Robots in Education! Wait.. Say what!?

Robots in Education! Wait.. Say what!?

What are robots doing in classrooms? is the big question we discuss in this feature with Johanna Hemminki, Founder and CEO of Utelias Technologies, who has a lifelong interest toward robots and a background in teaching.

‘Elias’ robot helps with Language Learning

If we talk about robots used globally in education, the two main cases are robots as a learning support for STEM subjects, and special interest groups (erityisryhmä).

Utelias Technologies has created a digital service for language learning, which consists of a Nao robot platform with software, and a mobile app user interface to control the robot. The ‘Elias’ robot, as they call it, can currently be used to teach English, German, and Finnish as a second language. The Nao robot has been chosen as the platform because of its good availability as well as for being small, versatile, and easy to move around.

The robot is suitable for people with learning disabilities, because no initial literacy skills are needed in order to begin. Users can start by learning to speak the language and practice conversational skills, gradually moving toward the capability to read and write. Moreover, the user can communicate with the robot non-verbally with body positions, which makes the interaction more engaging.


Modus Operandi

The learning system has been designed to follow the aims of the Finnish National Curriculum. It can teach vocabulary and phrases as well as conversational schemas. The end goal is to make it possible for users to fluently converse with the robot. The main pedagogical method is learning by modelling. The robot acts as a sort of a zone of proximal development for the learner.

The teacher can choose a specific exercise in the app that is connected to the robot. It is also possible to adjust the degree of difficulty by controlling the number of words in the learning dataset. The response from learners has been really encouraging: Elias has the capability to make learners really excited, as well as to guide the learning exercise.



In the recent Horizon 2020 project, the University of Tilburg and the University of Bielefeld have jointly conducted studies that suggest that body postures can enhance learning results. Another interesting finding that has emerged from the test using the Elias platform is that robots tackle the problem of feeling embarrassed to speak in class. With this platform, we can lower the barrier of speaking out loud. A robot does not have unconscious mechanisms of judgement, such as micro expressions, that human teachers often have when students give their answers to questions.


Future plans

In the future, Utelias Technologies is expanding to target their services to the Asian and UAE markets. For example, Japan is already generally more accepting toward robotics, but what they lack is a good quality language system for English speakers. This presents a good opportunity for Elias to provide assistance. 


Entrepreneurship education, in a nutshell

Entrepreneurship education, in a nutshell

Three years ago I had a completely different idea of entrepreneurship. It doesn’t belong to schools, I thought. This changed radically when I realized I was an entrepreneur myself.

Now the way I see it is that entrepreneurship is a viable way towards self-fulfilment and making a change in the world. One could argue it’s a tool to actualize your dreams, personal or communal.

When I think of entrepreneurship, these three values come to my mind first:

Collaboration skills and teamwork – No one person can take care of everything. You need teamwork based on individual strengths.

Persistence and innovativeness – You don’t give up the moment the shit hits the fan. Challenges are doors for innovating something new.

Desire to impact the world – Creating a product or service that brings added value to people.

More than a few people studying education have told me that they do not recognize the term entrepreneurship education. There was no mention of it during my own studies to become a teacher. With Linko and Suomen Yrittäjät (The Federation of Finnish Enterprises), we wanted to provide an opportunity to get to know what it is all about, to get real-life experience and confidence in it in one’s own field of work.

It is noteworthy that entrepreneurship education is a much broader term than simply working as an entrepreneur. It consists of an individual who is active and unprompted, an entrepreneurial learning environment, training, and a network that supports entrepreneurship.

The mission of this education is to strengthen your development as an entrepreneur into a way of working where your attitude and enthusiasm joins forces with your high-level knowledge and hands-on skills. Entrepreneurship education, as a term, includes also entrepreneurship training. This comprehensive training focuses on positive attitude, the basics of being an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurial ways of acting.

Please feel welcome to join the upcoming course to learn about entrepreneurship and the kind of pedagogy that goes with it, as well as to get acquainted with existing businesses working in the xEdu business accelerator! The course is held in Finnish. Enrollment ends on November 4th, so act quick!

Pic: Fanny Carolina Mobarac

What our education can't provide, we create!

What our education can't provide, we create!

