Caroline Smrstik Gentner: You’re in the process of developing a teacher-to-teacher networking tool. Why?
Lasse Leponiemi: My colleagues and I responded to a challenge from the Schools2030 initiative, run by the Aga Khan Foundation. Under Schools2030, teachers at 1,000 schools in 10 countries have been working through a human-centered design process with the objective of improving learning outcomes. We wanted to find a way to showcase the teachers’ work, to show what’s working in schools, and to spread these practices across those 10 countries and beyond.
In April we spent three days in the Solvathon sponsored by the Jacobs Foundation, and became really excited about the potential of a networking platform. Since then, we’ve had a team of developers working on it, and we are launching the project at RewirEd in December.
“We wanted to find a way to showcase the teachers’ work, to show what’s working in schools, and to spread these practices across those 10 countries and beyond.”
CSG: What exactly will the platform contain?
LL: The platform, which we’ve named Faved, is a catalogue of pedagogical practices, small ideas that teachers come up with to teach more creatively. For example, one primary school teacher in the UK combines physical education with literacy. He hands the kids little cards with letters. They run around the schoolyard, combining letters to create words. This also works with numbers to create and solve equations.
Teachers describe their ideas on the platform and give instructions. Other teachers can then try out an idea, leave comments, and post a rating.
CSG: What are the biggest barriers to creating a global solution?
LL: The system we create has to be easily accessible so that any teacher, anywhere in the world, can contribute a practice. We’re aware that we have to cater to people who may not be digitally proficient, and that we have to find a way to ensure offline access. That’s our biggest challenge. We’re starting off with English, and after the launch we will be adding five other languages officially supported by Schools2030 – French, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian. Beyond that, we don’t know yet which languages will be supported.
CSG: Which aspects of the UN Sustainable Development Goal on quality education (SDG 4) do you hope to address with Faved?
LL: Learning poverty, out of school children, the projected teacher shortage – these are all things that multilateral organizations are aware of, but we haven’t seen a large, global, concerted way to address them yet. We’re hoping that giving teachers around the world a way to share successes will lead to some bottom-up changes that contribute to solving these challenges.
“Our platform provides a way to build more quickly on what’s going well in the classroom.”
CSG: This seems abstract – how could Faved help address a teacher shortage, for example?
LL: If teaching is seen as an attractive profession, with the same opportunities for recognition and advancement as in other professions, we think more talented people will be drawn to teaching and want to stay there. Think about technology, business skills and acumen – and how these areas progress rapidly because of competition and job mobility. In teaching, this doesn’t happen. Our platform provides a way to build more quickly on what’s going well in the classroom. Currently, so much of the institutional knowledge that even a single school has to offer isn’t being built on. Knowledge doesn’t progress exponentially in the way it does in other sectors.
With Faved, teachers can take matters into their own hands and improve classroom outcomes using best practices that have been tried and tested around the world. That type of professional development – and recognition – can keep teachers motivated and increase retention.