torstai 27. huhtikuuta 2017

Visiting the IB-school in Kifissia, Athens!

Because several persons during my trip to Athens have asked me to blog in English so I decided to blog in English! I have had a wonderful time in Athens analysing my data for my doctoral research. Surely I have had some days of too to enjoy the best of Athens: food, sun, history, markets and company of new friends. But, I have also done two visits to two different school libraries to see how things are there. Both are privately funded schools so their economy has not significantly effected by the financial situations.

First I would like to write of my visit to The International School of Athens in Kifissia, on of the beautiful northern suburbs of metropolitan Athens. The school is providing IB, international Baccalaureate education from preschool to the diploma level that is in American terms K-12, in Finnish, the upper secondary school. The school has at the moment over 300 students and that number is built of 53 nationalities! So we are talking about a truly a multinational and multicultural school environment.

The IB education has the same standardised structure wherever the diploma is taken. There are some 2000 schools worldwide, 15 upper secondary schools in Finland has the IB diploma education. There are several possibilities to take studies, but there are three obligatory courses that a student has to take: the theory of knowledge, the extended essay and CAS (creativity, activity, service). All of these three extend to the period of 2 years, which is the time to prepare the IB diploma program.

The theory of knowledge really got this librarian heart to bounce! Imagine that, the students need to study the theory of knowledge! An oral presentation skills and an essay of 1600 words assess this section. The issues are studied through questions, for example:

  • How do we know?"
  • What counts as evidence for X?
  • How do we judge which is the best model of Y?
  • What does theory Z mean in the real world?

Finland and I do believe most of the western world is in the middle of very heated discussions that get under the skin of the most of us. There just was an article in Finland, where actually the upper secondary school students argued that it is the adults that are lacking in social media skills and ethical skills in the internet. Maybe because the social media is not their ‘own’ arena of communication? The hate speech and sharing the stories of false media has gotten out of hands. There was just also an article that showed as, that it is harder to accept the scientific knowledge, if it is in deed conflicting with our own knowledge perceptions and earlier conceptions.

There is seriously a need for a proper communication and conversation culture and not just to argue endlessly who is right and who in opposite is wrong. Me and myself, we are always right, no matter what. This idea of educating the students to the theory of knowledge sounds so great! The Finnish core curriculum, even the new one taking effect during 2016-2017, is very much structured according to the subjects. There are general parts in the beginning and in the beginning of three different grade levels, 1-2, 3-6 and 7-9. But all in all, it is the subject teacher’s job to implement the issues in the general parts. Transversal competences and multidisciplinary learning modules are these that has to be implemented to subject teaching and these skills include, among others, multiliteracy, IT skills, cultural skills and managing the daily life.

The ISA school had 2 libraries, one for the smaller children and one for the high school student, which was years 9-12. When looking at the library with the eyes of a Finnish school librarian, the collection looked really old. And the collection was fairly small. The librarian has a changing collection of books she took from her private library to be able to deliver the students more variation to the reading material on several areas.

The downstairs library was very well used, small library users going in and out. Both the librarians had a teacher degree and neither of them had a librarian education. The primary school librarian had been there only a few months and I surprised her with a question, what do you see as your biggest work challenge here as you are just starting your work? She replied that how to connect the library to the lessons and the studies. As I was looking at the shelves and the material, I know what would have been the answer of a Finnish librarian: weeding, getting rid of the old and used material.

This was actually the one difference to the school libraries I have met in Finland. Main issue is the collection, not necessarily the activities. At least more than here. I started to wonder that is it the difference of a teacher point of view and librarian?

The high school librarian, Gina Grammatikou, had a very good grip on the critical thinking skills and argumentation skills. She is also teaching the debate skills and is the debate team coach. During the first week of every school year she has the older students and all the teachers coming to the library. During the first week, it is about Approaches to Learning, all students come to the library every day and the days have following themes: 1) Library / media center orientation, 2) Internet research skills, 3) Academic honesty (an IB term, lovely!), 4) organisational skills (note-taking, summarizing, etc.) and 5) public speaking (really!). So, she keeps reminding of all the students of these same skills over and over again.

We also talked a long while of information seeking, critical thinking and books as sources of information. The collection there was rather old and not up to date considering the non-fiction. The librarian had done a collection of free resources on their web page. We also talked of the issues web vs. books in teaching information seeking. She said, and I asked permission to quote: “books as a resource of information today is like having a dead body next to you, which you are trying to vitalize with vitamins”. Books are needed, the book will never disappear, but the information environment of a digital age child is out there and we more or less should be able to support them in their own environment, we cannot change the behaviour of a whole generation.

The also take part to model United Nations activity, which was very interesting model of working, I heard about it the first time. She is also using the method called Socrative seminars, where students are training their argumentation skills.

All in all, I had a very lovely visit, thank you to Gina and all the teachers I met during my visit! I learned a lot and hope we can collaborate some how in the future! Euharisto kai kalo kalokairi!!

1 kommentti:

  1. Anu, it was a pleasure to talk about our common passion for "teaching without teaching"! Showing kids how to find things out for themselves, has to be one of the greatest rewards. I hope to see you again and join forces in a project.