Youth in revolt!

During the recent past it has occurred to me that there is an increasing number of organisations, movements, and events founded and fueled by young adults in their 20s and 30s with higher education backgrounds. Concrete action and working with and around real life issues, companies, and phenomena seem to be in the core of these all. This fast growth of initiatives that share similar goals and features makes me think that there’s something bigger going on. It looks like the millennials are not fully satisfied with what they’ve got and are now taking the future to their own hands. To me the dissatisfaction seems to be very strongly related to insecurity about managing working life, and disappointment towards education that does not develop these skills sufficiently.

This kind of unhappiness towards existing conditions is a common theme in Freirean pedagogy which argues that true freedom for the oppressed, and also for the oppressor, takes place only after a struggle and requires self-empowerment of the oppressed. Even though the struggles Freire talks about are much different from what I, for example, have experienced in any aspect of my life, the driving forces behind LINKO were also based on unhappiness, frustration, and dissatisfaction. Too many slow bureaucratic systems in the education sector, top-down management, and seeing an increased number of unengaged students and unengaged teachers only grew my thrive to find a way to make education more dynamic and participative to support our fundamental curiosity towards the world and learning. Until LINKO, I myself also felt like in many cases I was just part of repetitive action instead of development and problem solving oriented activities. And what is more, too often we seem to stay within our own bubbles which is not a fruitful foundation for creative innovations and increased sense of communality. It was time to find ways to break out of our bubbles.

For this reason four, students of the Faculty of Educational Sciences of Helsinki University originally got together and kicked off Linko, which quickly grew into a huge community with a shared focus of changing education of today.Taking the step outside our comfort zone together has offered us a sense of belonging and competence. At the same time, it has also taught us a lot about team working, problem solving, lifelong learning and learning skills, and recognizing our own and others’ strengths. We realized that LINKO not only offered a way to influence education but it also gave us the chance to gain skills that are needed in working life.

  “ I get inspired every time I see someone succeeding in what they do, when they gain confidence or when they have an epiphany.”                  (Juha-Matti Santala, Boost)   Pic: Saana Söderlund

“ I get inspired every time I see someone succeeding in what they do, when they gain confidence or when they have an epiphany.”                (Juha-Matti Santala, Boost)

Pic: Saana Söderlund

But Linko is just one of many. Juha-Matti Santala from Boost Turku explains that their goal is to inspire people to try and do something rather than do nothing. That way changing the world becomes possible. The mental shift from doing what is told by our bosses, or doing things one way because they’ve always been done that way, is not constructive and effective.

Slow and bureaucratic organisations are not flexible enough to support very well this kind of new doer culture. Luckily, today students are able to get study credits from some universities such as Helsinki University and Turku University for participating in events and programs that support interdisciplinary doer mentality i.e. Linko Education Hackathons or Boost’s Startup Journeys. It is wonderful to see that academic institutions support movements through which academic knowledge is being connected with practical activities, real life enterprises, and situations where occupational boundaries are crossed. At the same time, the participants get to develop their teamworking, problem solving and other 21st century skills.

Enabling the development of the skills mentioned above was in the heart of the psychology students of Helsinki University as well, when they started to build up their own hackathon called Psyhack. According to Jaakko Sahimaa, one of the organizers of Psyhack, “psychology is a field of science that has not moved forward very much in the past, and the education is lacking appropriate contacts to working life and practicality. One goal of the event was to send a message that practicality is something the psychology students need more in their studies.”

 Pic: Saana Söderlund

Pic: Saana Söderlund

All these initiatives and other similar movements are a clear sign that higher education today does not offer sufficient working life skills or opportunities to develop them. I, like so many others, have taken a step forward because we believe that by uniting academic knowledge with practical surroundings, tools and support - driven by active individuals - we can provide students with skills that are needed in the future working life.

Learning in Hackathons: Reflections from LINKO + Heureka Weekend

Learning in Hackathons: Reflections from LINKO + Heureka Weekend

Saana Peltola, Class Teacher Education student:

Last fall my friend participated in an education hackathon called Linko, and I listened curiously when she praised it enthusiastically. Meeting new people and innovating together sounded just like my thing! So, when a notification of a new Linko education hackathon popped up in my Facebook feed, I knew my opportunity had come.

