George Lucas Educational Foundation
Education Trends

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013: A Journey of Inquiry

March 25, 2013

Have you ever wanted to see what really goes on in classrooms of the world's number one educational system? Well, here's your free virtual plane ticket to Helsinki, Finland.

Doctoral learners from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education will spend a "week in the schools" -- the schools of Helsinki, that is -- looking at a variety of research areas through the lenses of students, teachers, parents and leaders. These lead learners will use that week to reflect upon where the United States and Finland agree and disagree on core beliefs surrounding teaching, learning and leadership.

The trip will offer an opportunity to become immersed in the teacher and leader preparation programs, with the first full day in Finland dedicated to learning from higher education professors at the University of Helsinki.

Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons, and Jari Lavonen, professor at the University of Helsinki, have been instrumental in assisting the team from PennGSE to locate three schools that best portray the underlying culture of Finland's educational system:

There have been plenty of trips to Finland over the last few years since it earned the world's number one ranking in education. However, this inquiry trip is different because it will be captured live. Transparency in public learning is one of the aims of the trip. The group is traveling not only to learn about education in Finland, but also with the intention of studying how social media tools can be used to communicate and share ideas in real time with others all over the world. In preparation of the trip, the group has created the following communication options for those wishing to "learn along with them" in Finland.

Let's Keep In Touch

Each of the researchers attending will focus on a different lens during the trip: student, teacher, parent or leader. The blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr will allow daily inquiries and findings to be shared with participants around the world. This global PLC (personal learning community) on Finland's educational system is aimed to support sharing ideas among teachers, parents and school leaders in multiple time zones (Helsinki time is East Coast +7 and West Coast +10). To submit questions to the team, add them to the growing pre-trip Google Doc of inquiry questions, or simply use one of the above-mentioned social media tools to reach out.

Trip Itinerary

3/23 Saturday

  • Leave for Helsinki, Finland

3/24 Sunday

  • Arrive in Helsinki
  • Check into University of Helsinki student housing

3/25 Monday

3/26 Tuesday

3/27 Wednesday

3/28 Thursday

  • School 3: Koulumestari School (Koulumestarin koulu), elementary school, Tinna Korhonen, Principal

3/29 Friday

  • Culminating reflection day across student, teacher, parent and leader lenses
  • Visit with Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of CIMO in Helsinki, author, speaker, change activist. Follow Pasi on Twitter or visit his website.

3/30 Saturday

  • Return to United States

Connections and Resources

In the end, the team of PennGSE researchers hopes to learn a great deal from those they meet in person in Finland, but equally important are the daily interactions with other educators on Twitter, the educational leadership field's growing global PLN (personal learning network). The critical and transparent work with a global think-tank doesn’t come to an end when the team boards the plane back to the United States. Those committed to educational reform will insure that the learning and sharing continue. The power of social media will create new educational bonds among connected educators around the globe.

Here are just a few starting points:

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