The education sector is becoming increasingly digital, along with other sectors, but the benefits of technology to teachers have yet to be fully realised. This is not an exclusively Finnish phenomenon, but a global one. The fact is that currently available technology products do not correspond to the needs of schools. As such, the promised benefits of educational technology remain unrealised for the time being. Because of this, Forum Virium Helsinki is participating in the development of an innovation platform that allows schools and companies to engage in the co-creation of new products.
During spring 2018, the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki have, as part of the 6Aika project The Smart Learning Environments for the Future, engaged in close collaboration with teachers from the comprehensive schools and upper secondary schools of Jätkäsaari, Kalasatama, Aurinkolahti, Hiidenkivi and Ressu. Why? We wanted to understand the needs of teachers in regard to digitalisation and physical learning environments. We already knew that teachers have a strong desire to influence the creation of new innovations in the education sector, since the purpose of these innovations is ultimately to support the work of teachers and especially the everyday learning of schoolchildren. To this end, we have been building bridges between schools and companies, through which companies can gain an insight on the needs of users in order to start developing products corresponding to these needs. The needs highlighted by teachers during this collaboration were used to set challenges for companies and provide them with challenge signals.
Setting challenges allows us to seek solutions to problems that schools are facing right now. In this case, the idea is to look for existing solutions or to further refine existing solutions to solve specific problems, thus speeding up the development of innovations and the expansion of the user base. Additionally, challenges can also be used for stimulation. These kinds of challenges can be set when the market raises needs for which solutions do not yet exist. The City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki aim to do both. We seek solutions to direct needs by setting challenges while also encouraging companies to create solutions for the future based on challenge signals. In both cases, the needs are expressed by the actual users.
Challenges set for companies by schools
The purpose of the challenges is to find solutions that support teaching, learning and the development of schools during the digital transformation. In addition to this, the challenges also serve as first-hand signals for companies, allowing them to quickly grasp the needs of schools. This allows companies to gain new ideas for refining existing products or developing entirely new ones. The challenges have now been published and companies can respond to them by submitting an offer through the link at the end of this article.
The purpose of challenge signals is to highlight needs arising at schools for which solutions might not exist yet. These challenge signals will be opened up as challenges in the future. Before that happens, we wish to support companies in creating solutions related to them. One way of doing so is to help companies to hold discussions with teachers and/or pupils and students during the planning phase. If your company has a preliminary idea that your developers would already like to discuss (co-design) with teachers, please contact us! The challenge signals can be found here (in Finnish): https://www.oppimisenuusiaika.fi/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Haastesignaalit-16.5.2018.pdf
Forum Virium Helsinki is the innovation unit of the City of Helsinki, which aims to build Helsinki into the most functional smart city in the world in collaboration with companies, the scientific community and residents.
Photo credit: Riku Pihlanto / City of Helsinki