When I had filled my registration form to Linko I was super excited. I had never participated in any hackathons, so I had absolutely no idea what was ahead of me. Reading the description of the weekend raised my expectations high and I can tell that I certainly weren’t disappointed. The weekend at Heureka was all I had imagined, and much more!

This hackathon weekend was CRAZY in a totally good way. A lot of new and amazing people, laughter, brainstorming, innovation, inspirational speakers, discussions, and good food, of course! I think I have never learned as much in such a short time, or felt so enthusiastic and inspired (thanks to the great atmosphere that supported this enthused mindset). Working the whole weekend so closely with these interesting challenges was like therapy, because I didn’t even have time to think about any other things besides Linko and everything that was going on in the hackathon. My head was full of ideas for the challenge, pitching, benchmarking and all that kind of new stuff I hadn’t heard before Linko. Even though the days were long and the schedule was tight, me and my team had a good time and we enjoyed every moment. That was the case even when we were so tired that there was absolutely nothing fruitful left in our minds, and all we could do was to laugh.

After the weekend, I was happy that I had registered without a team, because it gave me the opportunity to work the whole weekend with people I had never met before. During the weekend these four total strangers became my friends and I couldn’t be happier that I met them! I gave my everything in Linko and it was totally worth it, because Linko gave so much for me! In addition to all interesting and useful things I learned in Linko, I learned a lot about myself as a learner and a team worker. Linko gave me an ardor for hackathons and innovating together, so you can totally find me at the next Linko hackathon!

Eeva Lilja, General and Adult Education student:

I had next to zero preconceptions of what happens at a hackathon. I only knew that teams solve challenges and, at the end of the weekend, present their solutions, and the winners are picked based on the presentations. The event just sounded interesting, so I decided to enroll on a whim even though I didn’t know if any of my friends were to join. On Friday, I was very intimidated because I could not imagine what was to come during the weekend, plus events where you meet a lot of new people means going out of my comfort zone by far.

The stress abated and turned into excitement as soon as I entered Heureka on Friday. It felt natural getting acquainted with people and I got good feelings about the team I was part of. The challenge seemed difficult to tackle but I was confident about our team. Saturday seemed like a long day and the emotional spectrum included feelings from excitement to even boredom and fatigue. On Sunday, we still had a lot of work to do on our solution, but we worked efficiently, and were finally satisfied with the product. Even though I didn’t present our work, I was a little nervous again as the finale loomed ahead. At the end, I felt relieved when the job was done and we could be proud of our work.

Hackathon was a completely novel experience that clarified a lot on what kind of abilities might be needed in corporate life, and what sort of concrete challenges are encountered in the field of education. It felt like the skills needed throughout the weekend, such as ideation, conceptualizing, and presenting your thoughts in a coherent manner, are skills that I have not learned in my university studies or in any other contexts, although they are surely useful in many walks of life. In addition to acquiring fresh perspectives and learning new skills, I got acquainted with great people, and got to take part in an event where everybody cheered each other. The atmosphere and team spirit were top-notch. I’m very glad I decided to participate, and I’m looking forward to upcoming hackathons!

A superfruit called hackathon

A superfruit called hackathon

Hackathon as a concept is starting to be a widely spread phenomenon and now it’s been harnessed to the development of education as well as to the activation of those interested in the field. My inspiration to organize the first full-length, i.e. over-weekend, education hackathon in Finland (and, actually, the first in the Nordic countries) stems from seeing how much fun some participants of hackathons had had compared to my weekends. Those people were utterly exhausted, yet smiling, proud of the work they had done, their address books filled with new contacts. As a result of the weekend, there had born an oeuvre that contained more than mere eye could see.

I am an Educational Psychology major and highly interested in learning and development of different kinds of skills. In my opinion, a big defect in my studies, and actually in the whole education field, is that there are not enough ways to actively take part in building, developing, and updating it to this century. I wanted to be part of defining and refining my own occupation, and I felt tired of waiting for someone else telling me how to practice my passion or make a change. In addition to that, I felt like the people in the education field and teachers still live too much within their own bubble. I longed for business and interdisciplinary cooperation to boost and develop education, and thus create new innovations and solutions to make the world a little bit better and communal. Because of the observations I had made about hackathons, I realized that by organizing an education hackathon I could follow my original inspiration, work towards improving education, and help others to bring out their knowledge and skills.

