This keynote address was presented at the Universal Teacher’s Academy workshop on May 4, 2021.

I have never physically visited India, but just last week I was walking on the courtyard of Fort Agra admiring the 17th century architecture of the Mughal dynasty. A moment later I was standing among a herd of sheep by the cave temples in Badami, a town in Bagalkot district in Karnataka. …


For most of my working life, I’ve been interested in finding new ways to connect the things in our physical environment to more information about them. After doing a masters in product development and international marketing, I joined a PhD program at the University of Helsinki to get a broader and deeper perspective on how and why we make and build things. Then I dropped out to build the Internet of Meaningful Things, and change the way we use images to navigate between the physical and digital worlds.

Developing, not only new technology, but a new way for people to…


Project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and problem-based learning are constructivist approaches to education that develop the learners skills for research, problem-solving and collaboration. The process is based on authentic questions and problems identified by students, and finding information and explanation models to research and solve them.

An important aspect of student-centered learning is documentation. Students are encouraged to use multiple sources and forms of media to collect information and to share it with others as they deepen their understanding of the chosen topic.

Areas where interactive images and videos can support a student-centered learning process

How can image annotation support student-centered learning?

Example from ThingLink Teacher Challenge 2019

The first task of ThingLink Teacher Challenge 2019 focused on taking multimedia…


I recently visited a brand new teacher training school in Eastern Finland. The school was so nice that a couple reporters from New York Times had told the principle that they had only seen one other school like that — and Tom Cruise’s daughter went there.

This was a free public school — as all schools are in Finland — but it was located in an area with highest unemployment rate, highest immigration, lowest level of parents’ education, and biggest drug problem.

Almost half of the students needed some form of additional support, but unfortunately there are less resources available…


360-degree images and videos can help students develop understanding of real-world environments outside their classroom, but trying to successfully setup twenty-five headsets for a shared VR experience is not easy. For a while, we have been thinking of an alternative solution, based on the following three assumptions:

  1. A learner benefits from an expert introduction: a teacher guiding a VR tour helps a student pay attention to relevant things.

2. Shared VR does not have to be live VR. Asynchronous viewing is improves access and flexibility.

3. Students should be able to revisit the experience and explore at their own pace.


Presentation at the UNESCO ICT in Education Prize Laureates’ seminar March 12th, 2019.

Developing new technology is like writing a research paper; you cannot draw conclusions without writing the article.

The inspiration for ThingLink came over 10 years ago when I was a PhD student at the University of Helsinki. At that time, I got especially interested in connecting our physical environment and artifacts in it with digital information about them — in other words, augmenting reality with the various cultural or personal meanings of things.


When you live abroad, one of the most common topics for small talk is your name and its history; what does your name mean, where it is from, how do you spell it, etc. In my case, it’s been a bit complicated. For several practical and emotional reasons related to my two oldest children, I’ve kept my ex-husband name even though we separated 8 years ago, and I remarried four years ago. Now, it feels like I should finally have my own name — not my father’s or my husband’s. …


Language learning is one of the most interesting application areas for virtual tours. In the US, one reason for this is the increased cultural and economic diversity in workplaces and classrooms. Students and employees with English as their second language work hard to master the academic or professional vocabulary required by their studies or job. When students struggle with language, teachers struggle in getting everyone to meet the given learning standards. Proficiency in oral communication is imperative in ensuring academic success (see for example Mahmud, 2014).

The big promise of 360 media in language learning is the ability to provide…


This week I’m attending the UNESCO Partners Forum in Paris, which is a great opportunity to learn and think about global challenges, especially the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). You can reach me on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss any of the topics below. #access #infrastructure #technology policy #bandwidth #globalvirtualschool

  1. VIRTUAL MOBILITY: Global goals become real in local settings

Virtual mobility means the ability of a learner to virtually access places relevant to their studies, without physically leaving their home. It complements physical mobility; traveling on field trips or abroad to study.

Similar to the overall Internet access, virtual mobility…


Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934)

Earlier this year I was invited to speak about digital storytelling at the Festival Della Didattica Digitale (Digital Teaching Festival) in Italy. As I arrived to the conference area, a beautiful old convent in Lucca, I noticed on a wall a large poster featuring a portrait of Lev Vygotsky, one of the pioneers of developmental psychology and the founder of sociocultural theory of learning.

Seeing the poster gave me a sudden inspiration to go back to my hotel and edit my presentation into an imaginary interview with Vygotsky, focusing on understanding better the trending but undefined concepts of digital storytelling

Ulla-Maaria Koivula

Founder & CEO of ThingLink, education technology company for building visual learning environments in the cloud. Winner of UNESCO ICT in Education Prize.

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