The Finnish learning cocktail 🇫🇮

Using games and animation for education also presents some challenges.

“Fungi” animation series.

Behind fancy terms like edtech and edutainment lies a genuine interest in improving the way we educate children. Who wouldn’t want to make the learning process more efficient, (and while we’re on it, more human and egalitarian)?

You needn’t be an expert to realise that children learn better when they are motivated. Technology and characters seem like perfect for that purpose.

Technology has a undeniable appeal for kids. They just love smartphones, tablets, computers… and they know how to use them.

Character brands like Pokemon or Harry Potter, on the other hand, can create a strong emotional engagement with children if they successfully combine design with values they identify with (or aspire to be identified with).

Why not combine technology and character brands for education purposes? It seems like the ultimate formula to boost motivation which could improve how we teach and learn.

Finland, home of the most amazingly successful games like Clash of Clans, and of legendary tech companies like Nokia, is also the birth place of globally recognised characters like Angry Birds or the Moomins and it has a growing animation industry.

At the same time, the quality of its education system has given Finland an international reputation. Its aim for equality over excellence, and a permanent self-criticism and improvement of the system are arguably some of the reasons of such success.

With these credentials, it is not surprising to see Finnish companies specialising in innovation in learning ( think of Rovio spinoff Fun Academy, or, xEdu an unique business accelerator focused on this, ) and some of them tipping their toes into the magic technology-plus-characters educational cocktail. Game makers Lightneer have a really specific subject like Physics and are working to try and build a brand around it combining a fun mobile game with Pokemon-like characters representing the elements.

Following a different route, some animation studios are turning to technology and education as ways to expand their business (mainly preschool brands). The educational angle is often found by reverse engineering, from the characters values and personalities, to more general educational objectives, ofter related to “social skills”, “communication skills”, ”expression of feelings” or other more specific contents.

Although the combination of games and animation brands seems powerful, it is legitime to wonder whether or not this formula works for each and all subjects and disciplines. At first sight it seems that natural and formal sciences are a much easier fit than social sciences, and those, more straightforward that history or philosophy.

The main problem for a scalable, tech enabled, animation-branded learning solution is the validation of the content. This can prove specially problematic in the case of user generated content platforms. It seems there is more consensus around trigronometry than for example about the Spanish Civil War. Can a company, government or institution claim to have authority to validate facts and contents when they are culture or opinion dependent? What value does non-validated educational content have?

Remember the old saying “Just because you read it online doesn’t mean it is true”.

Are you an educator? A parent? A game developer or animation producer? What do you think about tech, brands and education?

Just adding an animated character may not be enough.