After the first Linko Education Hackathon we wanted to find out in which ways our pedagogically hacked hackathon, and the hackathon concept in general, could support the participants’ intellectual and practical learning. We were able to identify four categories that the participants were able to practice and develop during the Linko Education Hackathon event.

Learning as a way of life. The hackathon concept supports the idea of learning as a way of life. The proactive development of one’s own intellectual and practical skills is in the center of hackathons where teams work towards a common goal. In hackathons, one can learn to identify, test, and apply different learning environments, and accumulate one’s own capabilities. The idea of “learning by doing” is emphasized, as well as learning to learn, because the participants must process and utilize huge amounts of information and different kind of skills / knowledge. In hackathons, the participants get to learn to adapt to changing environments, situations and technological tools, and to use them to support the team’s work.

Courage to try. A hackathon provides a safe space where one can experiment with trial and error, and then try again. In hackathons, it is quite common that participants go outside their comfort zones and even experience edge emotions. However, these moments on the edge are the moments where the participants can learn the most about themselves and their ways of operating in different situations. Expert facilitation and communal atmosphere work as a safety net during the event.

We is the new me. Hackathons are intensive interdisciplinary teamwork where participants get to practice their teamworking and communication skills, experience different working methods and try to figure out how to combine them, and learn to combine different kinds of know-how interculturally. In hackathons, it is essential to find and create bridges between different kinds of knowledge and skill-sets to level up the team’s processes for the brightest outcome. As mentioned before, hackathons are also great places for networking: one can create ties with companies and future partners. A great thing is that, as one of the Linko Education Hackathon 2016 participant said, in hackathons you can even make lifelong friendships.

Recognising know-how. In hackathons, the participants get to develop and apply their own know-how cross-boundaries, which results in testing their own abilities but also in yielding feelings of capability. The participants are given a chance to find their own boundaries, learn to perform and pitch, recognise their own know-how by putting it into words and thus practice their argumentation skills. In this concept/prototype creation competition it is also essential that the teams are able to recognize their shared capabilities and knowledge as well. Identifying a bigger picture, combining and interpreting different things and knowledge, taking considered risks, making conclusions, making predictions of the future, and entrepreneurship are highly emphasized during the process of a hackathon.

Based on last fall’s hackathon and participant experiences, we can say that the hackathon concept is a true superfruit of working skills. In Linko Education Hackathons, the participants can truly boost their own skill-sets in a well-facilitated, safe, and communal environment, while networking and having fun. The next step for us is to solidify this interdisciplinary working concept widely to different communities. This is how we can build a true network of skillful doers, nationally and internationally. So join us and be part of something bigger than meets the eye!

Sign up for the LINKO + Heureka Education Hackathon now by clicking here. Registration closes on Friday the 14th!

Linko 2016 Hackathon - from volunteers’ perspective

Linko 2016 Hackathon - from volunteers’ perspective

What is it like to volunteer at a Linko hackathon? Read below what two volunteers from last year, Iiris and Sari, thought about the experience! If you’re interested in joining the volunteering team for the upcoming LINKO + Heureka Education Hackathon, click right here!

Iiris Annaniemi
Last autumn I spotted an interesting event on Facebook and I became very curious. I had never heard about hackathons but I wanted to know more about an event that included almost all of my main interests: education, team work, learning and technology. All my student colleagues were busy on that weekend (how is that even possible??) so I had no company to join my hackathon team. So, I was in the situation where I knew none of the participants or arrangers. I didn’t have the courage to participate alone but I still wanted to know what’s it all about. Then I figured out to enroll in the volunteering team. It seemed to be the perfect opportunity to see the atmosphere and get to know what a hackathon actually is. And what’s best, I would still have a chance to disappear after my shift if everything were horrible!

Because I literally knew no one from the event and had no clue what’s coming, I was very close to cancelling my participation because of an urgent stomach flu. Luckily, I was such a wuss to lie and I found myself knocking the doors at Design Factory exactly 30 mins before my shift. And very early it was clear that I couldn’t be happier about my decision to take part in the very first education hackathon.

