Taru Kekkonen has been involved in online learning for 20 years. Together with her colleagues she has given adults a second – or third, or fourth, or fifth – chance to continue their education. - We open new doors for numerous learners, she says. A great contribution, and now Taru has moved to a new arena and new challenges to bring the chance of learning out to more people. She also made a four months’ timeout in her carrier – to lead a slow life as a counterbalance to the hectic working life.
Taru is now an education manager at Omnia, the Joint Authority of Education in Espoo Region. Listen to her story.
– We are building something that we call OpenOmnia. The idea is to collect all education as well as all learning material that is open and accessible for any student on one tray for them to choose from. It is not only about collecting the already existing but also developing new flexible learning paths for the students, developing online learning, offering further education for teachers, strengthening a culture of sharing and openness etc. Before Omnia I used to work for Otava Folk High School/Otavan Opisto as an e-learning manager. There we established an online upper secondary school for adults that is based on openness and trust.
How do you spend a typical working day?
– At this start-up phase of OpenOmnia it is all about networking within the huge organization, getting to know the people and mapping the already existing resources as well as finding out the needs of the teachers and the learners. I’m used to working online together with team members living and working around Finland and also abroad, but now this first phase of OpenOmnia requires a lot of physical presence.
Four words that describe you?
– This is a hard one! If you asked my friends and colleagues, I guess they would say something like joyful, optimistic, conscientious and trustworthy. At least I hope they would say so :-).
A new door for learners
When you look back in your life, would you like to mention something that makes you happy or satisfied with yourself?
– I’m happy that I have had the chance to create new learning paths and opportunities for various learners. We have together with my great colleagues been able to give a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) chance and open new doors for numerous learners. I’m very proud of our 20-year-old online upper secondary school (Otavan Opisto).
We mention the word “Norden”, what does it mean to Taru?
– The first two things that immediately come to my mind are nature and democratic values
Which of your competences, experiences and networks do you apply when you are engaged in a Nordic context?
– My approach to almost all Nordic work so far has been online learning and online guidance and my experience in that field.
What did you learn from taking part in Nordic cooperation in lifelong learning that you have brought back to your own job?
– Through my Nordic networks I constantly come across interesting articles, reports, projects, methods and tools that I can share with my colleagues at work. Like someone said: My knowledge is the knowledge of my networks.
If you were appointed Nordic Minister of Adult Learning which activities or improvements would you have strived for?
– I would work for digital skills for everyone. They are the basics for today’s civics.
The NVL Distans Network
In your opinion, what is the main value of Nordic Network for Adult Learning? And the main value of the DISTANS network?
– NVL and DISTANS are bringing Nordic people together - both face-to-face and online - to share knowledge and experience, to learn together and from each other as well as to create new knowledge in the field of adult learning.
Doing slow things!
You granted yourself some “sabbath” months last year before starting your new job. How did you spend this free time, and what did you gain?
– Yes, I was happy to have the opportunity of taking a time-out of four months from work. I wanted to spend a lot of time outdoors and do slow things, to lead a slow life as a counterbalance to the hectic working life. And so I did. I spent hours and hours walking in forests, picking berries and mushrooms, sailing at Baltic sea, kayaking on eastern Finnish lakes, trekking in the Alps and also taking a 500 kilometers’ walk in northern Spain.
What I gained? Hmm, I got a sun tan and a freezer full of berries! It was a luxurious opportunity to allow myself to be inefficient for a while. It wasn't very easy to do that. I had to put some effort in not keeping on multitasking but taking it easy, concentrating on one thing at a time again. I think both my body and my brain needed that. I also got to know several extraordinary people from all over the world while walking together with them on the Spanish paths.
Name (age) and country: Taru Kekkonen (51), Finland
Position: Education Manager at Omnia, Joint Authority of Education in Espoo Region
Formal education/degree: MA (translator, teacher, principal)
Role in NVL and other Nordic context: Finnish representative in Distans, member in ICT&Guidance working group.
Tasks done in Nordic context: Member of Distans and ICT&Guidance (NVL networks)
Partner in the Nordplus projects Dldact (Digital learning, democracy, active citizenship and transparency) and Lorking - is lurking working.