In May 2019, two blingual classes at Jalavapuiston Koulu in Espoo worked on Betwyll with James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. We interviewed their teachers about this co-creation process.
Teachers Anu Karhi and Maaria Hakonen designed a bilingual social reading project for their students in grade 3 and 6 to practice English and Finnish through social reading. The idea was to make them interact with the two main characters of the book shifting from one language to the other. It was the first time that Betwyll was used to comment on a book using two languages at the same time. To do that, the teachers created and managed two fictional accounts on the app: the students had to use English with The Old Grasshopper and Finnish with The Centipede. An assignment that proved successful: in one month the comments published by the 47 participants onto the app were 1.706!
With this project you are carrying out an experiment to implement and develop the social reading approach in a primary school in Finland. What are your expectations?
There is a lot of talk in the media in Finland at the moment about reading skills, how important they are and how the children are falling behind in their reading skills. We are doing a lot of work in schools promoting reading and trying to find new inspiring ways to read. We feel Betwyll could be one of these ways. Social reading is not so familiar to all teachers in Finland, yet. We are only starting to understand the power of social reading and how to build reading societies in classes and in schools. Betwyll brings modern social communication and traditional reading together in an inspiring way.
Why did you choose James and the Giant Peach as the first book to work on with Betwyll? What makes the story and its characters interesting for your students?
Working with children in grade 3 and 6 simultaneously, we had to find a book that would suite both age groups. We also had to take into consideration the fact that our time limit was very tight, so the book couldn’t be too long. It was a Roald Dahl book – whose books the kids usually enjoy a lot. Hardly no one had read this one before and it was easy to access from the public library.
Working and co-creating with EdTech startups might be very challenging for teachers. It usually implies unforeseen activities, dealing with bugs and development limits. What do you expect from this collaboration in the mid/long-term?
As the app becomes more reliable we can concentrate all our energy in the actual activity with the students. The first experiment shows that Betwyll is very exhilarating and students enjoyed working with it very much. I feel one of the best comments was: “The characters in the book ask so much better questions than the teacher” 🙂
The Finnish education system is considered a world benchmark, both for the strong pedagogical background of the teachers and for its openness to innovation. What is the secret sauce that makes it so outstanding?
All teachers in Finland study at the University and have a master’s degree Education. We feel that is a strong base to start from. Also, teachers in Finland have a lot of creative freedom in their work and the trust of their headmasters that they do a good job.
#Jättipersikka is a project made possible by the City of Espoo, within the framework of KYKY Living Lab, a cooperation process through which the school community develops products and services with companies and communities to support learning and growth. The project at Jalavapuiston Koulu is our first social reading experiment in Finland and it will continue throughout 2019 to foster co-creation between the school and Betwyll.
Jalavapuiston Koulu is a school of about 350 primary school students located in mid Espoo, one of the cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan area. The school was established in 1998. It is a two-series school with one half being a Finnish primary school and the other half a bilingual English-Finnish school, where students study in both languages according to the Finnish national curriculum. It also has 18 students altogether in 3 disabled children classes.
Anu Kahri is a primary school teacher with qualifications to teach Math also in middle school. She has worked as a teacher for 20 years and is also an ICT trainer for the city of Espoo, a tutor in her own school and a trainer for the Innokas network. She loves to try all new technology applications. Currently she is working as a primary school teacher in an English bilingual class.
Maaria Hakonen is a primary school teacher, specialized in Finnish language and with qualification to teach Theatre and Drama also in middle school. She has worked as a teacher for 30 years, the last 10 years in bilingual school as a Finnish teacher. She loves literature, storytelling acting and writing stories with students. She is interested in finding new ways to discuss literature and develop new ways of follow-on working after reading.