Category Archives: Leadership

Leading the digital transformation in learning at Malmberg

lijn3Excellence and innovation

Sanoma Learning’s reputation internationally is built on two pillars. First of all, we are a leading and integral player in some of the World’s best-performing education systems including Finland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and also in Sweden. Secondly, we are frontrunners in the digital transformation – with about € 50 m of new media and roughly € 100 m of multi-channel solutions sales (on a total sales base of roughly € 300 m) we are arguably Europe’s leading edtech company today.

“Now is education’s internet moment.”

We are passionate about education and are keen to play a leading role in building the next generation of learning solutions. Our purpose is to enable teachers to develop the talents of every child. And as we develop our learning solutions we keep three goals in mind: i) helping pupils and teachers to achieve great results, ii) supporting the ways of working for time and cost efficiency and iii) engaging pupils and teachers on the journey of learning. We believe digital will be a great enabler in realizing these goals.

Malmberg in The Netherlands at the front of the transformation

Of the markets in which we operate, we see that conditions in The Netherlands are the most mature for adopting digital learning solutions. Our daughter company Malmberg has taken a leading position in the digital transformation and this has been well-received by our customers.

I’ve been super-enthusiastic about the relationship that Sanoma Learning has established with Knewton with Malmberg as trailblazer. I’m really excited to see the prototypes of the next generation solutions we will develop! I am sure they will help to take a quantum leap forward in improving results, efficiency and engagement. I’ve also been happy with the trailblazing role that Malmberg has taken in developing the next generation of editorial tools that we will deploy across Sanoma Learning. Together, these initiatives will help us to serve our customers better and make our business more future proof.

High Five!

In the meantime, school year 2014/2015 has now started and we have gone live with five new big digital initiatives at Malmberg! I wanted to write a few words about them here.

1. Forward (VOoruit) in Secondary Education

VOIn August we went live with our new platform, playing five of our main courses on pc’s, laptops, tablets and smartphones. It looks really great! During the next year we will be migrating more courses onto the platform and eventually expect to power it with Knewton technology, bringing market-leading adaptive learning technology to The Netherlands. The platform covers the complete learning/teaching process from instruction to testing and also includes adaptive practice testing and learning analytics. This is going to really help pupils and teachers! Adoption has exceeded expectations an it’s really been a step up in terms of user experience.

We believe this platform takes us a step ahead of the competition and are going to use it to win a position in the market for maths, which is the biggest market in which we don’t yet have an offering. The time is ripe for renewal in that market. We are building the course now and will launch it next school year.

2. Language Blocks (Taalblokken) in Vocational Education

taalblokkenThis year we have renewed our didactic concept, concept and platform for Taalblokken. We have focused on usability and differentiation. Our first usability analysis has just been completed and both students and teachers have rated the solution with 8/10. Great! A few years ago, Taalblokken and Rekenbloken (languages and maths) were our first courses to play digital first/digital only, and they have been a big success for teachers and students and also helped us to grow our business. We have the ambition to sell 25% more student licences this year, and the signs are that we will achieve that.

3. Pluspunt Digitaal in Primary Education

pluspuntWe are market leader in primary education and our platform is now used by more than 1 m pupils in The Netherlands. We have just created a fully digital tablet version of our winning maths course Pluspunt and are testing it with 40 schools. We expect this course will help teachers and pupils to get better learning results, save time and stay motivated. We also notice that they trust the brand and like that they can deploy print and digital as they wish.

4. Final year testing (eindtoets) in Primary Education via ICE

iepThe government has taken the good decision to open the market for the final year test to new entrants. ICE has an excellent reputation for quality, usability, innovation and digital and we are introducing a new solution to be deployed in 2015. This will be great for our customers and the competition will be good for the market. Cito, here we come!

5. Taking the Primary Curriculum into the home with Family Pluym

pluymWe’ve extended our language and maths courses to the home via a fully digital learning environment following the learning lines and pace of the school curriculum. We started with a soft launch last week and will be rolling it out in the next month. I really like the user experience and believe that parents are increasingly looking to support the learning of their children in the home environment. Our market research and user testing have shown that parents and children like the extension of the trusted school brand into the home too – you know that it is high quality and in time and in tune with the school. This is a potentially new market for us and I am very curious how this will develop.

Investing in the future of learning

2014 is a crucial year for us in investing for the digital future. The first signs are that our customers appreciate and have adopted the renewed offerings.

