Tag Archives: innovation

Skateboarding as a Model for Student-Centered Learning

That's me, doing a handplant. Based on the fashion, I guess it is mid 80s, mabe a bit after. Photo credits probably Sami Knuutila or Samuli Holmala.

That’s me, doing a handplant. Based on the fashion, I guess it is mid 80s, mabe a bit after. Photo credits probably Sami Knuutila or Samuli Holmala.

If you haven’t yet watched Rodney Mullen’s TEDx talk, stop what you are doing (including reading this blog) for 18 minutes, and check it out below.

Ok, now we can continue. I hope you liked the video. If you are  a non-skater, I must emphasize that this is the man who has, maybe alongside Tony Hawk and Danny Way, invented most of the tricks and their key variations which constitute modern day skating.

When I was skating, virtually every day from early 80s to early 90s, these guys as well as Natas Kaupas, Mark Gonzales, Ray Barbee, Matt Hensley, Guy Mariano, and Jason Lee were my heroes. Many of them have since stretched their creativity beyond skating. Jason Lee has turned a Hollywood actor, Matt Hensley plays accordion in a popular punk band Flogging Molly.

And you must’ve heard of Tony Hawk who has built a hugely successful video game franchise on skating. Tony still rides, by the way, he just tried out whether he can still pull off a 900 on a vert ramp at the age of 48. Turns out he can:

So, skateboarding aligns with innovating, as you saw from Mullen’s TED talk above. I’d like to continue with this, drawing connections between skating and education, in particular student-centered learning.

Central concepts in learning are motivation, practicing/drilling, testing, and assessment. You have to be motivated to learn in the first place, then you have to practice, practice, practice, and finally test & assess whether you learned or not. And then iterate or move on.

In skateboarding, the motivating aspects are very intrinsic. You want to show yourself and your pals that you can land a trick. That’s it basically. It most likely hurts a lot before you can master it, but finally it is there. Then you can improve the style, create some variations, etc. But the bottom line is that there are very few external motivators, especially if you are a non-pro skater who doesn’t make a living from winning competitions and scoring sponsorship deals. The same applies to student-centered learning. The student really wants to learn something and this calls for…

Practice/drilling. Mullen didn’t mention it in the video but the saying goes that “innovating is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”. This means that the heureka moment is only but a small part of coming up with the finalized innovation. For skateboarding, I would say that the ratio is even sadder, something like “0,1% inspiration and 99,9% perspiration”. It is easy to imagine all sorts of tricks, but really landing them is something else. I still feel sorry for my shins, although it has been 20+ years since they had several daily confrontations with plywood.

Assessment. In skating, most if not all assessment is self-assessment. Sometimes your skating buddies can watch you try something and then give hints: “you’re going too slow for the rail”, “put your front ankle like this”, “kick with back foot for the late shove-it”. These hints can help, but in the end it is up to you to implement them. While airbourne, you are supposed to do several things with your body simultaneously in order to successfully land a flip or a 360 or an ollie impossible. Only you can teach your muscles, hence self-assessment.

Finally, testing. In skateboarding, testing plays little role, if you don’t count the myriad of micro-tests you perform to yourself to try out whether your little plan to complete a trick works out or not. There are no standardized tests. Even competitions have no formal expectations of types of tricks that you have to perform in order to score well. This is what drastically separates skateboarding competitions e.g. from figure skating competitions.

Skateboarding will most likely enter the Olympics at the Tokyo 2020 games. This is one step towards the standardized testing model of skateboarding, of which I am not a big fan. And I am not alone. I am not one of those who deny skating of being a sport or a hobby, claiming that it is a way of life. However, I definitely think that you take something very essential away from it if you start to evaluate tricks according to some predefined and explicitly stated template.

By the way, I bought a deck last summer, to my calculations 21 years after I last owned one. I’ll leave you with your’s truly performing a 360 no-comply in summer 2015:








Halfway There: The State of Finnish #SLL2014 Ideas

Roughly a month ago we started the Sanoma Learning Lab 2014. Here’s a recap and some feelings from our Helsinki kickoff:

As I write this blog post, we are about halfway through the Lab. There has been great development. The teams have been formed and are now working on the following ideas*:

  • Idea 1 assists students to find job opportunities. It does matchmaking by connecting the opportunities in workplaces with skills and interests the students have.
  • Idea 2 is tackling the common need of teachers to have everything they need in one place, fast and efficiently. The time saved can be used for interacting with the students.
  • Idea 3 is set to make 3D printing significantly cheaper and more straightforward for schools than it currently is.
  • Idea 4 is a digital notebook for teachers to give better feedback to students. It enables this by providing the teacher with extensive analytics of the students’ behaviors when they are studying, especially when doing exercises.
  • Idea 5 combines traditional presentations with interactive feedback and various kinds of participation mechanisms.
  • Idea 6 aims at keeping up the motivation of learners. It is a service to keep a record of language learning progress by collecting data from different sources and presenting it in a fun way.
  • Idea 7 is a curriculum-aligned mobile game for lower secondary school pupils to get engaged in the subjects they find difficult to follow and master.
  • Idea 8 is a peer-learning platform for upper secondary students. Students can help each other in various ways, using chat, video, graphics, and other media. By helping others a student earns merits.
  • Idea 9 is a system for answering questions with physical movements. We know that both children and adults sit down too much these days so this is a very relevant research area.
  • Idea 10 is a role playing game for learning history. The pupils can assume various roles in historic events and see how their behaviors in the game turn out (as opposed to how things really went down in history).
  • Finally, idea 11 is an anatomy and physiology game for nursing students to self-learn important skills. The game is organized as a set of mysteries for the students to solve.

This is how the ideas look like at the moment. However, our program is all about pivoting so who knows what they’ve transformed into come next week. Mind also, that these are only the Finnish ideas. There are plenty more from Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Poland.

Check my previous post from the Learning Lab kickoff.

* I left the actual idea names out so that you won’t go and reserve according web domains before these guys get to. 🙂

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.