Monthly Archives: April 2014

Five #EdTech Startups You’re Going to Hear From

Last week I had a great opportunity to sit down with five impressive educational technology startups and comment on their products & businesses. The occasion was Sanoma’s startup challenge co-located with The Next Web conference in Amsterdam and I was one of the mentors – what an honor!

The five finalists were all addressing different challenges related to education, making it very hard to prioritize them. They were:

  • EduKey from Wales, with the Class Charts product. Class Charts aims to facilitate teachers’ daily lives by providing an easy way to restructure class seating according to different criteria.
  • Eduvee from England. Eduvee is a curation platform combining commercial content with open web resources, offering nice dashboards & other tools along the way.
  • Jumpido from Bulgaria. Jumbido is a Kinect-game, mashing together physical and learning exercises.
  • Labster from Denmark. Labster offers an immersive 3D laboratory environment for running simulations and experiments, which would otherwise require very expensive equipment.
  • WeWantToKnow from Norway, with the DragonBox game. DragonBox is a popular mathematics game, taking an innovative approach in combining gaming and equations.

All teams gave great pitches. It was easy to tell that these startups had already been around for a while and presented their things to various stakeholders. They knew their products inside and out, making it easy to engage in discussions with us mentors. You’re going to hear from these guys!

Labster eventually won the challenge, mainly by virtue of two reasons: potential of making a big impact in education, and an excellent team running the show. Congratulations Mads & the rest of Labster!

One of my personal favorites was DragonBox. It has so novel and innovative approach to combining gaming & maths. You often see these two things quite separated in apps, but not this time. I just installed DragonBox on my iPad, planning to dive in today with my 6 year old daughter.


First Ever @Oppifestival – a Good Mix of Local and Global, of Big and Small

Last weekend the very first Oppi Festival finally saw the daylight. I managed to stick quite well to my original plan of visiting various sessions. I must say that the organizers did a really good job, they had managed to invite amazingly good set of speakers, given that this indeed was the first time this event was organized.

And the famous speakers aligned well with less famous ones, creating a nice mixture of content. The same with nationalities, I think there was a healthy balance of Finland and other countries present.

The two highlights of my festival experience were quite chart-filled presentations. Pasi Sahlberg was comparing Pisa results with equity and other trends with easy-to-understand visualizations of country flags. And in another session Horace Dediu gave a breathtaking unified view of generations, tech trends, and other phenomena.

I also enjoyed very much my own sessions, first the panel with Clare Sutcliffe, Peter Vesterbacka, and Steve Taylor as the host – I think we had a nice discussion on startups, Finland, and education. Then later on I gave a 20 minutes talk about gamification followed by a very fruitful 20 minute discussion on the same topic. See a subset of my presentation below:


All and all, I really hope there will be another Oppi. And unlike your typical Finnish words, Oppi is quite easy to pronounce, so please keep the name even if it will be organized somewhere else. Thanks again for this cool event!

Disclamer: My employer Sanoma was the main sponsor of Oppi Festival.

We Are Going to Co-Create with Schools

Well, we have always co-created with schools. By we I mean my employer, Sanoma Pro. Teachers play a vital role in creating educational materials together with our editors and other experts.

But after the summer we are going to try something new. Introducing the Learning Outcomes Accelerator program, which was announced last weeked at the Oppi Learning Festival. Together with local schools in our core markets (Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden), we are going to address digital transformation and how to harness it for creating better learning outcomes.

Sanoma has organized accelerators before, for example in the areas of mobile innovations, digital content, and commerce. Accelerators are short and intense innovation programs lasting for a couple of weeks. Participants from all over Sanoma create hundreds of ideas and then by applying lean startup methodologies end up with a few, of which the best ones are implemented as working prototypes.

In previous programs the focus has mainly been on B2C innovations. The upcoming one is going to include schools, which is for sure going to add a new interesting twist to MVP validation and other ways of working. I’m very excited about this! If you are too, register at the program’s web site to learn more.



My #Oppi Festival Itinerary

Two days till the start of Oppi Festival – wohoo! I thought of sharing my conference festival plan with you. Here you can find the whole program to create one for yourself.

The start is easy, because there is only one session going on. Krista Kiuru, Finland’s Minister of Education (and these days also of Communications?), is going to open the whole thing at noon on Friday. I’ll probably go a bit early just to check in with my fellow Sanoma people at our space. You should pay a visit too, there will be interesting talks and demos going on throughout the festival!

I’ve never seen Pasi Sahlberg in person, so that’s what I’ll do next. He’ll be speaking under the title Is Finnish education still the envy of the world?, along with other folks including a friend of mine, an excellent blogger Tim Walker. Check his Taught by Finland blog if you haven’t already.

Horace Dediu is another visionary I’ve never met, so I’ll probably continue my journey at the main stage. He will be joined by Valerie Hannon and former PM of Finland Esko Aho, talking about how digital influences education. If you don’t follow Horace on Twitter yet, do it now! His stream is packed with interesting charts and visualizations on mobile phenomena of all sorts.

Then at 3:45pm I’ll probably hop to Joy Space to check two talks on improving learning outcomes. There will a presentation about ClipScool, which is an alumni of Sanoma’s accelerator programs, concentrating on video content. In addition, Ken Chapman will present Desire2Learn‘s take on learning outcomes. Bound to be interesting stuff.

Friday’s closing session will have Sugatra Mitra. Just wow. This is the Hole in the Wall guy. The School in the Cloud guy. Nuff said, I’m not going to miss it.

That was Friday. Phew.

On to Saturday. At 10am Sarah Brown and Gavin Dykes will talk about involving young people in shaping the future of education. What could be more important?

Then at 11:10 I’ll hit the stage with Peter Vesterbacka, Clare Sutcliffe, and Simon Taylor to discuss education and startups. Come check it out!

I’m not 100% sure yet about the next session. It might be it’s time for hand’s on learn to code session with Scratch and Clare Sutcliffe. Or I will go to see Sanoma’s own John Martin talk about the future of education. We’ll see.

Then I’ll be on again at 1:50pm, talking about gamification at Play Space. Sneak preview: I’ll not concentrate on individual games that much, but rather on how elements from games should be applied throughout the “LX” (learning experience, cf. UX for user experience).

Closing session at 3pm and then we’re done. If I stick to this plan, I’ll be missing so many interesting things such as Harri Ketamo‘s Skillpixels talk, Aape‘s Smilification, Teemu Leinonen‘s design thinking, Lauri Järvilehto, and many others. Including lunches.

If you cannot make it to the festival, check the Twitter hashtag #oppi this Friday and Saturday!