Posts in the education category

Text and Photos: Heini Pääkkönen


The motto ‘there are no limits!’ has been a driving force in Karina’s life, helping her become one of the few female general directors of Instituto Federal de São Paulo’s Câmpus Salto in Brazil. The inspiration for her career as a leader came in part from Finland.

Karina Ap. F. Dias de Souza is a pioneer in the field of female leadership in Brazil, having undertaken a long journey to become a general director at Instituto Federal de São Paulo’s Câmpus Salto in Brazil. The position of women in Brazilian society is changing gradually from that of a house wife to one of career woman. Female leaders are gaining more value than before thanks to their good organisational skills and their ability to listen. One big step for the women of Brazil was the election of the first female President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, and even the boundaries between roles at home are becoming more blurred, with men participating more in housework.

‘In our house, for example, my husband cooks and does all the ironing. I don’t feel the pressure of learning to do these things just because I’m a woman. I do other things that I’m better at,’ Karina smiles.

Karina started her educational career at Campus São Paulo in 2010 as a chemistry teacher. She progressed quickly to management roles, first as a manager’s assistant, coordinating courses, and eventually to the position of educational director, the right hand of the general director. It was during this time that she first discovered an interest in management and leadership as a career choice. However, when she returned from maternity leave after her first child was born, Karina returned to regular teaching. The general director had changed whilst she was on leave and new directors had been chosen.

Her old interest in a career in management was sparked again during Karina’s first visit to Finland in 2015, while she was participating the Teachers for the Future programme.

‘I was amazed by the strong culture of trust in Finland. You trust that the students will study, teachers will teach, and managers will do their jobs without being constantly supervised and controlled. The culture is completely different from ours. In Brazil, the trust is non-existent. In Finland people trust that I will do my best and this is something I wanted to bring home with me. I think this is also one of the core reasons why the Finnish education system is so successful,’ Karina explains.

What better way could there be to pass her vision on to others than as general director of Campus São Paulo. Karina decided to go for it and apply in the next election. A major challenge was the fact that there had never been a female rector at Instituto Federal de São Paulo, and of 35 general directors only three were women. It seemed that the odds were against her. Sometimes it can be hard to be a woman applying for a such a high position in a conservative country where people are used to having male directors. People’s opinions can be quite harsh in relation to women who try to reach these positions. One of the biggest prejudices women leaders face stems from the fact that if they have children, they will be on maternity leave at least for six months: something a man would never have to do.

‘I would not have applied for the position of general director were it not for the trip to Finland. I bounced the idea of putting myself forward as an applicant back and forth with my colleagues in Finland and they encouraged me to apply. So, I did and here I am,’ Karina smiles.

But the journey was not easy and Karina faced critical opinions along the way.

‘For example, I’ve been told that I got elected only because I was the better of two bad choices and the other applicant was dark-skinned,’ sighs Karina.

The hardest thing for Karina about her career has been shuffling between family and work, balancing between being a mother, a wife and building a career at the same time. And what happens to your own personal dreams on top of everything else? This is a problem that many women have to face, especially those in high positions.

‘I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s the society, but I feel that I should always be perfect. A constant sense of guilt follows me where ever I go. At work, I miss my family and I know I should be there more, whilst at home the pressure of people’s expectations and my workload is sitting on my shoulders.’

Karina’s mother was a single mother and raised her alone, and Karina met her father for the first time when she was 11 years old. Her attitude and courage she learned from her mother.

‘When I was young, my mother also used to work a lot. She was a nursing teacher and a single mom, always working or doing house work and I was by myself quite often. But when she was with me, she would pay full attention to me and I never felt left out or thought of her as a bad mother. On the contrary, my mother is my greatest idol and I learned my attitude towards life from her. She would always tell me that there are no limits and not to let anyone tell me what I can or cannot do.

I think this gets passed down through the generations. My grandmother was widowed very young and raised her children alone too. I met my father the first time when I was 11 years old, so I have never had a male figure in my life. That’s ok, since I’ve been surrounded with such brave women! I think us women should have mercy on ourselves. After all, we can only do the best we can.’

The trips to Finland were well-organised combinations of work and family; both times Karina brought her family with her. On the first trip for Teachers for the Future -training in autumn 2015, Karina’s mother and son travelled with her. This year when she was studying on the Finnish Teacher Training -programme (FiTT), her photographer husband and son accompanied her to enjoy a few chilly weeks of Finnish summer.

The trips were not all about work; Karina’s mother fell in love with Finnish flea markets and is now running her own in Brazil. The eco way of thinking is rapidly gaining popularity in Brazil and the idea of flea markets was considered an excellent one. Karina’s husband admires Finland’s nature and shot gigabytes of pictures during their stay.

‘What will I miss the most about Finland, hmm … probably the forests and incredible doughnuts at Pyynikki Observation Tower,’ Karina laughs.

Another thing that Karina was impressed by in Finland was the beautiful learning premises at TAMK, and how different learning spaces and colours support learning. This contrasts with the situation at home where the school building is old and had fallen into bad shape. She decided to do what she could to fix it. Due to the low budget available, she contacted all the teachers and the parents of the students and asked them if they would be willing to undertake voluntary work to support the school, painting classrooms and fixing broken equipment.

‘It was not our responsibility to take care of the building and not everyone that I contacted was pleased about the idea. Yet everyone who participated loved it and was keen for more projects like this. In addition to a better learning environment, working together increased team spirit and showed us that change is possible if you just get stuck in.’

Karina also wanted to set an example for others and not just boss people around, telling them what to do.

‘I was painting walls like everyone else. These kinds of little things are how I am trying to bring the Finnish culture of trust into our practices here in Brazil in my role as a director,’ says Karina proudly.

Floworks living lab is a 21st century development hub at Tampere University of Applied Sciences, which contributes to education by making internal operations function better. Sometimes described as co-creation of the education or students bringing innovation to education, Floworks works closely with students and engages them in a variety of learning projects.

It started in 2010 with a realization that there was a specific need of development opportunities to pursue. Resources were available for staff, however, there wasn’t enough time to dedicate to every single one of them. Since these projects seemed to be great learning experiences and students possessed the required skills and could get credits for them, why not combine the two elements and turn it into an excellent learning opportunity? As an answer to that question, Floworks was developed.

A small team of people, consisting of a Development Manager, Ilkka Haukijärvi and three Coaches, Jussi Hannunen, Timo Nevalainen and Kseniya Tarasova are actively engaged in working with students. From 1st of August, a new team member, Clémentine Arpiainen, will start working in Floworks as an Analyst. She will be closely involved within the living lab, including such areas as coaching, research, and development of the operations in general.

Projects vary from Engineering and ICT to Healthcare and Coaches are open to all degree programme students. It should be directly connected to their personalized curriculum so they are building their capabilities and competences expected to use in their future careers. The competences brought to each project include use of social media, use of ICT in delivering services along with a designer orientation for service modelling approach to development work.

However, Coaches understand there is no such thing as one fits all so, for particular projects, they’re looking for students with skills to match the requirements. In order to find them, they contact staff members and ask them to promote the projects, use social media tools and TAMK’s own communications system, Intra. In some occasions, they approach students personally by visiting them during classes and introduce them to the projects.

Projects are requested by TAMK’s organizational and teaching staff and their number varies a lot. Earlier this year, Floworks had about ten projects running at the same time. Coach Jussi Hannunen believes that’s quite a lot, but there are no limits. “Five to seven projects are more comfortable to work with. We value quality to quantity and we won’t take up any projects which don’t fit TAMK’s strategy and criteria.”

Deadlines for the projects are set with Floworks’s customers after deciding when they need the product and what is practical for the team. Students are guided by Coaches about their responsibilities so they know exactly what they have to do from the start until the end.

So far, Floworks’s customers have been really impressed by the work students put in. They realized that the more they engage with the project, the more useful the product will be and the deliverables. And that they can learn a lot about the functions of their own operations. Most of the projects have been successful and delivered what was expected from them and sometimes more.

Summer projects

This summer, Floworks has three exciting projects going on: “Orientation Goes Online”, “Building Connection with International Degree Programme Applicants” and “Video Production Team for Mindtrek 2016”.

