‘It sounded like fun, that we would get to go to the university.’ Pupils teaching ICT to peers: a case study of Finnish Media Agents

Helen Caldwell

Helen Caldwell

This Finnish study reports a practical experiment involving young pupils, their teachers and university students, named the Media Agent project. The purpose of the project was for the university students to teach the schoolchildren new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills, which they then would teach to other pupils and teachers at their own schools.

The pedagogical use of ICT in schools is not an easy task and several kinds of challenges have been reported, such as lack of resources and attitudes, or the technical skills of teachers. As a possible solution to support the progress of technology use, we carried out and investigated a project in which pupils acted as ‘media agents’. This means that instead of teachers, the pupils taught other pupils, but also teachers, and in some cases, even parents in the use of ICT in school. The project was part of a wider activity called the Media Path. In the Media Path, university students taught these ‘media agents’ different kinds of media skills and technological knowledge which, in turn, the media agents taught to new audiences in their schools. Many of the university students were teacher students, but there were also students from other disciplines.

In the article (link) we report our research concerning six Finnish elementary schools, from which 4th grade pupils participated in the project. Participation in the project was voluntary, and the reasons to participate in project were various. Rational reasoning concerned interest in technology and devices, but also in learning new things. The emotional aspect was described as “how it sounded”: several pupils used the same expression: “it sounded fun/interesting/exciting”.

From pupils’ role to teachers’ role
The role of the pupil changed somewhat. This was experienced, among other things, as a shift from a more or less passive listener, reacting to orders from a teacher, to a more active partner of an instructional process. The role change was especially obvious when the media agents taught the schoolteachers.

Instructional process
The pupils were asked to describe the instructional processes – how they felt teaching or instructing other people. They mentioned two aspects: a general feeling and the difficultness aspect. In general, the pupils commented that they had experienced these situations as ‘nice’. The pupils also mentioned that they had felt some nervousness, at least in the beginning when they started to act as media agents.

The significance of the university
The project involved collaboration between the university and the local schools. It was an interesting combination and an example of how universities and their surrounding society benefit from each other.
It seems that pupils’ own perception of their status as media agents became higher because when visiting the university, they received a personal experience of how the university, as a real place and institution, is involved in the project.

Pedagogical Implications
Based on our experiences of the Media agent project and the research results, we can say that this model for teaching and learning ICT seems to be very positive and successful in many ways. Our understanding is that there is much potential in peer learning – much more than what we currently use. Pupils could be used more in teaching, i.e. peer-to-peer learning.
Providing autonomy to the students feeds their intrinsic motivation (e.g. Reeve, 2009; Byman & Kansanen, 2008), and also may cause them to feel stronger school engagement and well-being (e.g. Pietarinen et al. 2014), as well as ultimately result in a student’s pedagogical thinking (Byman & Kansanen, 2008; Mylläri et al. 2011).
For teacher education, this model concretely shows future teachers how (young) pupils can be activated, engaged and even empowered into taking more responsibility for their own and others’ learning. The teachers who adopt this peer-learning or -teaching model need to be able to let the students “take the floor”, allow them to be the experts, and make room for them.
Currently in the Finnish society and in the context of education, agency has become more and more important. By involving the pupils and older students more intensively in their own learning, and letting them take responsibility in many different ways, we could help them in growing to become active citizens for future societies.
However, we also can ask to what degree we can utilize children in this kind of work. They also need to be able to live a child’s life, without too much pressure from different assignments, or taking on overly large responsibilities.

Maaranen, K. & Kynäslahti, H. (2021). “It sounded like fun, that we would get to go to the university” Pupils Teaching ICT to Peers: A Case Study of Finnish Media Agents, Technology, Pedagogy & Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2021.1876756

Link to the full paper: