In a world of tech-driven innovations, screen time, data collection and EdTech are household terms. Yet, after technology arrives, there’s a tendency to reflect on the substance of past learning methods steeped in a tactile world.
Wendy’s, an American fast-food institution, ran advertisements in the 1980s with an adorable older adult woman asking a simple question, ‘Where’s the beef?’ This simplistic yet brilliant tagline zeroed in on the core value proposition of the fast-food offering.
We might be saying this in a few centuries. “Where’s the learning?”Covid-19 was a major breakthrough in digital education. This allowed education for all ages to move quickly to digital landscapes. It also removed any concerns about young people spending their time on learning experiences that are controlled by pixels and not people.
One company from Switzerland QUBSIt combines technology and pedagogical tactile practices to emphasize the physical benefits of learning. QUBS combines traditional wooden toys, radio frequency identification (RFID), and technology to give children the chance to explore their imaginations through educational, screen-free entertainment.
The company’s technology does not utilize screens or the internet. QUBS combines the best of both the old and the new to provide education that is fun for young learners. The product was awarded STEAM accreditation. The Toy Association and The Good Play GuideIts innovative screen-free technology makes it ideal for children aged 3-12. With The Toy Association’s ‘STEAM Stamp of Approval’QUBS’s advertising and products demonstrate a commitment towards learning.
Hayri Bulman (CEO) founded QUBS. A Swiss entrepreneur with over 30 years experience in IT at Xerox (GE) and General Electric (GE), Bulman is the founder of QUBS. Bulman turned his passion for wooden toys into a business for early learners.
After being inspired by the company, 2015 was my year of inspiration TEGUHonduran-based wood toy company. He started working on concepts that combined RFID and wooden blocks, and the company was established in 2019.
The team grew to include numerous designers, engineers, and creatives across Europe, and in 2020 at the start of the global pandemic, QUBS raised CHF (Swiss Franc) 88,887 (~£70,000) from 503 backers during a Kickstarter campaign.
Learning without Screen Time
According to theMayo ClinicScreen time can have a negative impact on children’s physical and mental health. Exercising too often can lead to obesity, irregular sleep patterns and behavioral problems. It can also result in lower academic performance and less time for creative play. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages screen time altogether for children under two years old and suggests limiting older children’s use to one or two hours a day.
Active play away from screens is essential to Bulman’s concept and mission. “I wanted to create a smart wooden toy for generations,”Bulman. “A legacy toy that you can pull from the cellar and give to your child, and they will be able to play without set up or an online connection.”
Education is a constant concern with STEM and STEAM advancements. Future generations will need to have skills in science and technology as well as math. An article from the recent issue of The Washington PostIt is evident that increasing funding for STEM education in public schools will be just as important as chip manufacturing. Future innovations will depend on the ability of children to acquire the early learning skills required to excel in STEM and STEAM disciplines.
An example of early learning tools is QUBS’ first product, Cody Block, winner of the Monocle Design Award 2022For ‘‘Best Aspiring Urbanists.” Cody (the car) moves independently and changes course as children arrange wooden blocks. It is up to Cody to plan a route that will take him through the city and home. Cody responds to the arrangement and rearrangement wooden blocks that have RFID technology. The activity teaches sequential thinking, critical thinking, spatial awareness, and creativity while also introducing the mindset that a programmer would use.
After the initial success of QUBS, other wooden toys were developed. One such product is Matty Blocks, a math-based product soon to be launched that builds confidence in numbers, one summation at time.
Sustainability is a key part of QUBS’Your overall goals. Not only in terms environmental friendly products, but also in terms learning time that is longer than the often shorter. ‘gimmicky’Online products. QUBS focuses on the imaginations, not the imaginations, of developers.
“These toys are screen free and sustainable, in contrast with many other non-recyclable products,”Bulman. “Montessori techniques are applied with a coding methodology and technology that does not become obsolete or depend on the internet.”
It’s about simplicity and something solid, according to Bulman.
“We have 3% plastic in our entire set, representing much less than many other companies,”He says. “Also, some providers might claim to teach the basics of coding and programming, but in actuality, it’s difficult to measure. We don’t make this claim. We wish to teach children to think independently. We want to tease the mind using the tactile placing of blocks to explore what happens externally.”
While many EdTech startups are concerned with data and proving their worth through statistics, QUBS is taking a refreshing approach based on each individual’s creative learning and exploration. “We don’t collect data and we don’t have any display screen,”Bulman remarks “We are not hungry for children’s data or parent’s data. We are not a data collector but a toy company for children.”
In a rush to package engaging learning experiences infused with or driven by technology, the education sector might have overlooked one irrefutable truth about children–they explore on their own. Amazon boxes contain more than the contents. Kids don’t always want the ending written for them. Young learners should be able explore and create.
Bulman states that children will play on the ground if they have a question. If you have a question, ‘Where’s the learning?’ Bulman and QUBS will be ready to play, one block at a time.
Interviews have been edited to be more concise.