Coach Timo Nevalainen reveals the purpose of the first two projects and how new students will benefit from them: “We’re trying to find ways to do online orientation for new international students before they arrive at TAMK and also during the orientation week at their arrival in Tampere. To come up with a service where TAMK will be as open and helpful as possible from the first minute a student is interested in studying with us. We’re targeting students from outside the European Union for our degree programmes in English. If they can learn more things before coming here, then they could dedicate more time to socializing at their arrival in Finland and take in the new information in a more relaxed way.

The second project aims to connect potential students considering applying to the International Business programme with existing students and staff here. This way, they will already have some contacts here and their parents will receive more information about TAMK.”

“There are two co-creative projects developing for new students by TAMK’s IB students. In these two projects, we have students from Arts and Media, Environmental Engineering and Piano Pedagogy. Third project comes from our partner, MINTREK. Mindtrek is an international conference on open community development and newest digital technologies in business, taking place in Tampere on the 17th of October. Altogether, the projects are covering the months of June, July and August.” adds Coach Kseniya Tarasova.

“Everybody needs new tools in delivering the services they provide, whether they’re provided to students, or in general. There’s always a chance to do your work better. And students can help with that by giving information, ideas, or even taking a concept that you have and turn it into a service you can use. These kind of opportunities exist in all big organizations, such as TAMK. There’s no fear that we will run out of projects.” concludes Jussi Hannunen.

Coach Jussi Hannunen hosting a workshop at Floworks

Coach Jussi Hannunen hosting a workshop at Floworks

Coach Kseniya Tarasova

Coach Kseniya Tarasova

Coach Timo Nevalainen

Coach Timo Nevalainen

TAMK students taking part in Floworks's summer projects

TAMK students taking part in Floworks’s summer projects

Floworks's Coaches working closely with TAMK students

Floworks’s Coach, Kseniya Tarasova having a lunch break with TAMK students


Text & photos: Andruta Ilie

Nordplus Seminar (1 of 4)

Jukka Vesterinen from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture

The seminar was held for the first time in Tampere and the event was hosted by Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

Digital International Collaboration in Education was the main theme for the seminar which showcased different projects that had been possible with Nordplus funding. The Nordplus programme aims to strengthen educational collaboration between the Nordic countries. There were participants from all of the countries and some of the Baltic countries were also represented, as new additions.

Before the actual project cases were shown, a presentation was held by Olli Vesterinen from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. He explained where Finland was going regarding digital education. After Vesterinen finished, there was a speech from Project NEMO’s Team Leader and Researcher, Katri Saarikivi from the Cognitive Brain Research Unit of University of Helsinki. The NEMO Project aims to bring empathy to the digital environment and possibly solve the issue of the mean and inhuman atmosphere surrounding internet behavior and social media. Even with the very complex neurobiological terms and theories, Saarikivi’s speech was both very understandable and enjoyable to listen to.

Nordplus Seminar (3 of 4)

Katri Saarikivi promoting the emotion hack day 16 for the NEMO project

Many interesting educational projects were introduced and some of them were quite complex. One of these was the interactive multilingual book for comprehensive school. The successful idea behind this project was to teach children different languages of Nordic countries. They created an online educational book which was then translated into different languages. You could read and listen to it side by side to see the differences in pronunciation and words.

One of the newer things among the projects helping digitalization is the MOOCs or Massive Open and Online Courses. This could potentially bring thousands of students, parents, employees or otherwise interested people to learn new and interesting topics with the magic of Internet and fast networks at their own convenience. All these people could learn from their own homes while the teacher could be on another continent. These virtual learning tools will give great possibilities to many people as technologies develop.

Nordplus Seminar (4 of 4)

A new technologies presentation given by Gytis Cibulskis

Gytis Cibulskis from Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania explained some of the new technologies such as VR or Virtual Reality and 360 degree cameras that could capture everything in the classroom or during an event, such as a conference.

At the end of the seminar a panel discussion was led by Nordplus’s Main Administrator and Special Adviser, Henrik Neiiendam Andersen from the Danish Agency for Higher Education. He and the seminar participants asked various questions regarding topics discussed for the panel consisting of Nordplus members from different Nordic countries.

