Education

Winter Education Wonderland

During the yearly Tallinn University Winter School in January 2020, the School of Educational Sciences offered a one-week course, "Educational Innovation -- Getting Ready for the Future", for anyone who wishes to know more about where education was, is and where it is headed. The course also had the aim to give an overview of the content of the international MA study program "Educational Innovation and Leadership" for interested future students.

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The course had 19 people from all over the world taking part and some of the participants shared their thoughts on the course.

Victoria from Russia shares her thoughts on the Winter School course as follows:
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and the reasons you chose this specific winter school course?

I have been working in technology companies as a Product Marketing Manager for about 10 years. I am interested in the field of educational technology, specifically how to create meaningful educational products that deliver the most effective learning experience. However, I realize that technology is the means, not the mission. Hence I decided to attend the “Educational Innovation - Getting Ready for the Future” winter school program at Tallinn University to learn more about the reasons behind Estonia’s education system success.

How relevant is the topic of Educational Innovation in the wider world at the moment? Why or why not? Should it be different?

In my view, the theme of innovation in education is timely due to the rapid development of artificial intelligence and neuroscience in the last decade. What would humans still need to learn in the world of AI? It becomes crucial for learners around the world to embrace new technologies, executive function skills, and a growth mindset to stay competitive in a constantly evolving environment. Some countries do a better job than others in incorporating evidence-based insights coupled with new technology into education. The major concern is that the gap that exists between education systems around the world will exponentially widen with the fast growth of AI.

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What are the few key messages you are taking with you from this course?

One of the reasons for the success of the Estonian education system is in its autonomy at different levels - schools’ autonomy to make decisions about staff, curricular, finances; teachers’ autonomy to upgrade their knowledge; students’ autonomy to take responsibility for their own learning. This approach resonates with the self-determination theory (SDT) by Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci we discussed during the winter school. According to SDT, there are basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness, the satisfaction of which facilitates intrinsic motivation, and psychological wellness.

Another key message is that a growth mindset promotes resilience. This is important because learners’ interpretations of their social or academic adversities have an as significant impact on academic performance as actual abilities. Hence it is crucial to teach skills and competencies to build resilience which is incorporated in Estonia’s curriculum framework.

Finally, we discussed neuromyths and neurohits in education. It is beneficial for educators, policymakers, students and parents to be aware of the latest neuroscience research, to be able to carefully interpret it and create meaningful implementations in different learning environments.

Who inspired or impressed you the most during the course and why? It could be one of the lecturers or even one of your fellow participants.  

It is challenging to single out one specific individual or professor simply because of the diversity of people, professional fields and perspectives we all had a chance to experience. Our class included teachers, educational policymakers, learning psychology professionals, librarians from Ghana, Brazil and all over Europe and Asia. What I find inspiring is how open the communication between educational researchers and practitioners in Estonia is.

During the program, we visited one innovative school in Estonia, Viimsi Gymnasium. I was impressed by how committed its teachers were to constant evidence-based improvement. They openly recognized their achievements but equally highlighted the areas they need to ameliorate. Our lecturers from Tallinn University also shared that innovation does not necessarily require a lot of investment or a top-down approach to its implementation. Innovation happens in close collaboration between educational researchers, practitioners, and students working together not in the lab but in the real classroom environment.

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Who would you recommend to take part of this course in the future? What do you think, who would benefit from it the most?

I believe this course would not only benefit teachers but also people in technology, like me, who are interested in developing successful learning products. Though edtech is not the main focus of the program, you will learn about the fundamental and recent educational research as well as from practitioners from Estonian and other education systems about what is effective in the real world.


Nathan from the UK shares his thoughts on the Winter School course as follows: 
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and the reasons you chose this specific winter school course?

I work in education as a teacher and I appreciate the value of expanding my mind by attending Internationally focused programs of study. I decided to study Educational Innovation as I really like the Estonian culture, the forward-thinking mindset of the Estonian people and I knew the course would be culturally diverse. I really enjoyed the course and would definitely recommend it to other people. The topic can be applied to a number of different job sectors so this would be a great professional development option for many future participants.

How relevant is the topic of Educational Innovation in the wider world at the moment? Why or why not? Should it be different?

Educational Innovation is pivotal for the future, the next generation and society as a whole. With an emphasis on Life Long Learning, anybody can take value from a course like this. Cultural insight and a chance to think objectively about global educational approaches.

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What are the few key messages you are taking with you from this course?

For me, I am inspired by the course and have thought about the principles we learned of since. I particularly found value in autonomous learning methodologies applied within the Estonian educational system, Self Determination Theory, Motivation analysis and the competencies Estonian teachers require due to my goal of teaching at the university level. I recently completed my Master's degree in the UK, but the short course made me want to study the MA in Educational Innovation and to certainly pursue my teaching Internationally.

Who inspired or impressed you the most during the course and why? It could be one of the lecturers or even one of your fellow participants.  

I was inspired by Merlin, Reet and Kadi's teaching as I found it to be well informed, carefully considered and interesting. There was a nice mix of group work and information delivery.

Who would you recommend to take part of this course in the future? What do you think, who would benefit from it the most?

This course is really for anyone wishing to learn more about educational structures. Its applicability is unbounded with a global reach, so if your sector is not necessarily education-based its still worth attending as we all learn and we all need to keep feeding our minds with the growth mindset approach!


Read more about Tallinn Winter School here.

Read more about the MA study program Educational Innovation and Leadership