Category Archives: Teaching

Education reform in Finland

kirsi

This week I caught up with Kirsi Harra-Vauhkonen, Managing Director of Sanoma Pro, market leader in Finland. The Finnish market is currently undergoing both a major curriculum change and digital transformation.  I asked Kirsi to explain more about what’s going on.

You’ve got an interesting background Kirsi, including positions at Nokia and Google. Tell us more.

Continuous learning is my passion, and I have been fortunate to be able to gain experience from many different positions. I have worked for example in recent years in telecommunications (Nokia), digital media (Google) and now in educational publishing. During my career, I have worked mostly in commercial and business development leadership roles. Mostly I have been leading change – be it new opportunities in the market, new ways of working or digital transformation.  I am driven by working with great people and teams.

Finnish education has a world class reputation. Why is that?

Finnish pupils have scored highly in the PISA surveys for many years. This is a result of the high quality public education system in Finland. Excellent teachers are one of the most important cornerstones of the system. All teachers have a university degree, and being a teacher is a highly respected profession. The fact that high quality education is available for everyone, is very important for Finland. High quality, versatile learning materials also play an important role in helping pupils and teachers to achieve excellent learning outcomes.

What role does Sanoma Pro play in Finnish education and why are our methods popular?

Sanoma Pro is a major publisher with a very good reputation and the most extensive offering in the Finnish educational market. We publish learning materials for all grades K-12 and also for vocational education. In addition we also have the Oppi & Ilo edutainment line for the consumers as well as tutoring services by Tutorhouse.

Our learning materials are used in almost every school and class, and our digital learning environment has more than 100 000 active teacher and pupil users. Our solutions are developed through very intensive collaboration with our customers, and our authors are the best professionals in their own subjects.

Our solutions are popular because they are high quality, they fit the curriculum perfectly, they are easy to use, and they have a good mix of print and digital elements that match the ways and needs of the classroom.

And they provide excellent benefits by enabling learning impact: they help pupils to achieve good learning outcomes, they engage and motivate pupils to learn, and they save time for teachers in their professional work.

 

There’s curriculum reform coming this year and next. What’s happening and how are we supporting the change?

The reform is a combination of driving change in the pedagogy and in the learning goals and related learning contents. First of all the reform is encouraging strong engagement of pupils and thus changing the role of the teacher to become more like a coach for the active pupil learners. Another theme is to update the learning objectives to equip children with such skills and knowledge that better meet their needs of the future. Also the need for more theme-based learning is emphasized as well as the aim to bring digital into the everyday work at schools.

We have integrated these themes in our methods, in addition to the new learning contents, and provide a lot of supporting tips and tools to help the teachers to adapt to the new ways of teaching.

 

What are the most important digital initiatives we are working on?

We are very excited about our new digital learning solutions. It’s now possible to use fully digital learning materials for teaching and learning in all of the primary subjects in the new curriculum. In addition, for the teachers who prefer a hybrid solution, we are launching the gamified, curriculum-fit exercise environment Bingel. Bingel supports seamlessly the Sanoma Pro learning methods and makes exercising engaging and inspiring for pupils.

In upper secondary we have Kompassi, the digital testing and assessment tool that provides teachers an easy way to create and assess tests, saving a considerable amount of their time and providing students with the opportunity to get familiar with the digital testing. The first national digital matriculation tests in Finland will take place this Autumn.

What are you most proud about with Sanoma Pro?

I am very proud of our extremely professional and talented team. Going through a phase of digital transformation in the market simultaneously with the very intensive curriculum change is not an easy task, but the team has shown great effort and we have been able to bring all the print and digital products to the market, while also innovating new concepts.

Our new learning solutions bring a lot of new opportunities and support for the teachers to renew their way of teaching, and to engage and inspire the pupils. I am very proud of this achievement, and having delivered this as a team!

 

Exciting times

Thanks for talking us through this Kirsi.  These are exciting times in Finnish education and it’s great to hear more about our commitment to working together with our customers in bringing new innovations to the marketGood luck to all our people in Finland!

Working together to develop scalable technology at Sanoma Learning

One of the key trajectories in our strategy is using technology to help pupils and teachers. We believe technology is an enabler of what we call learning impact: engaging pupils, improving learning outcomes and supporting the workflow of the teacher. Developing and deploying the right technology in the right way is therefore critical to our mission.

Key parts of our technology are developed together and scaled across our units. This is not easy but brings benefits in terms of speed, quality, cost, skills and shared learning.