Overall, the seminar gave new ideas and topics to the participants. For some, the MOOCs, VR and digital interactive books were new things they never heard of before. These seminars spread great ideas we’re developing in Nordic countries with help from Nordplus.


PowerPoint presentations and other material can be found on the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture website.

Text & Photos: Aleksi Jolkkonen

Igor Ter Halle


Back to Tampere University of Applied Sciences for the third time, representing Windesheim University of Netherlands during IWBAS 2016 was Igor Ter Halle, Lecturer in Online Communication. Igor hosted two lectures on ‘Content Marketing: how to get content right’ aiming to teach students how to develop a content strategy that works.

The interest rate in his lectures was impressive and overcame his expectations; a number of fifty Finnish and exchange students showed up to listen to his knowledge.  “I’m very satisfied with the overall result. All students spoke English very well and they were not afraid of making errors. We make errors all the time in life.”, he said. Though Dutch people are more perfectionists and stressed about getting things done properly, Igor sees the laid-back Finnish way rather relaxing and ascribes it to the self-confidence of having a great educational system: “You can’t go anywhere else in the world for a better system. Finland is famous for that. We even have TV documentaries on the Finnish education.”

Another differentiating aspect between TAMK and Windesheim University is the number of degree programmes in English. TAMK provides its students with more options. Igor is currently developing a business semester in English, starting in September and hoping to encourage Dutch students to cross their boundaries and dare improving their cultural skills, along with Erasmus students.

There are, of course, similarities between the two universities.  Both use innovative practices and focus on coaching instead of traditional teaching in order to create and deliver experiences and not just knowledge. Since students don’t respond to traditional lectures anymore, teachers and educators are challenged to find new ways of getting their attention. This is done through combining lectures, workshops and projects in an entrepreneurial manner. “Thinking outside the box” is the solution Igor believes in.

Igor’s career path took an interesting turn during the years, starting as a Journalist and currently being a Lecturer in Online Communication. The education field offers the freedom of creating your own job, however, this comes with responsibilities and obligations too. “What I like most about working in education is that I never did the same thing twice”, he states.

“I’d like my students to stop trying controlling everything and sometimes, just let it happen. To stick to themselves and find out first what motivates them. There are lots of people who are not doing the job they are trained for. They can do a lot more than they think, if they would only try.”


Text & photo: Andruta Ilie

Group photo

In the photo ( from left to right): Mark Curcher ( Program Director for the 21st Century Educators Program at TAMK), Dr Rodolfo Silveira, Carita Prokki ( Director, TAMK EDU) and Virpi Heinonen (Adviser, Global Education at TAMK)

Forty years have passed since his previous trip to Finland, and Doctor Rodolfo Silveira, Counselor at the Technological University of Uruguay (UTEC) and President of Board of Directors at The National Research and Innovation Agency of Uruguay (ANII), returned to visit TAMK and several Finnish universities in order to transfer new teaching and learning techniques back home.

His visit is a consequence of an agreement with UPM (a Finnish forest industry company) in 2015, aiming to build a new Regional Technological University (ITR) in Fray Bentos to advance technical skills and engineering expertise in rural Uruguay. The regional university will specialize in mechatronics, renewable energy, transport and logistics. ‘Finland is famous for its education system, comprehending the early stages up to the academic levels. We have a similar model in Uruguay and we need more innovators and entrepreneurs to facilitate the mobility between different degree offers. The purpose of my trip is to see how it’s possible to collaborate and to develop programmes and activities together. It can be a win-win situation ’, he said.

Dr Silveira recognizes challenges while switching to a new education model. “We have to change people’s mindsets. In general, people are conservative and don’t receive changes well. If we are able to demonstrate this new model actually works, they might respond in a positive way. Our government and political parties are supportive, but without the society’s involvement, it won’t be possible to do anything. The natural course of evolution is to move forward. The whole world is changing and we have to constantly reinvent ourselves. Ideally, it will result in a better life quality for us all.”

Read more about the agreement between UPM and UTEC here:


Text & photo: Andruta Ilie