Many of our children will work in professions that do not even exist yet. How should they be prepared for this? The Zurich foundation We Are Play Lab (WAP) is looking for the answer to this through new education concepts and with the help of startup thinking, broad-based dialogue and partners such as foundations, associations and even Google.

“We have to prepare our children for the digital future, even though no one knows what it will look like,” says Cristina Riesen. In the words of Einstein, this is a problem that cannot be solved with the same thinking that created it. A new thinking is now needed, which is one of the reasons why Riesen founded the network-like foundation We Are Play Lab (WAP) in Zurich.

Depending on the project, different education and digitalization experts work together – researchers, teachers, parents, politicians or representatives from companies such as educational technology (EdTech) start-ups. Their findings help move Switzerland as a location for education further in the direct of digitalization, setting a global standard.

Greater Zurich’s IT cluster is a source of new ideas

WAP works according to the principles of agile organizational structures with flat hierarchies, which are already in use in many IT companies and start-ups. Riesen herself helped shape these structures when she worked in management positions for the software firm Evernote at its European headquarters in Zurich.

“As the IT capital of Switzerland, Zurich is a great place for our new type of organization. It’s also a big help that we can find many innovative partners in the Greater Zurich Area, such as entrepreneurs or top-notch scientists from ETH Zurich,” says Riesen. WAP is also supported by the tech giant Google, which has been conducting R&D in Zurich for the past 14 years.

But the projects are not simply about integrating as much technology as possible into the classroom or teaching everyone how to code. The programme supported by Google aims to introduce computer logic into the classroom in a playful way and without a screen.

Says Riesen: “We are constantly asking ourselves: What skills will our children need in the future? The latest research results and innovative digital solutions make the answer look differently than it did a few years ago.” For example, aspects such as creativity or a dynamic self-concept are becoming more and more important.  

We have to prepare our children for the digital future, even though no one knows what it will look like
Christina Riesen
Cristina Riesen - Founder We Are Play Lab Foundation

Swiss EdTech on the up

The first Campus Seminar took place in Zurich in autumn 2018: organized by WAP, hundreds of teachers and researchers came together to discuss pilot projects and concepts. This also provides Swiss ideas and start-ups with a global platform because the Campus is part of the Finnish initiative HundrED, which supports educational innovation worldwide.

According to Riesen, many other countries can learn a lot from Switzerland. First, Switzerland has set the right pace through initiatives on digitalization and education, in part thanks to the commitment of the Gebert Rüf foundation, the association Digitalswitzerland and the Mercator Foundation Switzerland, all WAP partners.

“Second, EdTech start-ups continuously bring a breath of fresh air to the educational landscape,” says Riesen. It is precisely this combination that is paving the way for children into the digitalized future – and promising more fun in learning.

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