Monkeys in Finland? Well, NFC Oulu now has one!

Happy winners of the 2010 Monkey Awards

Last night the Contactless Intelligence Monkey Award in the category “Public Concern” was won by the city of Oulu. Congratulations!

As part of the NFC City project, students participated in NFC interactive time-tabling and projects, utilising smart posters at home and school. It’s a great way to introduce smart posters to the younger generation, as a fun and interactive way of accessing information. “VIKSU” Info channel consisted of active timetable/homework and school media content. All students taking part in the project had a smart poster at home with NFC tags for their timetable, homework, and for the school information channel. There were also smart posters in many school locations. The pilot was implemented in Laanila upper secondary school.

By touching a tag, the student received an active timetable on his/her NFC mobile phone (containing, as well as the daily timetable, all possible doctor and other appointments, changes in classroom/teaching space, and other exceptions to the timetable), and homework assignments with instructions. The pedagogical goal was to strengthen cooperation between home and school by ensuring that everyone had up-to-date, reliable information, and to reduce absences due to lack of information. Changes in the system were carried out via the calendar function built for the project. Entries in the calendar could be made by the school staff, by guardians, and by the student. The student could choose whether his/her own entries were visible to others.

Preparation of the content for the school’s media screen began in May 2008. The content was material produced by students about school events, celebrations, and, for example, school interviews and class introductions. By touching a tag a student could choose the content of choice from the list of links received. The content of the information channel was stored on a server available to the entire school’s students and staff. Also, in the entrance hall of Laanila Secondary School was a wide screen on which the information channel content could be shared. An NFC-enabled mobile phone, when touched to an NFC tag next to the giant screen, operated as a remote control for the giant screen for a period of three minutes.

The pilot was conducted at Laanila Upper Secondary School, in the City of Oulu. The pedagogical goal of the NFC based “VIKSU” Info Channel is to provide NFC based homework assignment functionality and the active timetable supporting the following cross-curricular themes:

  • Growing as a person (the students’ life skills grow as they are better able to plan their timetable and meetings, and take care of homework assignments)
  • Technology and the individual.

Additionally, these two NFC-based services save teachers time for activities that better support learning. The NFC information channel supports communication and media skills. The students themselves produce material for the information channel; this increases understanding of communication and brings students into a situation where they have to consider the sense and content of the information being published. It also encourages community spirit in the school.

Schools have traditionally been the last places to test technology. However, the representatives of Oulu say that it is of the utmost importance that technology aimed for schools is tested in an authentic environment. All eighth grade students typically have a personal mobile phone, so its use was perceived as natural.

In 2009, the City Of Oulu has started to build the Ritaharju School of the Future, where school environment technology tests will be focused on the future. Ritaharju School will have a ‘tri-part’ approach (public sector, private sector, and research) – a ‘living lab’ learning environment model. An important criteria for choosing staff is their R&D orientation and ability to innovate. A separate communication/research permission practice is being developed for students of the Ritaharju School of the Future and their parents. With the new practice, parents and children will be aware of the school’s orientation, and technology test projects will not require written permission each time.

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