One of the things we’re building at Lightneer that excites me the most is scaling the inclusivity of the Finnish educational system. In Finland, everybody gets to go to a great school, regardless of their parents’ income level or which city they were born in. In too many places in the world, this is not true.
A few years ago I had the chance to visit the Cambodian Ministry of Education. The visit and the talks with local principals and teachers led to a realization. In Cambodia, there are hundreds of schools that don’t even have schoolbooks. At the same time, in Finland, UK, US and other rich countries, we are moving full steam ahead towards digital learning. While schoolbooks and the traditional school tools are very expensive and hard to scale, would it be possible to accelerate a country like Cambodia even ahead of such educational superstars as Finland by digital tools?
At first the idea seemed crazy. After all, those schools don’t even have electricity. How on Earth could you then bring them digital learning tools? But after brainstorming with a group of twelve teachers and principals for no more than thirty minutes, we had a solution: solar panels. Adding low cost Android tablets to the mix, you have a perfect platform to provide next generation learning to these schools. The missing ingredient? Learning games. A way to get immediately drawn in by the joy of learning.
We’ve now started making this crazy idea real. We’re launching two research projects together with the Finn Church Aid and researchers from University of Helsinki to establish the efficacy of game learning in demanding rural areas in developing countries.
Two weeks ago we visited two schools in Uganda where Finn Church Aid is running educational projects funded by Unicef. Our aim was to see how the kids and the teachers reacted to tablets and learning games. The teachers were supportive and enthusiastic. But what was unbelieveably touching was to see the seven to twelve year old kids’ enthusiasm about learning games. Kids who had never seen a tablet in their lives were pulled in and engaged by Big Bang Legends in a matter of a few minutes. Those moments of seeing their eyes light up, of seeing the pure joy of learning by playing, felt nothing short of magical.
I think this is some of the most important work we are doing. We are not, after all, just a game studio. We are a learning game studio with a mission to bring the joy of learning to everybody in the world. To make this count, we must work hard to make sure everybody really means everybody. Not just those already well off in the rich corners of the world.
Perhaps one day in the future one of those Ugandan or Cambodian kids will receive her Nobel prize in particle physics, giving an acceptance speech about how a silly game made her fall in love with quarks.