This week I caught up with new recruit Heikki Rusama, in the team of our Chief Business Technology Officer Arnoud Klerkx, who recently moved from Rovio in Finland to Sanoma Learning’s co-development team in The Netherlands, to learn more about this work.

Tell us about your background and why you joined Sanoma Learning

I’ve been interested in learning since my teenage years and studied educational science to originally prepare for a role in academia. I’m keen to work in a role that will allow me to combine my passion for education with technology.

I found such a role when previously working at Rovio Learning, the entertainment company behind the Angry Birds. However I joined Sanoma for two reasons: to me it is important that learning is the company’s core business and secondly I see potential for further international growth in learning. Therefore, Sanoma Learning feels like a perfect fit for me.

What’s your role at Sanoma Learning?

My role as one of the Business Technology Consultants is to help business units to grow in digital learning by providing building blocks for the current and the future applications. This I do by leading some co-development initiatives like Edubase (learning engine), Identity & Access Management, and later this year Learning Analytics.

How does this bring value to our ways of working?

One of the many strengths of this company is the deep understanding of education including the local differences. Through our co-development program we identify and build common, scalable technology.  This helps us to develop higher quality solutions, faster and at lower cost and also to share learnings across our footprint which includes some of the World’s best education systems. If we are able to take co-development to the next level, we are going to create more Bingels in the future.

What are your first impressions of working with us?

I really enjoy my work. Like today, when I had meetings with Business Technology teams from Van In (Belgium) and Sanoma Utbildning (Sweden). Not only are they inspiring people to work with, I really admire the drive and passion they have for learning and technology. With teams like these, the co-development agenda will succeed.

Where do you think we stand on the digital transformation?

The future of our business seems bright yet increasingly complex. I am confident that we are tackling the right questions. We’re clearly a frontrunner on the digital transformation, which is going to be a long journey. Our deep understanding of learning combined with our technology capabilities make us strong. Further building on our co-development abilities will prepare us better for the future, by enabling us to make better products faster.

Thanks for the feedback Heikki. I believe enabling our learning methods with technology to help our customers is the way forward.  The co-development agenda is a great way for us to scale investments, skills and learnings as we progress.

P.S. Leicester City has a five point lead at the top of the Premier League.  Go Foxes!

Looking forward to the digital transformation at Sanoma Learning

The second half of January is an exciting and important part of our annual calendar since there are some key shows which gives us a good opportunity to share the latest developments and discuss them with our customers. There are three things I’d like to share with you from last week which I believe are important for our customers and hence also for our own digital transformation.

Sanoma Pro at #Educa2015 in Helsinki

Our Finnish subsidiary and market leader Sanoma Pro was an exhibitor at Educa2015 last week and announced our latest innovations. The Finnish market is going through a critical period prior to the upcoming major curriculum renewal and we are keen to show leadership in the market through a future-oriented and competitive offering that will help teachers to excel as professionals and pupils to learn. Three innovations in particular were well-received.

Bingel being launched in FinlandFirstly, all of our courses will be available digitally in line with the roll out of the new curricula (2015-2017). Secondly, we will be launching the highly successful gamified learning platform Bingel in Finland later this year. (Check out the video). This platform is currently used by 75% of pupils in primary education in Flanders and on average each pupil has done more than 1000 exercises on Bingel since it was launched. Thirdly, we announced the upcoming launch of our new digital ABC book which we hope and expect will be well-appreciated by pupils, teachers and parents alike. Go Pro!

Young Digital Planet and Sanoma Learning at #BETT2015 in London

Our international subsidiary YDP was once again an exhibitor at BETT in London, the world’s leading learning technology show. Every year their stand is buzzing and this year was no exception. We arranged a breakout session where I spoke about Sanoma Learning’s vision on the digital transformation of education and as a case study Jan Trubac (Agemsoft) and Jan Machaj (Edulab) from Slovakia gave an inspiring presentation about how they are successfully working with YDP in bringing digital learning to Slovakian schools.

J Trubac from Agemsoft explaining how they localise YDP solutions in Slovakia About 70 executives joined us from leading local players across the globe (from South East Asia to South America) and we had an inspiring and engaging discussion. There’s a world of opportunity out there! We’re looking forward to engaging with some of these potential new partners further in working out how we can develop some of these opportunities together. Go YDP!

Malmberg at #NOT2015 in Utrecht

Next week Malmberg will be exhibiting at the gigantic NOT in The Netherlands. This week we announced the results into the research into the impact of our new Early Reading course Lijn 3.

