7 fast facts about the man behind Educational Technology

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A lesson in a Swedish-speaking primary school named after Cygnaeus, 1913. Image Helsinki City Museum / Signe Brander.

Uno Cygaeus: The pioneer of Educational Technology

More than 100 years have passed since the death of Uno Cygnaeus (1810-1888), the father of Finnish folk schools and pioneer of educational arts and crafts. Cygnaeus
developed many teachings connected with industrial life, and hence educational technology. With Cygnaeus’ goals, comprehensive school evolved with more diverse educational contents and a stronger emphasis on creativity.

Image from Wikidata

In particular, versatile teaching of educative handicrafts was very much emphasised by Cygnaeus. Educative handicrafts developed the ability to adapt and use knowledge in the workplace. The teaching of handicrafts has evolved into technology education.

Uno Cygnaeus considered ‘technological’ contents an important part of craft education. Thanks to Cygnaeus, education for work has been established as a school subject. Today, students are learning handicraft teaching, integrated with Educational Technology, as a part of their general education. 

He is, however, relatively less well-known than some other great men in Finnish history. Nor did he himself write as extensively as, for example, many other school reformers in Europe. 

Here are some quick facts about the Pioneer of Educational Technology you should know:

  1. Cygnaeus stressed the necessity of arts and crafts teaching based on pedagogical principles.

Haaga Primary School built in 1928, located at Steniuksentie 14, Helsinki. Photo: 1965, Helsinki City Museum / Constantin Grünberg.

Cygnaeus quoted “A competent school teacher does not need to be an all-round artisan, but as I see it, he or she should be able to improve the pupil’s general manual dexterity, which, when supported by the corresponding natural science, will no doubt serve as a powerful improver of the people’s education and prosperity”.

  1. Cygnaeus’ tradition influenced the development of technology education in the University of Jyvaskyla.

Agora building on Mattilanniemi campus, University of Jyväskylä.

His handicrafts education gave additional impetus to make education technology one of the priority areas in developing the University of Jyvaskyla.

  1. Cygnaeus’ influence shaped the progress of technology education.

Woodwork room for teaching sloyd in Denmark, 1931. Image from Wikipedia

D.W. Olson, the first American researcher writing about education technology, values Cygnaeus quite highly. The views of the American educator John Dewey were based on the current global trends, at that time – one of the most important since the Sloyd movement begun by Cygnaeus.

  1. When he was alive, Cygnaeus’ ideas were often opposed and underestimated.

Bust of Uno Cygnaeus in Jyväskylä. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Antti Leppänen

Although Cygnaeus had paved the way so that it would be in Finland that the teaching of arts and crafts would first be used successfully for the purposes of education, he soon noticed that the educational principle involved in arts and crafts teaching was forgotten. Instead, the focus was on achieving professional outcomes, and not so much from the pupil’s own work.

  1. As Fridolf A. Salola points out, “Cygnaeus was sometimes in very low spirits”.

    Image from North Bennet St. School.

    However, despite all the setbacks the value of his work has endured. 

  2. Uno Cygnaeus’ basic idea of “from education to work through work” is still valid today.

Image from North Bennet St. School.

Today’s young people are thus orientated towards working life through thinking activities rather than by imitating production. 

  1. He designed and carried out the organisation of the Finnish folk school system and initiated high-class teacher training.

Cygnaeus School. Image from Satakunta Museum

His ambition to create a common basic education has now been achieved through the introduction of comprehensive school. 

Happy Education Technology Day!


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