Throughout the human history new technologies have been pursued as something frightening and dangerous for society. Looking back it is shocking how much resistance and neglection technological developments have received, even though they have helped us to take giant steps forward. It is a natural human tendency to be scared of the unknown and foreign, as historically speaking this has been a method to protect us from the competing tribes. This survival gene is a residue of times from the hunting-gathering society but no longer is relevant in the world of today. Technological determinism, the idea that technology will take over humans, leaving us without agency, remains an overwhelmingly predominant. In order to move forward and innovate (or sell our innovations), it is vital to recognize this tendency and understand its background and consequences. Only this way we can overcome it.
Already in 370 BC philosopher Plato argued “Writing is a step backward for truth”. He was concerned that the invention of writing would increase forgetfulness and prevent fruits of wisdom. In 1680 philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm argued that “The horrible mass of books that keep growing might lead to fall back into barbarism”. Writing and books were believed to taint the civilization. Likewise, the noble was afraid of losing its privileged position once the knowledge would be increasingly available to all. In a similar fashion, humans were terrified of radio, cinema, and telephones for several reasons. Over and over again the fear of losing our jobs has been omnipresent and technology seems to be a perfect victim to point at when discussing unemployment. Losing the traditional jobs indeed is inevitable, entailing that new types of jobs will emerge. We must accept and embrace this change. From the fear of printing press and such, we have transmitted to blaming computers, video games, robots and whatnot of our mundane miseries. But how is this relevant to startups? The vast majority of the most innovative startups is relying on technological breakthroughs and tries to disrupt the status quo. Thus startups can be pursued as bodies battling against inertia, hoping to make the world better place by allowing the technology to assist us. Ideally startups strive for a better smarter world. Startups believe that technology is able to improve instead of damage our civilization.
Amongst other industries, educational technology or EdTech has decided to take the path in bringing education to the 21st century. Operating in this industry, which traditionally is considered conservative and slowly moving creates its challenges to startups. EdTech startups and educational institutions represent two distinctive worlds. On one hand, universities and other educational institutions are pursued as somewhat conservative and slowly moving. In such an institution in which hierarchy persists, the change – especially radical change – comes with resistance and bureaucracy. On the other hand, EdTech startups embrace exploration and creative chaos. This difference in viewpoints comes evident when looking at education in practice and education as a utopia. The fact is that educational institutions are still heavily relying on traditional methods such as one-way communication of lecturing when teaching. The classroom of today and the one from 30 years ago have not yet drastically changed but the new startups are pushing towards the direction of new ways of learning. So how is education of the future going to look like then? Let’s take a look at some cool innovative startups from the haven of education Finland, the country which has routinely ranked as the world’s best education system.
Raising Emotionally Aware Confident Citizens
The primary purpose of education is to serve the society and although acquiring the necessary knowledge is an important aspect of education, our education should not be limited to that. Mightifier has realized this and hopes to help children in learning important social and emotional skills. Emotional intelligence being one of the greatest factors influencing one’s work performance (and perhaps more importantly influences versatile other aspects of life), it is great to see Mightifier’s contribution. By the means of tablet application Mightifier enables students to give each other feedback on their qualities and personality traits. By assigning students to give feedback, the kids are able to become more self-aware and also develop their feedback giving skills from an early age. Gaining a positive feedback from peers acts as a base to healthy self-esteem. According to Mightifier’s website, their invention has created a more positive interaction in the class, decreased bullying and helped students to focus. Mightifier continues to expand and just recently they announced that the pension insurance company Elo has decided to sponsor hundred classrooms to get Mightifier for free. This co-operation between Mightifier and Elo started at last year’s Arctic15 Deal Room.
What If Learning Would Be All Fun and Games?
When thinking about a classroom setting, one often imagines a teacher lecturing in front of a massive white board and students neatly sitting behind their desks. Seppo, a startup facilitating positive learning experiences through games, has had courage to think differently. By flipping the classroom and viewing gaming as a pedagogical method, Seppo aims to change the nature of education and how it is perceived. Studies show that game-based learning has been recognized as a helpful tool in enhancing learning by making it more fun and engaging. According to Seppo, their game motivates, directs learning, activates and even embraces creativity. This browser-based technology brings together experiential, project-based learning in a real-life environment improving students’ problem-solving skills, creativity, teamwork and knowledge sharing. Instead of relying on traditional teaching approaches, the students are invited to actively process the information and come up with a solution. Completing tasks in the game responds better to the needs of contemporary work environment in which processing and analyzing information are crucial.
Studying Real Life Phenomena to Answer Problems of Tomorrow
Due to the rapidly changing environment, it is exceptional if one can use the knowledge acquired even two years ago. Information gets outdated increasingly quickly and the best practices today are not the best practices of tomorrow. Skyler Education is a startup, which envisions students as lifelong learners. The company takes an advantage of phenomenon-based learning in which students are taught topics instead of subjects. The pedagogy, which now is widely implemented in Finnish comprehensive schools, has attracted a wide range of international attention. The idea behind the method lies in applying the academic knowledge into real-life situations, preparing learners for the realities of life. The application allows teachers to plan the learning experience, then instructions are sent to students’ app where they will complete tasks while the teacher has a real-time overview of the progress. Feedback and other sorts of data are gathered throughout the process, allowing the teacher to help in the process of learning.
The purpose of Mightifier, Seppo or Skyler Education is not to say goodbyes to our qualified teachers but to use their academic knowledge to foster their teaching with new more innovative methods. In order these methods to have work sufficiently, it is vital that teachers are on board in supporting the learning process by monitoring students, assessing their answers and encouraging them to actively participate. As we have learned from the past, resistance towards new technology oftentimes tends to be high especially in the beginning. Therefore whether discussing EdTech or any other kind of field of technological innovation, it is essential to break these technologies through slowly but gradually, gently nudging your new friend towards a better future.