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Digital Literacies in the New Finnish National Core Curriculum

By Carita Kiili and Sirpa Eskelä-Haapanen
 | Aug 28, 2015

shutterstock_120251737_x300The new Finnish national core curriculum (from pre-education to the ninth grade) will be used nationwide, beginning in the school year 2016–2017. The core curriculum work, involving the expertise of educational professionals, teachers, and different societal organizations, was completed in the end 2014. At the moment, local curriculum work (based on national core curriculum) has already launched in municipalities and in schools.

Along the way, the process has drawn international attention (see articles in The Washington Post and International Education News). From our perspectives as a researcher and a senior lecturer from the University of Jyväskylä, we have our own interpretations of how the forthcoming curriculum will provide opportunities to enhance students’ digital literacies.

The most essential aspect in the curriculum reform is the shift from focusing on learning objectives related to single subjects to an emphasis on broader competencies crossing all learning in schools. The seven competence areas are as follows:

  1. Thinking and learning to learn
  2. Cultural competence, interaction, and self-expression
  3. Taking care of oneself and others; managing daily life
  4. Multiliteracies
  5. Working life competence and entrepreneurship
  6. Competence in information and communication technology (ICT)
  7. Participation, involvement, and building a sustainable future

In one way or another, digital literacies are embedded into all competence areas, but most explicitly into the areas of multiliteracies and ICT.

In the curriculum, multiliteracies refer to “interpretation, composing, and evaluation of written, spoken, and multimodal texts within a rich textual environment.” Multiliteracies help students to interpret the surrounding world and to understand its cultural diversity. By producing different kinds of printed and digital texts, learners are able to express themselves by using their strengths. Teachers are expected to use meaningful and authentic texts so that students learn not only literacy skills but also the enjoyment of reading and writing. 

All classroom and subject teachers are responsible for developing students’ multiliteracies, including both everyday language and disciplinary language. Further, ICT skills are an essential part of multiliteracies and other wide-ranging competencies. ICT should be embedded into all teaching so that students learn to use digital technologies to cocreate and share new knowledge as well as to interact within and across communities. 

The new core curriculum offers great possibilities to develop and support students’ digital literacies and digital citizenship. Of course, the extent to which Finnish schools will be able to realize this potential is dependent upon local curriculum work, the culture of each school, and engagement of individual teachers.

The local curriculum created by teachers and other educational professionals will play a key role in specifying and localizing the broader aims of national curriculum. In this curriculum process, the aims are also transformed into concrete teaching and learning practices. The strength of the Finnish curriculum process is that it enables teachers’ engagement in the curriculum development. However, one concern is that digital literacies may receive too little attention in this transformation.

School culture greatly affects the level of innovation with which digital technologies are used in schools. That means that it’s not only the level of equipment but also the level of commitment that educators have toward developing pedagogically meaningful ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning. At its best, the school culture encourages teacher collaboration and collaborative teaching. This collaboration is essential to integrate ideas and practices across different disciplines within and across schools.

In Finland, teachers have a lot of autonomy to realize the aims of the curriculum, which introduces possibilities as well as responsibilities. Teachers can actualize the curriculum according to their own pedagogical views and their strengths as teachers. Thus, this might result in varying levels of attention to digital literacies.  

In spite of some critical viewpoints, we, like most Finnish people, believe that in the long run, our teachers and schools will do well.

You can learn more about the Curriculum Reform 2016 in the March 2015 blog post by Irmeli Halinen, the head of Curriculum Development for the Finnish National Board of Education. You might also enjoy this slideshow presentation about the reform, prepared by Jorma Kauppinen, the director of the Finnish National Board of Education.

Carita_kiilliSirpa_koivu_1Carita Kiili, PhD, is a researcher and Sirpa Eskelä-Haapanen, PhD, is a senior lecturer of Early Years Education. They are both at University of Jyväskylä in Finland.

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