“Education is more than just going to school.”
At our MaketechXconference Evgeni Kouris presented his initiative “Toywheel” – and we were excited. The vision is to equip kids with roots & wings in the information age, by building “digital toys” to help kids explore the real world with help of digital technology.
Before he founded Toywheel studied of computer engineering and economy and worked for over 5 years as senior IT architect and strategic consultant at BCG/Platinion, with focus on digital innovation, strategic planning and execution of big transformation projects.
During this activity he supported different social entrepreneurs e.g. from Social Lab Köln in the area of education and the initiative Projectfabrik. These education backgrounded workings finally caused him to found Toywheel at the end of 2012.
Check our interview with Evgeni Kouris and see how he wants to connect the way of education starting from the kindergarden with digital technology and the “new tools”.
Next to out video interview we took Evgeni aside and asked him 5 questions about Toywheel, his ideas regarding learning and teaching and himself.
Evgeni Kouris is…
… an artist & entrepreneur, the founder of Toywheel.
… a Digital Toys company from Berlin. We believe that we can combine the interactivity of games with educational value and creativity of real-world toys, thus we are producing ‘Digital Toys’.
Digital Toys are mobile apps, specially designed for kids with focus on play patterns and not on game mechanics. Thus, our Digital Toys foster creativity and curiosity without any in-app purchases and competitive games.
How and why did you come up with the idea of Toywheel?
As a musician, computer engineer, consultant and entrepreneur I always was extremely passionate about connecting different worlds. My inspiration for the Toywheel project came from collaboration with a social project “JobAct” – helping people to become a job through playing theater.
In this context we constantly were challenged to combine traditional theater art with digital technology. I think this challenge is even bigger if you look at the very young kids at the age of 2 and above. Many of those already start using tablets and smartphones and there is almost no experience yet in the kindergartens & schools (especially in Germany) how to handle this new technology.
Thus, parents have to cover a bigger gap in explaining the new digital world and connecting it to the real one. After carefully studying the app market, I realized that there are plenty of apps out there, though not really a lot are “good enough”, well designed and appropriate for young kids. Thus, I decided to found Toywheel – to build a fun & secure bridge between physical and digital worlds and ultimately – “equip kids with roots & wings” in the 21st century.
Which project introduced on Toywheel has surprised you and brought new knowledge to you?
The most I learned, I learned from the interaction with kids.
Toywheel has started as a project mainly focused on DIY. After the pivot we decided to undergo in late summer, we changed our focus to producing our first series of Digital Toys – mobile apps specifically designed for kids. In this first series of Toys we will make use of the Augmented Reality (AR) technology, to create a unique experience between physical and digital worlds.
In the very first Toywheel iPad app prototype we already had an AR project and used it during several events and hack-a-thons (here are some pics from the events and the original tutorial). It was always extremely inspiring to see which new ideas kids discovered in combination of digital and physical worlds, thus I am really excited about the new AR Digital Toys.
“The best way to discover the world is by playing and making things!” – name 3 facts how schools could open up new horizons when it comes to creativity and imagination with kids!
Three ideas in this context are in my view
- Foster individual talents
Kids are creative & curious as they come to life. Make sure you foster the individual creativity of the kids and not purely focus on structure and evaluations required for the school plan.
- Allow critical thinking
Do not rely on the hierarchical approach, place kids on the same level with the teacher. Allow saying: “No, I would like to do it my way”. Actually, this is the best thing could happen if kids are motivated to do so!
- Don’t be afraid of new technologies
Understand new technologies and innovative products as tools, which – similar to radio, TV and Internet – will become standard in the future. Using new technologies brings new inspiration and helps kids to be better prepared for the future. Though, it does not replace understanding of the real world and – as every innovation – it also brings an impact not yet fully understood. So, it is more about “how to use it” and not about “whether to use it”.
Thank you very much for your time and the insides into Toywheel.