Well, it cost me an entire suitcase full of my belongings*, but I’ve now experienced the absolutely beautiful country of Finland over an eight day stay around the 2014 edition of the EdMedia conference.
To business first: the conference itself was pretty informative, despite having a K-12 focus that, I’ve been told, was much more prominent than in other years. “Chalk that up to the enviable Finnish education system” seemed to be the consensus: everyone wants to learn what they’re doing so right. Sessions covered everything from collaborative flow research in educational games (probably my favorite, to be honest) to the viability of traditional assessment models in increasingly un-traditional classrooms and beyond. Other notable discussions centered on self-publishing tools and resources, 3D printing in Canadian schools and a MOOC platform that protects user data and makes all content openly retrievable and accessible. Another perk of the conference setting: seeing learning space design at the University of Tampere (the spaceport building in my travelogue is Pinni B on campus, where we had our proceedings).
There are, of course, a bunch more photos on Flickr, if that’s your thing.
And to pleasure: it was one being in Tampere. The city itself is smaller than Pittsburgh and infinitely walkable, a fact I exploited extensively to quickly make a mental map which served for much exploration. An interesting – and only-in-Europe – mix of old factory town architecture and modern/futuristic construction made turning each corner an unexpected but aesthetically stimulating experience. And the proximity to water gave the entire thing a coastal vibe that, when coupled with the 30ºF lower temperatures than home, added to the sense of retreat. My PSU colleagues and I even braved driving in “big animal” (as they refer to moose, elk and reindeer) country to head up to Rauma, a living, breathing medieval village full of adorably painted wooden houses.
Having visited during Midsummer – the longest days of the year – made sleeping
a challenge an exercise in futility but was ideal for being a tourist with conference obligations during the days. Really, day and night are pretty artificial concepts when the sun’s just getting around to setting at about 1:00. Going in with the idea that I’d likely never see Finland again, I can definitely say I was wholly wrong: I want to go back as soon as I can and travel around even more of Scandinavia, too.
* About that suitcase: the only downside to the entire trip was having my bag “removed” from the Tampere – Helsinki train the day before flying out. Could have done without that turn of events and the hours of phone calls, forms and fretting that followed. I take solace in the dumbfounded looks on Finnish faces as I told my tale – a very uncommon one in a country so safe that their largest city’s police station closes up shop at 18:00 on a Friday night.