One of Laurea’s top innovations, the Multisensory Space, visited Nazareth College in New York

The Multisensory Space is one of Laurea’s top innovations that has been developed with different Finnish partners for over 10 years. After being benchmarked by several international organizations and co-operation institutions, this method has gained international appreciation, both in Europe and now in the USA.

The Multisensory Space is one of Laurea’s innovations that has been developed with different Finnish NGOs, educational institutions, museums, libraries and other operators for over 10 years, and after being benchmarked by several international organizations and co-operation partners, this method has also gained much international appreciation. Presently, the Multisensory Space is one of the best practices promoted in Erasmus + project called DISC (2019-2021). The partners in DISC include Laurea, Incoma from Spain, Cesie from Italy, UC Leuven-Limburg from Belgium and The University of Maribor from Slovenia.

The aim of the project, Digital Skills for Integration and Active Citizenship, is to promote digital skills and competences of people with immigrant background, to develop higher education institutes and schools as open learning environments to improve digital skills of  immigrants,  and  to  facilitate  encounters  within  the  local  community,  thus  promoting  intercultural  dialogue by using digital tools. Also, DISC focuses on developing local learning communities (HEIs, schools, NGOs and public libraries) where people can learn from each other digital skills to promote active citizenship, lifelong learning and competence development and disseminating good educational practices of fostering digital skills of people with immigrant background for inclusive and fair education.

Additionally, the project plans to give teachers and other educational personnel tools to use inclusive learning methods, to develop local, regional and European level networks to spread the good practices of  educational  integration and to affect positively communities and societies, increasing their cohesion and promoting  successful transitions in the labour market. The project has two different viewpoints in terms of fostering and promoting the digital skills of immigrant  youth. The first best practice focuses on learning communities and collaborative learning. The role of  volunteers,  students  and  other  members  of  local  community  is  to  encourage  the  immigrants  to  use  digital tools. In Finland, the Multisensory Space as an inspiring, open learning environment and tool for digital  learning  has,  during  the  past  ten  years,  shown  its  effectiveness  as  a  source  of  inspiration  for  inclusive learning. The best practice of Laurea - the concept of using multisensory approach in learning  and  bringing  different  actors  together  in  learning  process  -  can  be  applied  in  multiple  ways.  What  is  essential in this method is, in addition to the digital  communication possibilities,  the importance of face-to-face  communication  and  peer-to-peer  learning  as  part  of  inclusive  learning  and  community-building.

The second best practice, SMART PLUS Self-assessment Tool, consists in an online tool for the self-evaluation of digital skills that can help immigrant youth, as the main target group, to identify the level  of performance related to these competences and geared towards their integration in working life. This self-assessment  tool  is  complemented  by  an  e-learning  solution  that  provides  training  in  digital  skills  adapted to the individual needs of the learner. The  learning  institutions  are  regarded  as  part  of  the  community,  and  they  have  an  important  role  in  promoting cultural inclusion and active citizenship in the local community. The best practices represent also different ways how the educational institutions have a role as a developer of local community. The  university  can  have  a  role  as  a  creator  of  a  network.  Such  open  learning  environment  can  be   understood  as  a  physical  environment  where  people  meet  face-to-face,  but  also  virtual  learning  environments  can  and  should  be  utilized.  The  sense of community can  be  promoted  in  both.  The  modern technology provides possibilities to create wider networks that can encompass many different educational operators both from formal and non-formal backgrounds. The DISC project consists of modeling, evaluating and testing the best practices with new target groups in other partner organizations. Based on these applied models, the project will provide training and tools for teachers at national and European level.

In addition of being noticed in different parts of Europe for its educational, creative and inclusion-promotion potential, the Multisensory Space was also introduced in the USA, at Laurea’s co-operation partner Nazareth College in Rochester, NY.  In March, Nazareth students created three different Multisensory Spaces, one for student wellness promotion, one for sharing refugee experience and one for promoting multicultural understanding of Bhutanese and Nepalese cultures. These impressive spaces were created both by Social Work and Nursing / Public Health students. Both the students and the teachers involved were very inspired by this learning experience and wish to further develop and apply this concept in their learning activities. Also, Rochester refugee NGOs showed interest in further applying the Multisensory Space method in their activities.

- Tikkurila Social Services Department (English Degree) wishes to warmly thank Carol Brownstein-Evans, Mary Maher and Mark Primus for their great support and also we wish to thank all Nazareth students for their hard work and kind co-operation. We welcome you all for building new Multisensory Spaces in spring 2020 at Tikkurila campus.



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