“It’s not about technology. It’s more about pedagogy and knowledge practices. We have to change our social practices and knowledge practices, and that often calls for changing and shaping our physical environment.” – Kirsti Lonka, Finland

Finland is recognized as a global leader in education, with Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores among the best in the world. Many reasons have been cited for this, including the equal educational opportunity for all, competent teachers, and the overall societal appreciation for education in Finland. I was fortunate to speak with a leader in Finnish education, Kirsti Lonka from the University of Helsinki, while at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague. Lonka made it clear that while Finland is proud of its success, its educational institutions are far from resting on their laurels.

“There are problems and pitfalls of the PISA hype,” says Lonka.  “It makes some conservative people say that we shouldn’t change anything. But I guess that we are doing well because we are humble, and we know that we have to constantly develop things in order not to fall behind.” Lonka is on the leading edge of development in Finland and was a keynote speaker at the Global Forum. Foremost in Lonka’s current work is how physical space plays a key role in today’s world of technological learning.

“We talk a lot about digital natives, and how the new generation is different from previous ones, but something we don’t think about as much is the physical environment,” she notes. “It’s not about technology. It’s more about pedagogy and knowledge practices. We have to change our social practices and knowledge practices, and that often calls for changing and shaping our physical environment.”

Today, Lonka gives us an idea of what physical teaching spaces of the future may look like (including walls that change color!), and also shares what Finland is focusing on to ensure their educational system remains world-class. I hope you enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Kirsti Lonka.

About Kirsti Lonka

Kirsti Lonka is Vice Dean of the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences and professor of educational psychology at University of Helsinki, Finland. She was Foreign Adjunct Professor at the Department of LIME, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden 2007-2011. She was also J.H. Bijtel Visiting Professor, University of Groningen, The Netherlands (2007-2008). Previously she was professor of medical education at the Department of LIME (Learning, Informatics; Management and Ethics), Karolinska Institutet in 2001-2005.

Lonka finished her Master of Arts Degree in psychology and started her research career as a Junior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki in 1986. She did her PhD course work at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE, University of Toronto, Canada) in 1988-1989. Her two daughters were born 1991 and 1995. Kirsti Lonka finished her Licentiate Thesis in 1994 and her PhD at the Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, in 1997.

In 1996-2001 she worked as the Director of Development and Research Centre, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland. During that time the medical program became problem-based. Kirsti Lonka has published numerous refereed articles, conference papers and book chapters. She has also published textbooks and popular writings. The languages of her publications are Finnish, English, and Swedish (also translated in Estonian). Her specialties are higher education, medical education and postgraduate education (PhD students). In the area of academic writing, her work has focused around note taking, process writing, portfolios and writing across curriculum (writing as a learning tool). At the moment, she is working on innovations in higher education and engaging learning environments (ELE).

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