All my fears about new people, the new concept and place were totally irrelevant. I felt warmly welcomed and important while doing my volunteering tasks. I even found myself coming back to Linko even though my official job at the welcoming stand was already done. Being part of the volunteering team was just like I hoped it would be, the perfect way to get to know what a hackathon is and, what’s best, to get to know new people with same interests and passions. Later on, I also found myself as a part of a team arranging the upcoming Linko x Heureka Hackathon.

Sari Helanen
When I was asked to volunteer at the first Linko hackathon last fall, I didn’t exactly know what to expect because I had not heard about Linko before. It piqued my curiosity and I wanted to hear more, so I scheduled a meeting with Solja. I was asked to join the catering team to take care of food and serving during the hackathon weekend. To ease my burden a little (since preparing food and all the related business would be demanding), I asked my sister to join the team.

There was plenty of work to do with Solja before the weekend, and at last we got to the wholesaler, and then transported all the stuff to Design Factory at Espoo. Before the event actually took place, we were introduced to Design Factory, and I got very good vibes about the place already then. The place would be a perfect fit.

As the contestants arrived in Espoo, it was time to kick off the hackathon. There was a real bustle in the kitchen as we prepared for Saturday’s breakfast and lunch, as well as for Sunday’s brunch. Having helping hands in the kitchen was invaluable! We got positive feedback on the food, which made the weekend’s work all worthwhile for us. Organizers, volunteers, and team members were all very friendly and helpful to the catering team throughout the weekend. That truly boosted our spirits in the kitchen. The catering team also took part in the exciting spirit that stemmed from the teams solving the challenges. The weekend was surely an intensive experience but it made a lasting mark on me, because here I am again – this time in the marketing team. :)

Linko 2016 Hackathon – Through the Eyes of a Participant

Linko 2016 Hackathon – Through the Eyes of a Participant

… but do I dare to participate without a team?

That was my concern after calling everybody who I thought could be interested even a little in Linko and then receiving refusals for various reasons. It was specified in the event description that help would be given in forming the teams, but what if everybody had a team already, and some team would have to take me along just out of pity?

Even when driving towards Design Factory, we half-joked about turning around and going home to curl up under a blanket to watch Netflix. Fortunately, we did not, because the weekend turned out to be even better an experience than I could have imagined: a leap outside my comfort zone where I was faced with unexpected new acquaintances, where I got to strengthen the sense of my know-how, and where I rejoiced in the feeling of participating in an exciting project.

Well, what happened at the Linko 2016 hackathon, then? It went something like this:

Friday: Kick off
At the beginning, to help forming the groups and breaking the ice in general, we spent time in getting acquainted with each other. Before the teams were formed, the cooperation companies – Claned Group and Sulaton Oy – had presented their challenges to the contestants. The challenges were open, and the companies hoped that the contestants would find solutions either by tackling challenges in their ready-made products, or by creating additional content for them. Expressing your preference for one of the challenges was a key component in forming the groups, and the process was surprisingly fast and painless.

Saturday: Work it
The day dedicated to working was nicely divided into passages by workshops on conceptualizing (a brand new thing to me) as well as by an inspiring keynote speech by Mervi Pänkäläinen, the CEO of Mightifier. Help was provided by specific facilitators who ensured that every team was heading towards the right direction.

Sunday: Finalize and show off
The morning began with a brunch, continued with a workshop on pitching, and hurried along to the finale in the afternoon. The hurry and excitement were at such levels that guzzling Red Bulls was no longer necessary. At the finale, moods were high and the stress that had accumulated over the weekend began to unravel.