I admire the frontrunner role that Malmberg takes at Sanoma Learning and in the Dutch market. Customer focus and innovation sit deep in the genes of our people. Respect!

Looking forward >>

Inspiring leadership in education

This week I attended the Global Education Conference in Boston sponsored by Harvard and Goldman Sachs. This was one of the most inspiring conferences I’ve attended in recent years. Sessions were spread over two days and included hot topics such as “financing disruption”, “creating value in a world of content abundance”, “bridging the skills gap” and “the promise of accessible education”.

I could happily write a post about each of them. But I will write about just one. The absolute highlight of the meeting for me was the opening keynote by Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a charter school network of 12,300 students in New York. He has been instrumental in improving the performance of his students over a period of two decades such that 95% of high school seniors these days are accepted into college. He gave the best live keynote speech I have ever seen.

GeoffreyCanadaMuch of the focus of the conference was on technology, and I certainly believe that technology can be a great enabler in improving education.

However, Geoffrey’s impact comes from excellent leadership. In particular in taking actions to re-set the normative behaviour amongst the stakeholders including the local community. In a nutshell, in changing expectations in the community from “you have to be a genius to go to college” to “if he can do it, I can do it”. And amongst teachers from “don’t blame me, this is a mission impossible” to “my job is to get these kids into college”.

I personally believe that excellent education can be delivered when skilled teachers, motivated pupils and high quality learning materials play together effectively for the benefit of the learning of the pupil. The role of the school leader has not been strong on my radar. But of course, these three cornerstones rely on selecting and leading the right teachers and ensuring that a healthy culture and practices are in place in schools and their communities! The role of the school leader is pivotal. I should re-examine my beliefs!

Canada is a brilliant and inspiring speaker. You know that he wants the best for his pupils. You know that he will do whatever it takes to make it happen. He is highly engaging and has tremendous energy. He’s firm but fair. It’s not about him, it’s about the future of the kids at his school. I liked the clarity of his message. “Your job is to get these kids into college. The military is good. Vocational training is good too. But your job is to get these kids into college. That is what I expect from you”. I liked that he saw it as a journey. Year-on-year he saw impact. But transformation is a journey and the impact 20 years later was massive.

What would the equivalent message be for my own team? The essence of it is “help teachers to excel at developing the talents of every child in their class”. I believe this is the right direction and will be the journey of learning in the coming decade. How to achieve and measure that? If you have inspiring ideas then you are welcome to join our Learning Lab this coming Autumn!

Most of Canada’s keynote was energetic and funny. He is also a poet and took a more serious tone at the end by reading one of his own poems “Don’t blame me”. Inspiring and touching. Thanks Mr Canada, a brilliant leader, for making a positive impact on thousands of lives, and for inspiring me too.

DON’T BLAME ME
February 2007

The girl’s mother said, “Don’t blame me.
Her father left when she was three.
I know she don’t know her ABCs, her 1,2,3s,
But I am poor and work hard you see.”
You know the story, it’s don’t blame me.

The teacher shook her head and said,
“Don’t blame me, I know it’s sad.
He’s ten, but if the truth be told,
He reads like he was six years old.
And math, don’t ask.
It’s sad you see.
Wish I could do more, but it’s after three.
Blame the mom, blame society, blame the system.
Just don’t blame me.”

The judge was angry, his expression cold.
He scowled and said, “Son you’ve been told.
Break the law again and you’ll do time.
You’ve robbed with a gun.
Have you lost your mind?”
The young man opened his mouth to beg.
“Save your breath,” he heard instead.
“Your daddy left when you were two.
Your momma didn’t take care of you.
Your school prepared you for this fall.
Can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell at all.
But you did the crime for all to see.
You’re going to jail, son.
Don’t blame me.”

If there is a God or a person supreme,
A final reckoning, for the kind and the mean,
And judgment is rendered on who passed the buck,
Who blamed the victim or proudly stood up,
You’ll say to the world, “While I couldn’t save all,
I did not let these children fall.
By the thousands I helped all I could see.
No excuses, I took full responsibility.
No matter if they were black or white,
Were cursed, ignored, were wrong or right,
Were shunned, pre-judged, were short or tall,
I did my best to save them all.”
And I will bear witness for eternity
That you can state proudly,
“Don’t blame me.”