(Finland) Meeting with Marjaana Kangas, playful learning specialist

During his recent educational expedition to Finland, our collaborator Marc-André Girard spoke with Professor Marjaana Kangas, from the University of Lapland, who studies the mechanisms of playful learning. Listen to the interview as a podcast or read its report here!

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Automated English translation - (sometimes hilarious) mistakes can creep in! ;)

During his recent educational expedition to Finland, our collaborator Marc-André Girard spoke with associate professor Marjaana Kangas, from the University of Lapland, who studies the mechanisms of playful learning. Listen to the interview as a podcast or read its report here!

In Finland, learning through play is part of the curriculum. This component includes various activities that allow both students and the teacher to leave the classroom, this formal place of learning.

It is from this perspective that Professor Marjaana Kangas, from the University of Lapland, is studying the mechanisms of playful learning. The professor has been working on this subject since 2001 within a Finnish research group.

Essentially, the professor studies various questions that many teachers ask themselves: 

  • How to combine the learning to achieve and the skills to develop in a game atmosphere? 
  • How do you ensure that students have fun learning? 
  • How to carry out educational activities outside and thus learn in the open air?

It would be a question of a change of mentality in the teacher, a change of posture. The teacher, initially, must ensure that part of the control of the class returns to the pupils. The latter then take responsibility for their behavior, but also for the learning to be achieved. This empowerment can also go further: students can also take responsibility for the learning of their peers. 

In this approach, discussion with the students is essential: what are the rules to be put in place? What are the objectives of the course? How to use the tools made available to them? The roles of each are to be planned in advance in order to ensure the smooth running of each session. It is from this discussion that meaning is created, for both the students and the teacher.

Then, the teacher must be prepared to learn with his students, in addition to learning from them. Of course, the activity must be guided by the teacher, but his work goes beyond the actual teaching. You also have to motivate the troops, guide them, supervise them, continually give meaning to the action and share your expertise with your students.

Finally, the collaborative potential is inseparable from playful learning. Children learn to collaborate and, above all, to regulate themselves in their approach. They also give each other peer-to-peer feedback at times.

How do we learn while having fun? 

Professor Kangas' studies have shown that learning is no longer just a cognitive process, but also an emotional process and a physical process. 

On the emotional level, the process relates in particular to the construction of meaning in a playful learning activity and the ability to manage one's emotions, in particular according to the difficulties experienced or in contexts of collaboration with peers. 

On the physical level, it is by moving and making movements that the possibilities of learning appear, in particular through experimentation and action. By moving, the student discovers his environment, his body and the interaction between the two.

In short, learning is serious, but sometimes pleasure must coexist with seriousness!

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in humanities education (1999), a master's degree in history teaching (2003) and a master's degree in educational management (2013). He is currently a doctoral student in school administration. He specializes in change management in schools as well as in educational leadership. He is also interested in 21st century skills to be developed in education. He holds a managerial position in a public primary school and gives lectures on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in the school environment as well as on the professionalization of teaching. He took part in educational expeditions to France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book “Le change en milieu scolaire québécois” with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the school of the 21st century with the same publisher. He frequently collaborates with L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and school administrators as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement.

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