We’ve seen many headlines saying how Silicon Valley parents are raising their children tech-free lately. Paradoxically, many of these parents who are restricting or banning their children’s screen-time are working in leading tech companies that live off our habitual use of digital services. Many researchers have also raised concerns about the negative impact of excessive use of social networking sites on our well-being.  

The education sector is currently undergoing a rapid process of digitization. As we’re worried about our children’s screen-time, the question has been raised whether we're doing students a disservice by making them sit in front of the screens in the classroom too.  

We at Kokoa see that the answer to the problematic question about addictive technology lies in pedagogy. The developers, buyers and users of educational technology should target their focus on the pedagogical design and the pedagogical use of digital solutions.  

For the creators of EdTech this means that instead of trying to develop the most popular app or game, EdTech design should focus on identifying the learning goals and finding the best way to help students to reach these goals.  

When writing this article I realised that not a single product among the solutions that Kokoa has certified so far has relied on a design built upon mechanics that are known to cause addiction. – mechanics familiar from Facebook (notifications and social approval), Youtube (autoplay) and Fortnite (​loot-boxes​), for example. Yet, we’ve certified plenty of products that are very successful business-wise, such as Makeblock, PlayKids, CodeMonkey or Kahoot (yes, Kahoot is making revenue ​now with their huge user base). All of these solutions are cool and entertaining, but they also solve a real educational problem and their design is built upon a scientifically valid pedagogical model.  

When comparing a casual game and a learning game, we see that their commercial success factors are different. Whereas casual games’ commercial success is based on the number of monthly active users, learning games’ success is based upon the learning outcomes that the game is able to deliver. In order to achieve commercial success in the education space, there’s no need to rely on addictive mechanics in the product’s design.  

To shed more light on what makes  a pedagogically sound product, we’ve decided to kick off a series of articles presenting the four pedagogical concept pairs used in Kokoa’s evaluation framework. The use of our pedagogical model helps EdTech designers – and also designers of casual games and apps – to benefit from research on learning and pedagogy and implement good practices to support better pedagogy. So, stay tuned!  


About our guest author -

Olli Vallo - Co-founder & Head of Education at Kokoa Standard

Olli Vallo

I've graduated as a teacher from the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Education. After teaching a couple years, I started preparing doctoral thesis about educational technology and ended up working in an EdTech company. Working as a developer of learning solutions I realised that there is globally a big need of pedagogical expertise in the EdTech industry.

I hope learning in schools would be made more meaningful and exciting for students. I believe using technology can help with that, but it requires that there's more high quality solutions available. Our company, Kokoa Standard, aims to help with that by providing a quality verification service for EdTech developers and publishers.

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