Lijn 3, Early Reading in The NetherlandsThe conclusion of the research was that that the reading performance of pupils using this course were significantly better than the national average. Furthermore, 94% of teachers would recommend Lijn 3 to other teachers and they rated it 8.2/10 on average. I believe this research is highly relevant for two reasons. Firstly, we are now starting to evidence the impact that our courses have on learning, which we have hardly done in the past. Secondly, the impact is very positive, which is great news! Go Malmberg!

I love it when our people are out there with customers, working out how we can help them to make a positive impact. This is what matters. Respect!

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 >>

Designing the Future of Digital Education

Jose Ferreira of Knewton interviewing Hillary Rodham Clinton

Jose Ferreira, CEO of Knewton interviewing Hillary Rodham Clinton, former US Secretary of State

This week I joined the Knewton Symposium in San Francisco and was a panel speaker on the subject of “Digital Readiness”. We have recently started partnering with Knewton, which I am enthusiastic about since I believe adaptive learning is the next generation. I joined the meeting to make sure I’m up-to-date on the latest thinking and for the networking opportunity.

Great program

The program was a mix of speakers and panel sessions. I especially liked the interesting and provocative speakers:
Jose Ferreira, CEO of Knewton (“transparency on what drives outcomes”);
Andy Rosen, CEO of Kaplan (“why Knewton will fail” – which emphasized the open dialogue of the symposium);
Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University (I was intrigued by his words about the “rise of the super-faculty” – it sparked my interest in the potential “rise of the super-teacher” enabled by technology in schools).

Also, some of the panel sessions gave food for thought, especially:
Investing in Edtech (I liked the quote by Michael Moe, partner at GSV “the best IRR will be produced by education companies that deliver the best ROE”)
The OER Impact (“80% of materials for university foundation years can be found Open Source”)

It was great to hear the “Big Ideas” of entrepreneur Tyler Bosmeny, CEO of Clever about solving Single-Sign-On and intrapreneur Ben Schrom from Google Classroom about simplifying digital workflows. (It was nice that he cited me and my “killer app of education is the teacher” quote too, a boost for Finnish thinking there :)).

Go Hillary!

From my perspective, the highlight of the meeting was the interview with Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She talked intelligently and engagingly about international affairs in a no-nonsense and straightforward way. Firm but fair. I liked her passion and commitment to education, for example with the “Too small to fail” program, helping to improve the health and well-being of children aged 0-5 years. Her words about making sure that schools are fit for children to attend and treating teachers as professionals appealed to me too. We had a short photo session afterwards, and even though we exchanged only a few words, she was funny and nice and I really liked her. Go for President Hillary!

Main takeaways

The three main takeaways for me from the meeting were:
1. The move to adaptive learning is the next generation. I believe we are right to be investing.
2. It will be of great importance to evidence and improve outcomes and to take a more proactive stance in positioning outcomes in our value proposition. We need to raise our game here. Our Learning Lab starting in September can help us in that regard.
3. It’s good to look and be outside, to be up-to-date with the latest developments and to be connected with talented people in the industry alongside the talent we have at Sanoma Learning.

Thank you Knewton!

It’s always great to be in the USA. I love the optimism and the way they go for it! Thanks to the Knewton team for having arranged a great meeting!

Revitalizing Primary and Secondary Education in Russia

Last weekend I was a speaker/panelist at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on the subject of Revitalizing Primary and Secondary Education in Russia. Learning outcomes in Russia are rather uncompetitive when seen from an international perspective. I was also surprised to hear that schools in many urban areas run two shifts a day due to a lack of capacity.

Although Sanoma Learning is not currently directly active on the Russian market, we were interested to contribute to the discussion. Firstly, because we believe that education is one of the most powerful instruments known for developing individual talent, reducing poverty and inequality and for laying the basis for sustained economic growth, sound governance and effective institutions across the globe. And secondly since we might be able to contribute to improving Russian learning outcomes in the future.

What can Russia learn from our experience?

I was asked what Russia could learn from our experience. I cannot claim to be an expert on Russian education. However, we are an integral player in a number of education systems that consistently perform very well – including Finland, The Netherlands and Belgium. In addition we are the market leader in Poland which has been one of the rising stars on outcomes in recent years. And we have recently acquired a position in Sweden and are keen to support teachers in raising learning outcomes there too.

On the basis of our experience in these successful systems, we believe there are three cornerstones of excellence in primary and secondary education.

