The Global Search for Education: What if Learning Was All Fun and Games?

I think that more and more learning happens outside of the classroom in the real world environment solving real world problems.

The Global Search for Education: What if Learning Was All Fun and Games?

“I think that more and more learning happens outside of the classroom in the real world environment solving real-world problems. – Riku Alkio

Seppo is a Finnish company that specializes in game-based learning. Seppo’s gamification platform (called Seppo) is designed for interactive and personalized learning and is used in educational organizations in over 40 countries globally. “Sitting in a classroom is a boring way to learn,” says the Company’s CEO Riku Alkio, who believes learning improves when it’s fun and motivating. “We wanted to help teachers to engage students in a fresh and pedagogically sound way.” Learning in real world settings that take teachers and learners away from the classroom is also a focus of the company’s products. “We believe that when you free your ass your mind will follow,” says Alkio.

Market research indicates that the global gamification market worldwide will reach US$22.9 billion by 2022.

It’s become widely recognized that gamification is a powerful way to increase engagement and motivation in learners.  Seppo has developed a tool that enables teachers to turn lesson plans into interactive games that students can play on mobile devices while getting real time feedback from their teachers.

The Global Search for Education invited Seppo’s Riku Alkio to learn more.

What inspired the original idea for Seppo? What have you learned from your development process so far?

I was still teaching while I got the idea of Seppo. We took 25 students from our school to Rome for exchange week. Before starting the project we asked the students what would they like to do in Rome to make the week as interesting as possible. They came up with the idea of making a game in the Roman city center. “Amazing Race Church edition” was the name of the game. It was a total success!

That’s how I got the idea of creating a platform for any teacher to create their own learning game in authentic environments. I think that more and more learning happens outside of the classroom in the real world environment solving real world problems. 

Finland’s leadership in teacher training is renowned globally. We are seeing learning ideas from Finland become more prominent in new curriculums. How is digitalization changing teaching?

As our teacher training system is the best in the world, 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 at the same time digitalization is changing the way we teach. The role of a teacher is changing rapidly. It’s necessary to let innovations flow into the classroom, but use them in a pedagogically sound way. I think that Finland has succeeded in that quite well.

A new curriculum was introduced a couple of years ago in Finland. Since then, there has been a strong emphasis on integrating the subjects. In practice, this means that we are trying to give our students a multidisciplinary picture of real world phenomena.

In Seppo, we have managed to pack pedagogical ideas into an easy to use solution that have the heart of the Finnish pedagogical thinking but can be localized into different cultures.

How would you describe your greatest accomplishments with gamification in the classroom so far?

I’m always excited to see students being so engaged when they are playing a game that is created on Seppo. There is something universal in gamification. Actually, what we are doing is just giving teachers and students permission to play, and have a bit fun while teaching and learning. It feels fantastic that we have been able to create a concept and a solution that works in different parts of the world.

One thing that I’m especially proud of is the fact that with gamification we can help those students that are underachieving in the classroom. Offering students different ways to express themselves especially helps those who have difficulties to show their learning outcomes in traditional ways.

Describe the greatest challenges you’ve faced trying to implement game-based learning and tell us what have you learned?

It seems that in some cultures the old fashioned role of the teacher is quite sticky despite the fact that students are losing their motivation towards their studies. To create new ways to teach, we need to let go with some poor teacher led methods that don’t work anymore in the 21 Century. I think that simple is beautiful. That’s why we need to keep Seppo super easy to use for all teachers. One of our missions is to help teachers to use technology in a meaningful way in their teaching. We want to engage not only students but teachers as well!

In some countries, there is active discussions about the use of technology and especially the use of mobile devices at school. I think that technology should never replace the teacher. My opinion is that the most valuable learning happens in human interaction. But definitely technology can help in this process. Seppo is a great example of using mobile devices in a meaningful way at school. 

How will you keep the Seppo curriculum relevant and engaging for learners in a changing world? What are you working on now for the future?

There are thousands of games available in Seppo’s content library. They are created and shared by teachers. We are bringing new features into Seppo but only after serious discussions with our users. We get a lot of positive feedback that Seppo is a “pedagogy first” solution and that’s how we want to keep it in the future. There will be more gamification elements and new technical features, but the focus will be on enhancing learning.