Narration of my first encounter with teachers during my research at Ristiina a public school near Mikkeli, Eastern Finland.

In a workshop organised at Ristiina yhtenäiskoulu in Mikkeli, a group of teachers from upper secondary school were introduced to DIGI , the digital newspaper portal of the National Library of Finland, and informed about the Aviisi project . Without having previously known or used this resource, after a short introduction, the teachers were left some minutes to search articles, read and finally discuss what could they do with their students.

Open newspapers during Aviisi project.

Though they had the possibility to choose from some clippings, all participants searched actively for articles and most found material somehow related with things discussed in class and came up with a handful of ideas. To learn how the historical newspapers reported or speculated of events or historical figures that today belong in history books was the most interesting aspect of these materials for history teachers. Literature teachers found that articles reporting about writers such as Aleksis Kivi or Minna Canth would be nice complementary material to reading their works; also to examine how the language was used in the early 1900s. Often students are prompted to bring their own clippings from newspaper and magazines, e.g. to make translations into English, something that they could also do with historical newspapers. Even in science subjects, where history plays a secondary role and teachers might find harder to use historical sources, an article about the comet Haley passing Finland in 1909 could trigger some interesting discussion.

In this short exercise we were provided very nice examples of the educational potential of historical newspapers; also we learned what is important for teachers, for preparing and doing activities in class. Teachers are professional collectors themselves, if they find material they can use, they consider important that it remains available for them to re-use, print or share in their working platforms. Many teachers find inspiration outside work and having online access to materials from home is a big plus.

At Ristiina, Picture by Tuula Pääkkönen.

This productive encounter marks the beginning of a collaboration between Ristiina yhtenäiskoulu with Aviisi and my ongoing doctoral research at the University of Helsinki, that collects learning stories from teachers and seeks to find current practices of how historical materials (newspapers, but also other open heritage materials) can complement learning activities in class.

This blog article was published first in Aviisi , Apr 14, 2016