Designing the creative classroom of the future - Interview with Isa Jahnke

07/05/2015 10:02

The text below is from an interview with Professor Isa Jahnke, Umea University, 2012.
The original article can be found here:
Read also the Swedish research portrait

"Smartphones, tablet computers, social media – new trends in information technology have emerged during the last decade. Isa Jahnke studies how these new technologies can help to support teaching and learning.

In a few years, textbooks may not be needed anymore in schools. Tablet computers like the iPad can not only store all books in one handy device, but offer new possibilities of teaching and learning. “However, new technologies like the iPad are not used to their full potential yet,” says Isa Jahnke, professor in ICT, Media and Learning at Umeå University. “Many teachers don’t know how to integrate new technologies into their learning environment, so they ban them from their classrooms.”

Isa Jahnke studies how the classroom of the future must be designed to include new technologies, and how to help teachers to use them. “Studies have shown that active learning is better than passive consumption. Students need to be not only consumers, but producers of knowledge. They learn best if they contemplate the subject matters, not if the teacher just tells them the facts,” says Isa Jahnke. In educational sciences, this is called the shift from teaching paradigm to learning paradigm. However, today’s classrooms still mainly consist of teaching.

Isa Jahnke wants to find out how active learning can be supported. “How can we improve the teaching and learning situation to enable opportunities for learning?” is her main research question. “New technologies can support the shift from teaching to learning, but not by themselves. Implementing new technologies in a learning environment may also require new didactical methods. If iPads are just used like electronic textbooks, the students are still not actively involved in the learning process,” explains Isa Jahnke.

This is where she sees her research area. With an academic background in sociology and social sciences, Isa Jahnke became more of an interdisciplinary researcher when integrating educational and computer sciences into her PhD work. As one of the very few researchers who combine these subjects, she is an expert for the socio-technical design of learning environments: “I work with a socio-technical-educational approach. We cannot examine the use of new technologies in learning environments without considering the social and educational changes connected with it.”

She elaborates: “A lot has changed in information technology during the last years, which has influenced our ways of learning and communicating. If you have a question, you google it or ask your friends on Facebook or Twitter, and you’ll get an answer within seconds. If you disagree with someone during a discussion, you can quickly look up on your smartphone who is right. This kind of informal learning has made quite an impact on the formal, institutionalized learning in school, universities or companies. Combining the formal learning with, for example, social media, is an added value especially for the students.”

When Isa Jahnke, who is originally from Germany and previously worked at Bochum University and Technical University of Dortmund, read the job posting for the professorship in ICT, Media and Learning at Umeå University, she was thrilled: “The professorship combines all my fields of interest and research. I did not even know where exactly Umeå was, but it felt like this job was created just for me.” So she moved 2000 km up north – a decision she does not regret."