“The mobile testbed TEKLA is a shortcut to product development” – a successful spring semester

The mobile EdTech testbed TEKLA, developed by the City of Helsinki, is an effective way to test and co-develop innovations. The educational technology companies involved in spring 2024 share their unique testbed experience.

The mobile testbed TEKLA, which moves from schools, daycares and educational institutions to another, is a completely new experimental platform where companies can test and co-develop their innovations with end-users. TEKLA began operating in February 2024. During the spring semester, it was set up in Helsinki schoolyards for several weeks at a time.

Six companies participated in the experiments: Loru Games, Lumipallo Consulting, Win or Learn, Ujuzi, Kwizie.ai, and CareUs. Company representatives guide workshops in the testbed container, where during a single day, learner groups of various ages and backgrounds test the product under development. A total of 220 workshops were conducted during the spring semester, with 2344 participants.

“In the mobile testbed, you can agilely test new innovations on a large scale with end-users. Testing the act of testing has brought the most insights — it’s not something you can easily do elsewhere. The best part is seeing how students break away from the everyday and participate with exceptional focus and enthusiasm.” 

– Miika Anundi, Loru Games 

One of the companies experimenting in TEKLA, CareUs Oy, brought their music pedagogical innovation, the Lou-hi sound mat, to the mobile testbed. The sound mat promotes learning and creativity by utilizing music, movement, and sensor technology in a novel way. Jukka Louhivuori, the developer of the sound mat, explains why TEKLA is the top experimental platform and tells about the benefits of the workshops for product development.

This is how companies have benefited from the mobile EdTech testbed

1. Access to actual end-users

– Normally, getting access to test even in a single school is challenging, but in the mobile testbed TEKLA we experimented in multiple schools during the season. In just one day, we had the opportunity to test the product with countless students and student groups. I consider this a highly unique opportunity, reflects Louhivuori, and continues:

– Sometimes you think your own idea is really good, but when you try it out, you realize that it simply doesn’t work as you imagined. Such insights can only be gained by testing with real end users.

2. The special learning space encourages creativity

– There’s definitely no boredom in the TEKLA container. I’ve closely observed children’s expressions, gestures, and spontaneity. Various types of children participate in the workshops: one might be more reserved, observing their peers’ reactions, while another could be quite assertive and active. Teachers have shared that even the more withdrawn children have dared to openly join in, and on the other hand, the more energetic children have focused remarkably well on the tasks. This novel space encourages concentration and enthusiasm in the moment, reflects Louhivuori.

3. Effective testing of innovations and a possibility to develop quickly

– Repeating the same workshop multiple times a day in the mobile testbed reveals what works and what doesn’t in the solution. When we notice what doesn’t work, we can make corrections and immediately test a new idea. Changes can be made time after time within the same day. The first teaching session may be quite different from, say, the fourth. This is an exceptional and rare opportunity to develop pedagogy at a rapid pace, praises Louhivuori.

4. Easy management of technical features

– Concrete questions always pose challenges. What cables are needed, and how should the product be set up in a learning environment where several young children move around? Once a good method for installing the devices is found in the mobile testbed, it becomes familiar in a completely different way than if we were constantly moving from classroom to classroom for testing, explains Louhivuori.

5. Huge amount of feedback and ideas for product development

– When we’ve asked students how our product could be further improved, we’ve received a lot of clever ideas. Children have considered from an entirely new perspective all the ways the sound mat could be used. I’ve been genuinely amazed by the insightful thoughts and wishes we’ve heard from end-users, and we’ve gained many ideas for product development from them, praises Louhivuori.

”TEKLA is a new and exciting environment, where kids give us their undivided attention and authentic reactions. We got a lot of creative and practical suggestions for our solution. TEKLA is wonderful! It is like a shortcut to real testing environments and product development, it is very effective and well organised. Every time I step out of the container, I have gotten answers to my questions.”

– Jesse Mwangi, Ujuzi

TEKLA itself is an experiment: aiming for a flexible and smooth concept

The mobile testbed TEKLA is a completely novel concept. Refining it to its best has been a process that has gone exceptionally well. Positive feedback has poured in from both experimenting companies and learners, as well as teachers. Along the way, we’ve encountered a few challenges, but solutions have been found.

– One challenge has been that we can’t predict in advance the children participating in the workshop or their group dynamics. I greatly appreciate the role of container host Severi Tonttila. He has been a fantastic help during the workshops and has occasionally taken on an active teacher role, allowing me to better observe the students and how they use the sound mat. Sometimes, even the accompanying teachers have taken a more active role, explains Louhivuori, and continues:

– Initially there were technical issues, but the children have been incredibly patient and understand that experimenting and testing something new occasionally comes with challenges. 

Louhivuori has a tip for companies experimenting in the mobile testbed:

– It’s worthwhile to allocate time for instructional planning and consider how one’s own solution can offer concrete, clear, and school-serving educational content. This required reflection and condensing a wide range of offerings into a few key themes. The diversity of students’ ages is a plus for varied outcomes, but it also presents a challenge in planning. Investing in planning is certainly worthwhile.

– The most memorable moment has been witnessing the children’s enthusiasm. When they step inside the TEKLA container, you hear cheers, exclamations, and laughter. Those excited reactions in the moment are truly wonderful. It has been a joy to observe the expressions and gestures, seeing how impactful experiences like the conductor game implemented with the sound mat can be. It’s remarkable how much children can learn in our workshops, recalls Louhivuori.

“The mobile testbed provides an authentic experimenting platform. We collected feedback from vast amount of learners and teachers. The different and positively engaged atmosphere was fascinating. I was enthusiastic to realize, that in my English-language workshops learners from various language backgrounds were especially well invested.” 

– Bang Lee, Lumipallo Consulting

Apply for the mobile testbed TEKLA

Do you represent an EdTech company? Would you like to experience the mobile testbed TEKLA? Do you need rapid and effective feedback from diverse learner groups to support your product development? Apply now!

The mobile testbed is part of the Resourceful Sharing: Innovative and Co-Usable Learning Environments project, which provides companies with more efficient opportunities to test and develop their products and services in collaboration with end-users. The project is co-funded by the European Union.

”In TEKLA, we were able to both confirm our hypotheses and discover new perspectives. We found unexpected results! In technical aspects this was of significant help as well. The joyful and curious expressions on children’s faces at the end of the workshops left a lasting impression. These experiments serve as an excellent reference for our future endeavors.”  

– Jussi Koivisto, Win or Learn

Want to hear more?

  • Marjo Kenttälä

  • Project Manager
    Resourceful Sharing: Innovative and co-usable learning environments
    City of Helsinki
    Business Helsinki, Innovation services
  • Severi Tonttila

  • Project Specialist
    Resourceful Sharing: Innovative and co-usable learning environments
    City of Helsinki
    Business Helsinki, Innovation services
  • Antti Värtö

  • Project Specialist
    Resourceful Sharing: Innovative and co-usable learning environments
    City of Helsinki
    Business Helsinki, Innovation services