Sail for Good – Amazing Personalized Learning Results with Technology

May 23, 2017 by Juha Merinen

“Is it possible for a family with kids to live in a sailboat, sail 7 000 nautical miles, visit 15 countries in one year and still manage to teach your kids to full potential? Well, it is”, says Tuomo Meretniemi, the Captain of Panacea and Project Director of Sail for Good expedition. Read below how the Meretniemi family has utilized state-of-the-art technology for personalized learning during the first year of their amazing journey.

How has the first year looked like for us?

We started our sailing adventure in Turkey last year in June. We crisscrossed Mediterranean for six months, passed Gibraltar Strait to Atlantic and sailed to Cap Verde via Morocco and Canary Islands. We crossed Atlantic Ocean to Caribbean and have now visited many beautiful islands on our way to Colombia. All this time we have lived on board our 57 feet boat s/y Panacea and 95% of the way we´ve managed to sail with no extra crew including two week Atlantic crossing.

The boat is our home and it is a school for our children Aarre, 8, Kerttu 6 and Martta 4 years. Of course we were excited but also little bit scared of the home schooling part of our new life. We are no teachers. We studied business, for God´s sake. How did we think we could manage? To take kids out of Finland´s world famous schooling system might seem odd to some of you. “You are mad to do that”, some folks said when we left sailing.

Our experiences – based on the exploration of personalized learning possibilities

Now after one year we are very happy that we had the courage to jump into the unknown and explore the possibilities of personalized learning in somewhat untypical environment even if there were no guarantees of pulling it off. It has not been easy always, we must admit, but what is with kids.

It´s all about finding the right way to learn for each child. And it´s all about making every moment a learning moment. This happens if the parents a.k.a. teachers are enthusiastic enough to observe their kids a.k.a. pupils all the time which would be naturally very challenging in normal class room environment. We talk about history, nature and culture as we explore new islands. We calculate how many square centimeters is the of the pancake surface area as we are cooking them. And we also make navigation into a math lesson.

We have the luxury of time. We spend 24/7 together in a small boat, so this comes very naturally. You can also imagine that sometimes if feels a bit too much, though.

We try to find best ways to utilize technology in our learning process. This means many things. We download new learning games whenever we are hooked to decent wifi and let kids explore which they like best. Some are very long lasting and some get boring after two hours. We have found that more serious and simple apps are actually a lot more interesting than flashy learning games.

We take schooling seriously but we still do not spend too much time with books or computers. Maybe two effective hours is an average time we keep the school “open” daily. It pays off to have two parents/teachers on board; when another is losing the nerves, the other can take over.

Results have been amazing

After one year of boat schooling, we are very confident that this is the best way for children to get most out of the early years of education. Our eight years´ old son is very keen reader and has read thousands of pages extra material, not to mention countless comic books. His second year math books got “too easy” already before Christmas and we have now covered the third grade math and most of the fourth grade math as well. Learning about geography, cultures, history, nature and science come very naturally in our nomadic school and learning English has become an everyday task for all the kids. Next year we are spending 9 months is Spanish speaking countries (Colombia, Panama and Ecuador) so it is very natural to include Spanish in our curriculum.

All in all we are very happy with the way schooling is going and we´re eagerly looking forward to years ahead.  

Reliability and durability of hardware technology is crucially important

We have four laptops and three tablets on board Panacea and they are in very active use. We use them for schooling but also for navigation. Needless to say, that the reliability is crucially important. We have two Lenovo ThinkPad’s and one Lenovo Yoga Ultrabook that are also used for pictures and video editing. Durability is something that is in hard core test constantly as the boat is bouncing around and the weather is very humid and salty air threatens everything. We are surprised how well the touchscreens of Lenovo Yoga Pads are responding even in these circumstances and with somewhat salty fingers… Keeping tablets and pads neatly in the dry bags just doesn’t happen with five persons using them.

One of the frustrating issues in our lifestyle is finding the reliable, wide-enough and free (or cheap) internet. Even though it is stress free to have every-day life offline, taking care of social contacts, mail, sailing-related research, keeping up with the newsfeed, taking care of the bills and bank drafts, uploading videos and posts to our accounts, searching for answers on bits and pieces on schooling issues…all in 1-2 hour sessions in local sailors pub!

SMART Internationalization® is a proud member of the Sail for Good Education – Finnish Digital School in a Boat ecosystem to support the internationalization of the Finnish Edtech companies.

SMART Internationalization® guest blog by Tuomo Meretniemi.  Sail for Good expedition is a private initiative based on a sailing adventure around the world during 2016-2022 by Meretniemi family from Finland with three children. The goal is to experiment new ways to utilize technology and digital learning methods to enable education for all children anywhere, anytime. 

For more information, please contact:

Tuomo Meretniemi Captain, Project Director

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