Mika Kasanen is the Co-Founder of School Day, a Helsinki-based start-up that is supporting student wellbeing and social and emotional learning on a global scale. The team has onboarded hundreds of new schools during the unfortunate COVID-19 crisis with its School Day @Home service for remote learning. School Day will be speaking about Wellbeing and Social and Emotional Skills Driving the Future of Education in the EdTechX Summit Online. We sat down with Mika this week to hear more about School Day’s journey and the road ahead.
Why did you start School Day?
Because strangely we felt like there was something missing in Finland. I mean, we are one of the most equal, most advanced and the happiest countries in the world with a highly respected education system. That’s what we are globally known for now. Yet, until recently and despite the wonderful success stories of likes of Nokia, Remedy, Rovio and Supercell there were a very few notable Finnish EdTech companies. We wanted to fill that gap by using our expertise and scale our services to global markets to make a positive impact for hundreds of millions of students and teachers around the world. School Day brings equality and empathy for learning. Everything that we do aims to improve student wellbeing. We feel that, especially during extremely challenging times like these, that is highly important.
Tell us a little bit about the tech behind the product:
We combine kindness with AI to deliver unique service that improves wellbeing and social-emotional skills leading to better learning results. School Day asks students to research-based questions daily. Our industry-leading AI transforms wellbeing data into actionable insights. Students receive feedback, messages and assignments that help to improve the overall mood in the classroom. Teachers are provided with recommendations on how to improve wellbeing and social-emotional skills in the classroom. Principals and district leaders have real-time data to support leadership and decision-making. We are a team of eight experienced professionals based in Helsinki, Finland. Some have expertise in education, others in tech. Both can be complicated fields, but our shared vision is to keep our product as simple as possible. That’s one of our principles.
What are you looking to achieve next?
As far the roadmap goes, the road is clear: To keep up positive momentum in the Nordics. To strengthen our presence and validate our product-market-fit in the US. And to build a solid client base in the UK. Overall, we want to bring new analytics solutions to SEL and wellbeing. We believe that to make the right interventions you need to know what the possible pain points are. We help our clients in schools and school districts to make the pedagogically right decision. That is our mission for the future too.
What has been the biggest obstacle in creating School Day?
Finding the right people to form the right team. Growing our competence base is continuous work, but our team is amazing, and the new additions that will follow along the way, can execute the vision that we all share and believe in. Other than that, we see only possibilities. We know who we are, where we come from, what we can do and how we can help others around the world with our expertise in education and tech.
Looking back to the day you started School Day, what would you have done differently?
Many things, for sure. After all, building any start-up is a process that goes on daily, weekly and monthly. You learn by doing and many times making mistakes is the most efficient form of learning. No one is perfect. Certainly, we are not but the key is continuous learning. Surely, we could have definitely placed emphasis on more rapid paper prototyping in the early days. We were extremely lucky to have Lifeline Ventures, one of the most prestigious and most innovative VC’s in Finland aboard early on. Their experience has been vital, and I think we have made many good decisions together along the way.
What separates the Nordic EdTech Ecosystem from others? How do you think this has helped with the success of School Day?
It all starts with history. The very foundation of any success that my home nation Finland has ever had is based on our equal, free and mandatory nationwide education that we adapted early. The main reason why Finland was able to develop into one of the most advanced and stable countries on earth after devasting mental, physical and economical losses suffered in World War 2 has been our education. I believe the storyline to be similar with all Nordic nations. We all share the common culture of understanding the historical significance of pedagogy. We also share similar values, including sharing culture itself. For decades student wellbeing and development of social-emotional skills have been a vital part of reaching excellent learning results. We place a lot of value on joy, empathy, happiness and freedom. Therefore, School Day as a company is not based on tech but on softer Nordic values. Tech is something that makes our vision possible.
Finally, why should more people be using School Day?
Because unfortunately there are still way too many schools around the world that are simply too focused on exam scores and hard values such as effectiveness. Surely, we too care about grades but we also believe that no person anywhere should miss their childhood, youth or adulthood, because of the pressure caused by school. Our goal is to bring kindness into learning by asking students simple daily questions like: “How are you feeling today?” In today’s world, during extraordinarily challenging times like these caused by the spread of coronavirus, we believe that question to be more important than ever. We want to improve happiness that, in the end, equals better learning results. Our long-term goal is to give a voice to each and every student in any classroom around the world.