I and many other participants have been very grateful afterwards for daring to participate without knowing almost anybody from the event beforehand. Sure, I was in the same team with my husband, but the two other team members were completely new acquaintances, one of whom knew nobody from the event. This enabled us to start with a clean slate. The excitement and hectic environment also meant that it would’ve been unnecessary to marvel at our team roles or to be unsure about our teamwork skills. We worked together naturally, and whenever we ran into problems, we got a lot of help from the instructions as well as from the Linko crew members who were always willing to help in times of need. At the end of the day, Linko is not only about what you’re capable of, but what you still don’t know you're capable of. See you at Heureka! :)

Tuija Cornér

LINKO at SOOL’s Talvipäivät

LINKO at SOOL’s Talvipäivät

Last weekend, 17.-19.2.2017, over 2,300 teacher students from all around Finland gathered once again to celebrate the traditional SOOLin Talvipäivät, this time in Savonlinna. Of course, LINKO was there on the razzle too. The celebration of Talvipäivät started with the opening event in Savonlinna Market Square where hundreds of teacher students kept the cold away by dancing. The first night’s party continued till the very morning but nevertheless a lot of people came on Saturday to the winter happening in Heikinpohja field. In the happening there were, for example, sausage grilling and a snow soccer tournament. LINKO had also arranged an event called Lumilinko for the winter happening. Lumilinko included a three-minute mini-hackathon and a wheel of fortune. 

Team LINKO had just started to wander around the winter happening when the first group of students wanted to spin the wheel of fortune. In order to do that, they had to participate in a mini-hackathon first. In the hackathon, a group was given a random Wikipedia article of which content they had to teach by using snow as an educational tool. And, of course, they had to pitch their teaching idea to the LINKO judges. Our hackathons are divided in three parts which are combine, define, and refine. In the Lumilinko mini-hackathon there was only one minute’s time to do each and the idea was not to take the hackathon too seriously. All in all, the mini-hackathon was a fun and playful way to test the hackathon concept, and to hear more about LINKO. After taking part in the mini-hackathon, the participants got to spin the Lumilinko wheel of fortune where they could win cool LINKO related prizes. 

In the Lumilinko mini-hackathon, we met a lot of great people and saw their creative solutions for teaching totally random things with snow. The people we met were really interested to hear about us, and we got to practice our pitching skills when we told inquisitive teacher students about LINKO. Togetherness, one of LINKO’s values, was strongly present in our Lumilinko event, and we made a lot of new friends in Savonlinna. I hope that we see you all in the LINKO spring hackathon in April!

Alma Holm
Partnerships assistant

Linko Kickoff 2017

Linko Kickoff 2017


I have been given the great honor of writing the first LINKO blogpost ever! Today I’m going to tell you how I became part of the LINKO family, and how we started our journey with LINKO2017 on a kickoff day last Saturday.

My own journey with LINKO started last fall when I noticed something totally new and random on my Facebook feed. An event about education hackathon made me super curious, and I decided to participate. I hadn’t even heard about hackathons before, but the whole concept sounded ingenious, and the education twist made it totally my thing.

I have to say that the first LINKO hackathon surpassed all my high expectations! It really was pure magic. The whole weekend was a rollercoaster out of my comfort zone. I don’t think I have ever learned so much in just three days. The whole hackathon vocabulary (pitching, benchmarking, etc.) was all new to me. My teamwork skills expanded when working so closely with total strangers (my team included three persons I had never met before) and my resistance to pressure improved with all the stress of the tight schedule. Even though it was a tough weekend, the warm and inspiring atmosphere, and the great feeling of exceeding ourselves with my team, leaved me wanting more. I randomly met LINKO’s founders Riina and Solja at a pre-Christmas party in December, and asked if there was any need for volunteers. And there was! Now I’m part of LINKO’s marketing team, and I can’t wait for the upcoming events.

I hadn’t actually met anyone from the LINKO team personally except Solja and Riina before last Saturday. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous when I entered the co-founder Olli’s apartment for LINKO’s kickoff day. My nervousness disappeared right away when I saw what a bubbly and outgoing group we had there! We broke the ice (well, as if there was any) with a little warm-up game, and discussed LINKO’s values and background.

After that we moved to Riina’s place right next door, and started to think about concrete things that we want to do in LINKO and how we are going to do those things. It was so great to see how similar views we all have: enthusiasm, inspiration, togetherness, and courage were all words that recurred constantly in our speeches and plans. I have to say that I’m blown away by the group of talented and passionate people we have here making LINKO. Just this one kickoff day convinced me that we have an amazing adventure ahead of us.

So, stay tuned, great things are coming! 

Roosa Supinen
Marketing assistant