I wasn´t concerned about the consequences of Covid-19 on my work until just before the Finnish government decided to prohibit contact teaching and switch to distance teaching. I suspected possible school closures in some future. Finally, I had one whole school day to help install and teach distance learning tools for students after school closure notification of our management.
I had planned to introduce an e-textbook or more specifically a virtual cooking teaching material later, but I postponed the introduction as the students had recently started their studies and I didn´t want to upset the group of adult immigrant students with demanding vocabulary too early. I think kitchen teaching is better and more motivating start always with more practicality. The main thing is to understand the ways of working in the kitchen. The language skills increase with work effectively little by little. People learn the language by doing interesting things together.
This time, however, my pedagogical idea did not lead to the best situation. Fortunately, digital material existed, we have systems set up for online lessons, I had reasonably good laptop, work phone and I even had an iPad because I took part in an international project CORE. Most Finnish teachers did not have as good tools.
The initial difficulty was to get students to log in to the virtual material and learning platform. This may not sound too difficult but when you have language barriers and the information technology skills of the students are low – some have barely used the computer – many students needed strong personal help. In addition, half of the students had missed the last day of contact teaching because of natural fear of the situation. Then, the rest of the students had to assist remotely and that took a lot of time. Even the student’s godchildren helped with the programs. The younger ones master the technology.
Another problem was that even though I had good equipment myself, many students did not have it. In addition, most of my students have children. For example, we also currently have four distance students and one distance teacher in our home. It is a pretty interesting situation if everyone has a remote lesson at the same time. This sets demands on equipment and internet connection especially when living in countryside. Our institution has borrowed some equipment for the students. Also, we have two Chromebooks borrowed from a local primary school. Student´s life situation must really be taken account when planning distance school assignments and online learning sessions. In this, the key word is flexibility. It cannot be expected to reach all students at the same time. My students must take care of their children, as well ast their distance school and food supply daily.
My recipe for distance teaching has been a combination of Google Classroom and virtual learning material called eKokki. I have also had weekly online teaching sessions via Meet. I try to use as much video material as possible (self-made and ready). All this material is linked to the classroom so it’s easy to find. Moodle and Microsoft products like Teams etc. are commonly used in Omnia. But in my opinion, they are all just tools, you can use whatever you find practical. The core is that the teacher needs to be reachable, in my case I use also text messaging, email and phone for personal contacts every day.
Our government and educational administration are boasting of the digital leap we are having right now. In Finnish we could also call it digital (forced) jump or incomprehensibly laborious workout. But personally, I am happy that I have had contact with my students all the time during the school closure and 90 percent of students do their assignments at some point, sometimes a bit late, but anyway they do it. One of these days the Finnish government decides if they will continue remote teaching. After this exercise some beautiful day, we all really enjoy about real learning by doing in the kitchen.
Janne Möhkölä, distance learning teacher, Omnia
Read more about the CORE-project on CORE-Project's webpage.