The city of Helsinki promotes e-learning in primary schools thanks to location-based games

The city

The Media Centre within the Education Department of the city of Helsinki is in charge of developing media education and e-learning by supporting teachers’ ICT skills and media competence. The centre is also developing mobile technology projects with tablets and laptops, which include geo-information.

The challenge

The Media Centre is always in search for innovative learning methods in order to advance teaching methods and standards in Helsinki schools. Between 2011 and 2015 the Media Centre is testing several solutions based on GPS technology for outdoor education for inquiry-based learning, which aimed at implementing playful learning methods in primary schools.

The satellite solution

Action Track, a GPS-based learning game, was implemented at the beginning of 2014 in five primary schools in Helsinki. This solution, launched by the Finnish company TAZ, allows people without any special skills to create location-based activities, which can then be downloaded via a mobile application and played outside.

How does it work? Teachers use the ActionTrack web tool to select several locations on Google Maps, and upload multimedia material. It can be information about the place, interactive challenges, questions, or check-points. Pupils download this itinerary on their phones or tables, and let themselves be guided in real time, thanks to the GPS system on their phones, by following an arrow on their screen, or pictures of things they must find and recognise along their route, or by using a compass showing on their screens. Once they get to a check-point, players can check in real time by scanning a QR code indoors or by using GPS outdoors.

The result

Different types of projects were developed in each school. In the field of environmental education for instance, pupils can identify plants and animals during outdoor activities thanks to geolocated placemarks. In history, they discovered key facts on the Suomenlinna fortress, a UNESCO classified monument in Helsinki, by creating a mobile game based on geoinformation, which is now available to all visitors.

Two projects were also implemented around the theme of “urban discovery”. In the first one, pupils created a fiction story located in an empty area in Eastern Helsinki, which challenges users to find better ways to use the urban space, via a wide scale geolocated role play. In the other, they developed a game enabling citizens to easily find essential services throughout the city, such as public transports.

Playful lessons are more motivating for students, bring variation to the school day, and encourage team work. Thanks to this new way of learning, the Media Centre is hoping to make teaching methods ever more interactive. 

“Action track enables geolocated educational tasks and evaluation for pupils. It is user-friendly, motivating and makes learning fun. Location based applications allow pupils to observe and annotate their environment of their own.” Juhani Kärki, Project Coordinator, Media Centre of Helsinki