Open Education Challenge Finalists Roundup

As I promised in my previous post, now a bit more detail about the cool startups currently going through the Open Education Challenge program. First a clarification: this is not a EC framework project of sorts, but running on private funding. EC is there to support, but VCs run the show financially.

The Open Education Challenge teams and mentors

The Open Education Challenge teams and mentors

And now, the finalists… what a wonderful bunch of entrepreneurs! I got to spend a bit more time with three of them, namely Funbrush, Think with Things, and Harness, but got to meet all of them and exchange at least some ideas.

Funbrush has a truly unique idea of getting kids to spend more time and pay more attention to brushing teeth. They do this by virtue of a cool iPad app where wild animals have food stuck in their teeth and depending on how a child brushes his/her teeth has impact on whether the animal’s mouth gets fully clean or not – what a brilliant approach!

Think with Things is going to develop a solution where the teachers and students can jointly engage in activities with simple physical objects like bottle caps, pine cones, and shapes cut of cardboard. These physical objects have their digital counterparts, as well as ready-made learning journeys where the objects are put to use. The users can tweak the ready-made journeys as well as create their own ones. Being a fan of augmented reality, I see many opportunities to take this further.

Harness does the one thing that we hear from teachers all the time: get all relevant tools from one place, in a unified environment & UI. Their Unio environment has been integrated to and promoted by Edmodo, and no wonder, it is so clean and intuitive.

I also chatted with the KLAP team, who are going to apply analytics & big data techniques to all kinds of learning content, with the aim to personalize learning and outcomes. Very ambitious and important goal to strive for. Cubes Coding is giving physical cubes to kids who can then organize them into a series, which makes a robot do various things in a row. These can be children who cannot even read yet. More of that please!

Domoscio is basically an alert service for reminding you about the things you still need to go through before your important test. I for one surely would’ve liked to have that when I was studying. GroupMooc organizes your MOOC courses into a single unified view. This is a nice service e.g. for large corporations who train their employees with various online courses. Finally, Atta provides a social layer on top of digital content, bringing it to life in form of groupwork and other community activities. I love the ant giving the hint that there is an Atta activity going on.

Helsinki was the first pit stop for these fantastic startups. I wish them best of luck in Paris and other places they are going to visit during this fall when they go through their incubation program. My main message to all of them was (and still is): no matter how much you pivot with your customer base, revenue models, etc., do not lose that one unique thing you started the endeavor in the first place. That is what makes it fun for you. Hopefully, for bunch of others, too.


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