May 12, 2015

World is changing, Finnish startup helps teachers to keep up

Scool creates globally scalable and locally adoptable learning formats that are easy to use and have strong real world relevance.
Scool creates globally scalable and locally adoptable learning formats that are easy to use and have strong real world relevance.
Marissa Tammisalo

In a fast changing world schools can struggle to keep up. This is where Scool comes in. With lessons from the praised Finnish education system, the Helsinki-based startup wants to create innovative learning formats that encourage curiosity and co-operation.

“We believe that in this fast-changing world schools need to be involved in the change and that it will happen through [so-called] forerunner teachers,” says Lasse Leponiemi, head of operations at Scool. “We want to help them to operate in the best possible way in schools in Finland and around the world.”

This is the ideology behind Scool: a mission to develop learning formats, such as media materials and digital resources for teachers, that help bridge the gap between schools and the outside world. Like a production company, Scool creates a concept, tests and develops it in cooperation with teachers in Finland and finally makes it available for primary and secondary schools around the world.

The emphasis is on bringing real-world relevance and deep learning skills such as curiosity, critical thinking, creativity and co-operation into classrooms.

“We don’t want to tell teachers how they could, for example, teach maths or history better. Instead we want to give them tools to introduce phenomenon-based [interdisciplinary] learning into their own subjects,” Leponiemi explains.

From ideas to action

Founded in early 2015 by TV producers Saku Tuominen and Juha Tynkkynen plus investor Pekka Viljakainen and backed by one million dollars in funding, Scool is built around two existing formats: ‘Campus’ and ‘Dreamdo Schools’.

“Our services spread largely on the grassroots level. One teacher tells another that ‘this is a great thing, try this’,” says Lasse Leponiemi, Head of Operations at Scool.

“Our services spread largely on the grassroots level. One teacher tells another that ‘this is a great thing, try this’,” says Lasse Leponiemil.

Markus Kontiainen

First organised in Helsinki in 2011, Campus is a seminar series that helps teachers understand how the world is changing. Through events, reports and online lectures teachers can learn about topical issues from robotics and global warming to music styles and mobile applications from experts in different fields.

After five sold out seminars, including one in Warsaw last year, Campus is now expanding to Amsterdam, Atlanta, Stockholm and Vilnius.

“The aim is to give teachers readiness to talk about these interesting phenomenons with their students,” explains Leponiemi.

While Campus is targeted at teachers, Dreamdo Schools is all about engaging students. It enables school classes around the world to do interdisciplinary, student-led projects – such as a puppet theatre on intercultural communication done in Jordania – and share their progress online.

The key is that students decide the project topic. Dreamdo Schools provides a digital platform and teachers’ materials to take the project from an idea and planning phase to finalisation.

“Phenomenal learning is in the core of Dreamdo Schools,” says Leponiemi. “Kids don’t think it as learning when they, for example, organise an event and calculate a budget for it, even though it’s all about maths.”

The programme, launched as a pilot last fall, has had flying start. Thanks mostly to word of mouth, it has already attracted schools from 24 countries and has over 60 projects underway.

Toolbox for teachers

However Scool doesn’t have to rely entirely on the grapevine. In May, the startup will be presenting its services to public schools in New York.

It’s a step forward to Scool’s goal of building a global network of teachers who are interested in developing teaching methods, deep learning skills and using digital tools. Scool calls them ‘forerunner teachers’.

“We want to work as much as possible with teachers,” Leponiemi says. “Our target is that by 2017 there will be 100 000 teachers actively using several of our products.”

Currently Scool is working on two new products for launch later this year. The aim is to build a portfolio of learning formats which are globally scalable to fit any curriculum and be locally adoptable by different teachers.

“We are constantly thinking of new ways to make the world outside of schools a natural part of the classroom experience,” Leponiemi says and concludes: “We want to offer teachers a toolbox to help them in their everyday work.”

“Finland has a great basic education system that is genuinely equal. It gives us at Scool the opportunity to test different learning formats with hard core experts and demanding teachers to develop the best possible products we can introduce to the world”, Leponiemi.

“Finland has a great basic education system that is genuinely equal,” says Leponiemi. “It gives us at Scool the opportunity to test different learning formats with hard core experts and demanding teachers to develop the best possible products we can introduce to the world.”

Marissa Tammisalo

 

Text: Eeva Haaramo

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