Education Blog

Janika Leoste: “If people cannot hear you well, it doesn’t matter how good your camera is or what you are planning to talk about.”

We interviewed Janika Leoste, Business Collaboration and Innovation Chief Specialist at the School of Educational Sciences in Tallinn University, who defended her thesis in October. Her doctoral thesis topic is ‘Adopting and Sustaining Technological Innovations in Teachers’ Classroom Practices – The Case of Integrating Educational Robots into Math Classes.’

Janika Leoste

How did you come up this topic during your studies?

I’d say that the research topic came to me before I had started studying. Back then, I was a educational robotics instructor at the Information Technology Foundation for Education and it was hard for me to understand why teachers were not as excited about teaching with robots in class as they were during the FIRST LEGO League or Robotex robotics competitions that I had been involved in. From there, it was a logical step to go to university to get some clarity in this issue. My future colleagues Maire Tuul and Larissa Jõgi also played a role in this, not to mention the encouragement of Mati Heidmets.

Writing a doctoral thesis is a huge task and definitely needs constant self-motivation. What’s your trick? How were you able to consistently work on it to achieve a successful final result?

Long projects with high aims are tiresome. The only option is to take on additional challenges that are at least as difficult. It sounds trivial but a schedule and time management are always helpful. And knowing that you are doing it precisely because it is hard, not because it is easy.

Please describe a memorable or funny event that happened when you were writing your thesis.

A memorable moment was actually at the thesis defence when both of my supervisors – professors Mati Heidmets and Tobias Ley – recalled my transformation from an entrepreneur to a young scholar. To me it feels like a broadening of my worldview and I hope that my entrepreneurial spirit will also help me in the world of research.

How is your research going to change the world?

Thoughts change the world but for this to happen you have to share them with other people. I want the whole world to understand that teachers need to experiment in classrooms to understand the benefit of new methods. It shouldn’t be taken as a sure sign that now the new innovation has been automatically accepted. Changing classroom practices is a long multi-phase process where teachers need both external support and internal certainty.

How much are the voices of scientists and young researchers heard in our society?

I’ll use a metaphor about video lectures. If people cannot hear you well, it doesn’t matter how good your camera is or what you are planning to talk about. The people listening won’t receive your message and despite your good intentions the academic objective will not be achieved. You need to do your best to make your voice heard. The options are endless – university courses, professional development courses, student tutors, workshops, presenting at conferences and writing articles.

What are the most important values and beliefs that you live by?

I trust people and I try to behave in a way that makes me trustworthy, too. I hope that people judge me more according to my actions than my words.

Please tell us about a book that you recently read and would recommend to others. Why would you recommend it to others?

Roberto Poli’s ‘Introduction to Anticipation Studies’ discusses how people predict the future and plan their actions based on the predictions, which can then either bring or not bring them closer to their so-called desired future. Poli’s book indirectly draws attention to those opportunities we might miss if we don’t have a clear enough image of our own future or we just hope that the future will come around itself.