Hundreds of new edtech platforms launch each year but in 2016 one stood out for us in particular. Seppo is a game-based learning platform that can transform homework, break down classroom walls and send student engagement through the roof. Easy to use and embed across the curriculum, it's definitely something new to try in 2017 if you haven't already.
We spoke with Seppo CEO Riku Alkio from Finland about the platform and what makes it such a great tool for the classroom as well as what plans Seppo has for the future
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I have been working as a teacher for twenty years in the Kallio Upper Secondary school in Helsinki, Finland. I’ve been involved in quite many ICT related projects at the school and also at the municipal and national level with the National Board of Education. I have four sons, so I pretty much know what the ”digital natives” can do with technology after school.
What led to the development of Seppo? It was 2011 when we took a student group to Rome for an exchange week. When starting the project we encouraged the students to come up with new ideas to make the week as interesting as possible. Two student groups decided to create a game there in Rome. We were totally excited about the idea! They designed and carried out an ”Amazing Race Church edition” and it was a huge success. I have never seen the students so excited about learning. After that game experience we realized that there was something about games in general that truly engage people. That’s how it all began.
For those who are unfamiliar with Seppo, can you give us a brief outline of the platform?
Seppo is a web-based solution for every teachers to create and share educational games. Seppo combines gamification, team work and pedagogical use of mobile technology. You can create a game based on any physical environment e.g. a school yard, park, museum or city center. You can also play the game in the class room. The teacher is always monitoring the game online.
What do you think sets Seppo apart from other educational applications?
The most valuable thing is that seppo can be used in any subject and on any school level. It works from primary school to the university level. With games you can motivate students and they can even make games by themselves. Rather than consume we want students to produce their own digital content. This can be done easily with mobile devices.
How important is it to have Seppo work on any device?
It is very important. It’s easy to start playing if you just have access to the internet. Players can also continue playing offline if they happen to lose their internet connection. In my opinion successful tools of the future are platform solutions that work on all devices. If students can use their own devices in a formal learning environment (like school) learning becomes more personal and their results will be better. This has been proven by scientists in an extensive mobile learning research survey.
You've had some great successes already with Seppo. Do any stand out in particular?
A few weeks ago we signed a deal with GEMS Education. Seppo will be rolled out to GEMS schools globally. I’m really excited about that. There are also many Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) in different parts of the world who have found our platform very useful. It’s just great to see that teachers all over the world get the idea and start using Seppo in their teaching.
Seppo is a part of the thriving Finnish educational system. Why is Finland such a beacon for world education these days?
You may have noticed from social media posts that Finland will get rid of all the school subjects by 2020. I think that it’s not so straight forward but we are moving towards that. We have a really solid base to investigate new ways of teaching and learning. We know we can rely on the professional expertise that Finnish teachers have. But in the digital era we need new methods to engage and motivate students. It’s necessary to let innovations flow to the classroom, but use them in a pedagogically sound way.
How important is the use of educational technology in Finland in general?
Just like everywhere else, there are two sides on this subject. Some think that with technology our special touch in teaching will fade. In Finland there is respect for the child and respect for the teacher. Others think that with innovative new solutions we can still improve our educational system which is already one of the best in the world. I think we should mix the old and new methods – and never lose the sensitive and important relationship between the teacher and student. We Finns are really good at respecting that bond.
What's next for Seppo? Do you have any new updates in the pipeline that you can share a little about?
We have a long list of features that we’ll implement on the platform. There will be more gamification elements like time pressure and levels in the near future. We are also working on indoor positioning and implementing augmented reality to Seppo. But first we’ll think how to do them easily and in a pedagogically meaningful way.
How can our readers keep up to date with the latest from Seppo?