benefits using Twitter. The first one to response was the Finnish national radio!

Then wishes from old friends

And 3 messages from followers I really have not had a closer contact with.

Have a problem, ask Twitter. Someone always has something to answer. This is one of the reasons I changed my way in adding followers. I basically add everybody who has a profile and has sent some reasonable tweets. You never know what you'll need and who knows what!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Weird Sauna Related Equipment

I came across another sauna related piece of furniture.

According to Anna van der Lei website:
A wooden bath represents the feeling and the smell of the sauna, a place where you clean yourself and relax. It has no fixed position but you can select yourself the environment. Changing clothes, being at peace in your environment and bathing: a Finnish ritual coming together in the Badkast.
Well, Finns need the heat of the sauna. The heat takes care of the relaxing. Changing clothes does not usually happen in the sauna. People want to chill outside or by the fireplace before putting clothes on. Saunas are also places where people want to socialize. This is way too lonely.

‘bath cabinet’ by anna van der lei (photo: rene van der hulst)

The amazing thing is that the whole closet is made from one single Larch tree.

via Gizmodo [via Design Boom via Anna van der Lei]

Related posts: Odd Things Referring to Sauna

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Satisfaction of a Solved Puzzle

In February when my holiday started, I took a huge challenge to solve a 110x175 Pic-A-Pix puzzle. It was not as hard as I had imagined but it took a great deal of my holiday. I am not complaining; those hours were very enjoyable. I almost got it finished before the end of the holiday but I got affected by the most common problem, miscalculation in some clue. I erased the area in the centre probably 5 times, always getting a little bigger part right. At that point I was ready to take a break from it, but said to my daughter that she could solve it if she wanted to, and she did! The wrong block had appeared actually very early and that is why I had not got it fixed. I should have gone a bit lower. Now the colouring of the puzzle has taken longer than the solution. I finished it last night watching who won the Survivor China. Here it is (the darker areas on the background are mostly shadows...):

The fantastic thing about this puzzle was all the detail. It made solving interesting and the result very lively.

Now my husband says that I have to frame it and hang it on the wall. That is something I just can't do. It has a 175x110 puzzle on the other side...

Related posts: Skiing Holiday With a Puzzle

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I am in a Cartoon

ncomment, a webcomic focusing primarily on social networks such as Digg, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube, published a strip War 1/3. The strip starts with introducing the Digg community and to my great satisfaction I have my own building in the community. I had to zoom the picture a bit.

Since I use my own picture instead of a cool avatar, you probably can't find me there. That is why I had to take these captures so you could see it.

The comic is cool and I cannot wait for the rest of the series but I think people who are not familiar with Digg and Reddit don't really get the fun out of it. Anyway, check the wonderful work here.

I am impressed!