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Finnish delegation visits to see Fresno Unified’s digital ways up close


The school district has been integrating more technology the last four years

FRESNO, California (KSEE) — Fresno kids weren’t the only ones learning in classrooms Wednesday. A delegation from Helsinki, Finland, was in town to see firsthand how Fresno Unified School District students are learning digitally.

In the education sphere, Finland has quite the reputation. So, as much as they came to learn from Fresno Unified — it was a moment to take a lesson or two from them as well.

For the last four years, the school district has been making technology a critical part of the learning process in its elementary and middle schools. What they’ve seen in return are higher state testing scores and a more engaged student body, according to Philip Neufeld, the district’s executive officer of information technology.

“When you walk into a classroom, you’re going to see active engagement with varying degrees,” Neufeld said. “The advantage here is the teacher is able to see what [each individual students] needs…they have the capacity to do this now.”

Helsinki education officials learned of Fresno Unified’s methods through Microsoft — which Helsinki schools and Fresno Unified are partnered with.

“It is very inspiring that we have the similar journey to develop education here in Fresno and in Helsinki,” said Liisa Phjolainen, executive director of education for Helsinki.

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said the district took advantage of the delegation’s visit, taking the moment to learn of Finland’s teaching methods. Particularly, in skill assessment and analytics.

“That’s the beautiful part about being in education — you never stop learning, even as an adult,” he said. “There’s a lot for us to learn, grow and develop to benefit our kids in Fresno.”

The delegation’s visit included three schools: Scandinavian Middle School, Easterby Elementary School and Duncan Polytechnical High School.

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