Networks and dedicated people are the main assets of the Tampere-based company 5 More Minutes as it introduces the world to the educational use of entertainment games.
From the very beginning, 5 More Minutes has set its sights on global operations. The company’s current office in Tampere is just right for a young company: the basement is comfortable, but the people working there are not waiting around for the world to drop in and pick up the innovations they have created. Travelling, personal meetings and networking are 5 More Minutes’ tickets to the world.
“We need to actively look for both business and financing from abroad, as in Finland, the limit is very quickly met,” says CEO Santeri Koivisto.
The United States is an interesting and primary direction for 5 More Minutes, and, as Americans prefer to buy from other Americans, the company has an excellent local representative. Mitch Weisburgh is an investor and advisor for 5 More Minutes, and he plans and implements the company’s US strategy together with Koivisto. The two keep in touch over the telephone, get together in events of the field and create new contacts.
“Mitch has worked as an entrepreneur in education and educational technology for two decades and knows a huge number of people operating in the field,” Koivisto says.
Koivisto and Weisburgh first met a couple of years ago at a conference in the United States. At the time, MinecraftEdu, the previous project of the founders of 5 More Minutes, was a big deal, but it did not yet lead to co-operation. Later on, Koivisto and Weisburgh updated their news and Weisburgh realised he wanted to jump on board with 5 More Minutes.
“Going back to Piaget, we know that the human mind was designed to learn through play, yet even today, playful learning and game-based learning are rarely part of mainstream education. I think 5 More Minutes has put together the components to bridge this gap between what we know works and the way we teach”, says Weisburgh.
During their first meetings, Weisburgh brought up two events that 5 More Minutes would simply have to attend. One of them was an event organised by the United States’ State Educational Technology Directors Association (www.setda.org). Koivisto says that meeting the most influential people in educational technology was quite the opportunity for a budding entrepreneur from Tampere to gain feedback and have useful discussions.
“If you manage to create a wow effect with these people, you know you are really on to something. We had 15 active discussions on implementing pilots in different states. If we eventually get to do even a couple of them, that would be great,” says Koivisto.
5 More Minutes was established in 2016 by a founding team that has several years of experience in the educational use of entertainment games. The company is currently developing the TeacherGaming Desk game learning system, and according to Koivisto, it is now beginning to reach the stage where sales, and also financing, should be sought on a larger scale.
“Schools in the English-speaking countries are first in our list and, after that, we are turning our eyes towards Japan, China and Brazil. Without contacts, such an ambitious project would go nowhere, because networks and dedicated people are its driving force,” says Koivisto.
“The single biggest barrier for success in EdTech in the US is sales and distribution. A young company is only going to be successful if they can efficiently leverage strong connections; they need to know where the shortcuts are and how to avoid the landmines,” explains Weisburgh.
Santeri Koivisto has set aside a certain part of his own time to help others, for example, by introducing to one another people who might be able to promote each other’s businesses. When you spend an hour or two of your week to benefit others, it may eventually work in your advantage, either now or somewhere along the line.
“Nevertheless, I am doing this most of all to keep up the culture of exchanging sincere favours, as this is something we Finns could work on. The gaming industry has been an excellent pioneer in this, but I would like to see it extend to all walks of life,” Koivisto says.
MinecraftEdu, created by the founders of 5 More Minutes, was a breakthrough that took a game that was originally intended for entertainment to schools and created a foundation for the Microsoft Minecraft: Education Edition. TeacherGaming desk, the project currently being developed, promises teachers a smooth path for utilising entertainment games in education.
The teacher selects the topic and the 5 More Minutes system offers the content. At the end of the class, the system produces a report on what the pupils learnt from the game and the other materials. Koivisto gives an example:
“Newton’s laws are studied by first launching rockets in a virtual environment, then the learning material familiarises the pupils with calculations, and then they figure out why one rocket flew and another exploded. Equipped with this information, the pupils can then go back to testing what they learnt with the rockets.”
The system can be utilised in a variety of subjects. Science, technology and mathematical studies are well represented in the game supply, but games can just as easily be utilised when teaching social sciences. All that is needed is a sufficient group of active teachers who network and want to find new and interesting ways of presenting their subject.
All in all, exciting things are happening in the development of educational technology. Artificial intelligence is making its way to teaching, giving an opportunity to challenge pupils in a more individual way, each on their own level. Teachers are still needed, though.
“With the help of new systems, teachers are able to focus more on the actual education, advising and supporting their pupils while the computer collects the information on what the pupils do in the system during class,” Koivisto says.
”From a business standpoint, game-based learning has the potential to be a multi-billion dollar market in K12 schools. 5 More Minutes has put together a system that can solve the selling, implementation, and pedagogy concerns that have been holding back success, they can open the floodgates to mainstream adoption so that schools can more closely align with the way kids learn. I’m really excited about the future,” Weisburgh concludes. (Mitch Weisburgh was interviewed by email.)