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Learning Society

My first book in Finnish was published last week by the PS Publishing House. We have some plans to have translations, at first in Spanish and at some point in English. The English title could be: Learning Society — What is good for children is good for all.

As you know, if you are reading this, I mainly work in the international field of learning environments research and design, but now for the first time I have written about learning in Finnish, with lessons learned from the Finnish society. With my co-author, educational scientist and director of early childhood education, Mikko Mäkelä, we present reflection on what kind of environment — and indeed what kind of society — enhances learning. We explain what we know from research, but in easy-to-approach language, to bridge research and practice. The target group is very broad: from educators to anyone interested in education and its role in human (and planetary) wellbeing.

To translate the title to English is tricky. The direct translation would be The Good Learning States, but it doesn’t open similar way as the Finnish title. In the Finnish the word “state” (tila) is used in a meaning of a “space“, like a “room“, but also carries the meaning of being dynamic and temporary, like the “state” in a “mental state“. Also the “Good Learning” in the beginning leaves it open for an interpretation is the space of learning good or are the people learning “good”. Therefore, I have thought that the title should be boldly and simply Learning Society. There could be also a sub-title: What is good for children is good for all.

There are four parts in the book.

The first part we start by presenting the pedagogical and educational ideas where the current curriculums and practices of running kindergartens, schools and even universities come from. The aim is to open for the reader how different pedagogical practice are always reflections of the zeitgeist, the values of the time. In the history, however, there are individuals, scholars, thinkers and doers who have thought differently, people like Dewey, Freinet, Montessori, Steiner, Malaguzzi, Neill, Freire, Illich and Mitra. Many of these ideas are today visible in many schools, although a lot of things have been lost in translation and some of them are still considered to be “radical”.

In the second part of the book we get somehow practical, however, still aiming to explain that things are as they are because of earlier generations’ and our decisions. The educational landscape always reflects our values in the society, but sometime may have an impact on them. In this part we present several approaches to design good learning, with emphasis on wellbeing in different corners of the learning ecosystem of the society. In practice, we aim to empower educators to take active role in the design of teaching and learning. To make them to be subjects who can change their and their students physical, socio-cultural and psychological environment. We encourage educators and their students to get out from their classroom — to explore forests, cities, galleries, museums and libraries. We explain why it is important to make learning connected to the surrounding world, and brining to surrounding world to the classroom. Related to this we discuss the importance of communities in learning and how learning and civic life are intertwined.

The third part is dedicated to the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in teaching and learning. Because of growing role of computer-mediated communication and increasingly “datafied society” in general, everyone in the field of education should have a basic understanding of the phenomena. Similarly as in the part one, in here, too, we explain where the ideas of using media and technology in education comes from. We discuss the role of latest technological development in education, including social media platforms, VR and AR and possible utopias and dystopias we can foreseen. Same time, we argue that educators in general should have a strong voice when the ICT is designed for and entering to the field of education.

In the part four we aim to get back to the basics — to the question what makes a human life meaningful. What is the role of art, music and spirituality in human life? Unfortunately we are not able to give an ultimate answer to the question what is the meaning of life, but we have some hints. We end the book with an argument that a good learning can be more than the sum of good physical, socio-cultural and psychological environment. It is a dynamic state, that is build every moment, all the time. This means that also the possible shortcomings in one element can be compensated with another. Still, the good learning state is a “Heraclitus rive”: we can not step into the same river twice, because the rive, neither us is the same.

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