1. Skilled and motivated teachers

The first cornerstone is to make sure the level of skills and motivation of teachers is high. A skilled teacher is like a great leader – the impact is huge. They are the heroes and heroines of education. For example, this means:
a. Getting the best people to apply to teacher training
b. Paying them adequately
c. Making sure they are treated with respect, both in school and in society
d. Not over-managing them – they are professionals. Give them space to run their classes without too many rules
e. Making sure they have access to good learning and teaching materials and are free to choose them based on their professional insights. State-prescribed and created materials tend to lead to lower standards and reduced motivation for teachers
f. Keeping their skills up-to-date.

2. Motivated pupils

The second cornerstone is to ensure that pupils are motivated. The correlation between motivation and outcomes is high. This includes:
a. As described above, recruiting and retaining good teachers who can motivate pupils and classes
b. Promoting equity. It’s important to support poorly-performing students and students in economically less advantaged areas. Furthermore, to include marginalized pupils such as those with special needs or from diverse backgrounds and minorities in the mainstream. Their education should be well resourced. It will significantly improve their life chances and lead to better overall outcomes
c. Ensuring that education is valued in society. Amongst others, this will encourage parents to support learning, and this will raise expectations which typically raises outcomes too
d. Finding ways to personalise the process of learning, for example by using technology, or ensuring the teacher has time for individual intervention, or by providing access to tutors. Personalisation improves engagement and better engagement tends to lead to improved outcomes
e. Using high quality learning materials, that both pupils and teachers appreciate.

3. High quality learning solutions

We believe that the third cornerstone to excellence in education is to provide teachers and pupils with high quality learning solutions. They can make a significant contribution to achieving excellent learning outcomes, in a time- and cost-effective manner, whilst keeping pupils and teachers engaged on the journey of learning. Such solutions could include the following elements (for some parts depending on the ICT status of the school):

a. Close “fit” with the local curriculum, language, culture and ways
b. Excellent instructional design
c. Good user experience
d. Play multichannel
e. Capture data and can give insights, and on that basis can be personalisable and adaptive
f. Deploy a coherent learning path and design – easy to use for both pupil and teacher
g. The teacher should have a high level of freedom to choose from a competitive offering – to find the solution that fits them and their class best.

Our beliefs

So those are our beliefs about the cornerstones of creating excellent education systems. There is probably not a single approach that can be copied and pasted across the globe. But the chances are good that most education systems (including Russia) would benefit by focusing on skilled teachers, motivating pupils and providing high quality learning solutions.

Back to the Future of Learning

future of learningThis week I have returned to Sanoma Learning as CEO, succeeding Jacques Eijkens who established and has led the development of the company during the last eight years. Great job Jacques! It’s an honour to be given this opportunity. I have a big respect for the teams and what they have achieved so far and believe I can bring digital and innovation experience that can help us on the journey to the next era.

Education is at the dawn of a new age

Stakeholders rightly want to renew education: they have new and higher demands on outcomes, personalisation and ways of working in particular.  We’re at the dawn of a new age for education – and technology will be a key enabler of the transformation. Today, Sanoma Learning is a successful provider of educational resources and has excellent customer focus, skilled people, strong brands and good financial health. Yet today’s strength does not guarantee tomorrow’s success. I believe that by supporting pupils and teachers with digital personalised-learning solutions, Sanoma Learning can have a major positive impact on the transformation of education. We are well-positioned as we continue on the journey to the digital future, but our success will be determined by how markets for learning solutions evolve and how effectively we manage the digital transformation.

Further renewing our offering will be key

Our main priority in the coming years will be to further renew our offering. In our core markets, we will focus on the digital transformation: digitalising courses, adding workflow functionalities and using data to support workflow, guide personalisation and improve learning outcomes. We also have the ambition to build a position in online tutoring, thereby further personalising the learning experience and creating new possibilities for growth. And we intend to build a position in emerging markets, leveraging and increasing the impact of our learning solutions and opening up new revenue streams. At this moment in time, we are making good progress in our core markets and are at the early stage of developing new home-grown ventures in online tutoring and emerging markets.

Learning about Learning

Today is my first day in the new role and I will start by visiting the units to engage with the teams – I’m enthusiastic about getting to know the people and to understand the opportunities and plans for the future. I will be keen to support and accelerate the development agenda and for Sanoma Learning to play a pivotal role in the transformation of education. I’m really looking forward to working with the teams on this great opportunity!