You have all heard of Pinterest, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Uber. What do these successful companies have in common? They are all startups and successful ones at that! A startup is a newly established business that offers a product or service to meet a marketplace need. Many ventures target educational technology (EdTech) and innovation. This is great news for teachers like me who are constantly seeking new and engaging techniques to enhance students’ learning.
Teachers and students use many tools and services from EdTech startup firms. Often users do not know (or maybe do not care) who developed the product and where. For months, I have used ThingLink in my library without knowing the corporation’s headquarters are in Helsinki, Finland where I resided for four months while on the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program. With ThingLink, you can turn any image or 360-degree photosphere into an interactive experience by embedding “targets” that take users directly to pre-selected websites and other rich media (i.e. music, video, images). You decide where on the image you would like each “target”, creating a layer of interactive links. Explore the ThingLink I created below by simply clicking on each “target”.
As you can see, ThingLink is awesome! I was eager to make contact with them once I arrived in Finland. During my investigation of the company and its contact information, I came across an article titled, 6 Finnish EdTech Startups You Should Know About. I was surprised to learn that Finland has many startups focused on education. What’s more, many were mere kilometers from my apartment in Helsinki. It makes sense that Finland is home to so many educational ventures. Finns have developed and sustained one of the world's most successful education systems.
After stumbling upon the web page about Finnish startups, I found myself fervently hunting for more. What I found were the names of several companies in Helsinki that are reinventing learning. I immediately sent the enterprises emails explaining who I am and why I want to learn more about them. In no time at all, I heard back from many firms. During my very first week in Helsinki, I visited four organizations who specialize in educational technology and 21st century learning.
The opportunity to discuss each firm’s philosophy, products, and services gave me a deeper insight into the changes occurring in schools.
Here are some things I have learned from visiting Finnish startups.
Here is a list of Finnish startups you should learn more about. How can you integrate these programs into your PBL classroom?
No one expects teachers to use every new educational technology that hits the market. That would be impossible. EdTechs give students the opportunity to explore new possibilities and learn new skills. That alone, make it worth the time and risk to discover new technologies and integrate them into the classroom. Above is a list of just some Finnish EdTechs. Many more are identified by the organization, HundrED who in 2016, found 100 great innovations from Finland.
Revolutions in education and technology does not stop in Finland. Countries from around the world are embracing innovation, which fortunately benefits students. Go to Twitter and follow startups in this blog post as well as the ones you know and love. Our professional journeys are just getting started.