Roundtable: Six degrees of separation – Akseli Huhtanen

How fast is the pace of edtech adoption around the world, and where does the UK stand in the edtech roll of honour? Steve Wright asks six edtech experts for top tips, best practice, and the view from where they sit

Akseli Huhtanen is an adviser and outgoing CEO for the Dare2Learn festival (Finland)

Q. What does your country’s edtech strategy look like currently? Is the adoption of edtech where you would like it to be, or is more progress needed? 

The adoption of educational technology in Finland has moved hand in hand with the deployment of the current national core curriculum. The Finnish government set itself the target of achieving the so-called ‘digital leap’ in schools by 2015, and the new national core curriculum came into effect from 2016 onwards. The aim is to make Finland the leader in modern, inspiring learning – partially through the adoption of edtech.

Q. Are there any factors or agencies driving the pace of change in your country?

Along with the government’s ‘digital leap’ initiative that I mentioned before, another big influencer in Finland has been the government’s initiatives on educational exports, mainly the Education Finland growth programme. 

The programme has accelerated the development, sales and distribution of Finnish edtech overseas – and also helped networking within the country. 

Along with governmental initiatives, a number of private and third-sector initiatives such as the xEdu edtech accelerator and the Dare2Learn international learning festival have boosted the development of Finnish educational technology, simultaneously accelerating its adoption across educational institutions.

Q. What one initiative or development really helped things move fast where you are?

One particularly interesting development has been the opening of the Finnish public school system as a test platform and co-creator of educational technology. Almost all schools in Finland are public, so this public-private partnership has been a massive
change – for both the solution providers, and the educators.

Q. How would you assess your country’s progress in edtech, against the global picture as a whole?

My understanding is that Finland has been a leader in the deployment of edtech into classrooms. I should add that, in some instances, the distribution of devices has not been complemented by a corresponding reform in teaching practices to suit the new technology. However, the national peer-tutoring programme for assessing teachers’ digital skills has been successful in changing this. 

I also think that Finland has been wise in deciding to put the pedagogy before the technology – renewing the national core curriculum, then accelerating the change through digital tools – not vice versa.

Q. Which innovations have proved most popular in schools and universities in your country?

The biggest successes have occurred in areas where the technological solutions have actually met the needs of the renewed curriculum. For example, an app called Mightifier, which helps students to develop their own emotional skills and self-awareness, has been a huge success, as has Seppo.io, which allows teachers to create physically activating, location-based learning adventures. 

Elsewhere, AI-based technology created from pedagogical theory, such as the cloud-based learning platform Claned or WordDive’s language learning tool, have proved to be valuable and hugely popular.

Q. What are your impressions of the UK’s edtech landscape? Anything you have seen here that you like, and anything we could be doing better?

Personally I’ve been fascinated by the great tools for STEAM and coding learning, such as SAM Labs, that the UK is exporting. All in all, the UK is no doubt one of the global leaders in edtech, and a lot of this is thanks to a diverse, thriving ecosystem there. You have schools that are willing to collaborate, accelerator programmes, global events, venture funding – everything you need for an edtech success story.

Q. Any particular instances of best practice that you’d like to share/promote?

 I think Finland’s public-private partnership model has driven a lot of good development. For example, the City of Helsinki has run a programme to enable such co-creation partnerships, called The New Era of Learning.