Dybuster Faces New Challenges In Norway
Sebastian Lange, a native Norwegian, has been working for Dybuster since 2019 and was the link between Dybuster and the Norwegian state when it came to obtaining grants for the development of Orthograph and Calcularis in 2019.
On the one hand, Orthograph had to be reprogrammed according to the two written languages Nynorsk and Bokmål, and on the other hand, Sebastian translated the learning programme Calcularis. He also organised the Calcularis pilot project together with Norwegian schools. Both learning systems will be available to Norwegian schools from August 2021. Sebastian tells us about this exciting development and his experiences in the following interview.
Alex: Sebastian, how successful was the Calcularis pilot project and which schools participated?
Sebastian: I think we can consider it very successful. Although “only” three classes accepted the invitation to participate in the pilot project, we can say that Calcularis was tested by a very diverse group of learners and teachers due to their geographical location and pedagogical orientation.
One school is on the Norwegian west coast and is more rural. The other two schools are right in the centre of Oslo. One of them is quite large and located in a very urban area, a large part of the students have an immigrant background. The other Oslo school uses a different type of class organisation and is described as very forward-looking when it comes to new learning technologies and pedagogical ideas.
Alex: What experience has Dybuster gained from testing Calcularis in Norway?
Sebastian: We are very happy that Calcularis works just as well in Norwegian as in German and the other languages.
During the preparations, however, we encountered a whole new challenge. Norwegian schools have a national login system – “Feide”. I don’t think there are many other western countries that have such advanced digital development. So we learned a lot about how to adapt our technology to such systems.The login with “Feide” had to be set up before the pilot project started, which brought some unexpected challenges. But in the end we did it, and the pilot schools used “Feide” throughout the spring semester. This experience was very valuable for us, as a similar system is being developed in Switzerland and in many other countries.
Alex: How does the Norwegian school system compare to the Swiss system?
Sebastian: Norway places less emphasis on measuring performance in the early stages of schooling. Fortunately, Calcularis is very cleverly developed in this respect to work well in many different cultures and school systems. The children experience what they are learning, but they do not feel they are being measured. Teachers, on the other hand, get a detailed view of the students’ training data via the coach function. With the help of the information about the individual knowledge level of the learners, the teachers’ lesson preparation is simplified and they can pick up the students individually where the individual strengths and weaknesses lie.
Norway is well on the way to recognising the need for special education, especially for pupils that struggle. However, there is a particular challenge in the training of teachers.
Feedback from participating teachers shows that Calcularis has helped them to understand the particular strengths and weaknesses of individual students. This understanding creates an enormous added value in everyday school life and offers the possibility to support students individually. Therefore, I am convinced that Calcularis can make a very positive contribution. I also think that the same is true for Orthograph. Dybuster offers a spelling programme that will be unique on the Norwegian market.
Alex: Speaking of the Norwegian market, how would you describe it?
Sebastian: Definitely, very competitive. Digitisation is very advanced here, and the same goes for e-learning development in general. We are very happy that Norwegian schools can choose from a plethora of e-learning options, and we are also firmly convinced that we offer something quite unique with both Orthograph and Calcularis. We have been told by teachers who have tested Orthograph that they have no comparable programme in Norway. The very division of Norwegian spelling into different levels of difficulty, with an abundance of words at each level, is something that most schools do not have.
Alex: What added value do the Dybuster learning systems create?
Sebastian: Apart from guaranteeing a clear improvement in basic skills, both in mathematics (Calcularis) and literacy (Orthograph), I am not aware of any e-learning programmes that provide such a detailed learning overview for teachers. Most programmes in Norway do not show teachers in which types of tasks the learners made mistakes and what exactly the mistake was. Not to mention all the other detailed analysis that you get with our coach function. This is something that helps the teacher and therefore the learners a lot. There are learning programmes that can match the play motivation built into our programmes, but I would say none strike the balance between play and learning as well as these two new learning programmes.
Alex: What experiences have you had with the translation of Calcularis?
Sebastian: With all due respect to the (Swiss) German culture, the most difficult part of the translation work was to simplify the German translations. In Norway, if we can say something precisely enough in one sentence, we avoid using three.
The programmes, with their games and functions, must feel genuinely Norwegian. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter how good the games are, the people who use them will feel alienated from the product. We have also chosen the speakers for the programmes very carefully and are very happy with the results.
Alex: Thank you, Sebastian, for your efforts and for sharing your experiences in making the Dybuster learning systems fit for the Norwegian schools.