In some ways, the emphasis on building a startup might be the wrong thing to tout. There are viable ideas that come out of the weekend. (LessonCast, for example, a startup that was founded back at the first Startup Weekend EDU in San Francisco in June and that I covered back in July, is still going strong.) But the most valuable outcome of Startup Weekends aren't just the products built or the startups launched. It's the process itself. And it is an intensive learning process. For many who participate, it's their first hands-on experience in product pitching, product design, customer validation, and business model creation. It's a hands-on learning experience in what it means to build a tech product and potentially a tech company. That might sound appealing to the entrepreneurs and engineers who participate, but for the classroom teacher (particularly one with no intention to leave the field to start a business), not so much. But if you ask teachers, there actually is a reward. It was the most incredible and immersive learning experience I have ever have, said Sharon Grimes, from Baltimore County Schools. Despite all the talk about implementing project-based learning in the classroom, much of educators' own professional development still looks a lot like the sorts of teaching practices and experiences that are beginning to be eschewed in the classroom: lectures, the sage on the stage, no participation, little to no interactivity, no opportunity to identify a problem let alone work towards designing or implementing a solution. Participating in Startup Weekend, on the other hand, provides a project-based learning opportunity, one where teams must be coordinated through research, development, and marketing something that educators may be incredibly well-suited to do here. Some of the startups that were pitched last night at the end of the DC Startup Weekend EDU were clearly teacher-driven projects: a tool to translate student data into easy-to-read and actionable infographics for parents, an openly licensed bank of assessments created for teachers by teachers, an app to make the notion of our global world more engaging for students based on their own interests, a browser-based plug-in for language-learning. Again, it's the experience itself, not just the products that were built over the course of the last 54 hours that's what Startup Weekend EDU seems to be working towards. It isn't simply launching startups; it's building a network of educators, engineers, and entrepreneurs who've worked together and who are beginning to think through problem-solving and hands-on building in order to address needs in education.Of course, all of this excitement in building new education technology companies -- whether built by teachers or by students or by engineers or entrepreneurs -- occurs alongside deep cuts to education budgets. It occurs alongside concerns about the growing corporate influence on education. It occurs alongside changes in what and where and how we learn. Will the innovation in education technology prompt us to scrutinize more closely how we spend those billions of education dollars -- what's efficient, what's effective? Will the business of ed-tech be good business (and if so, for whom?), and will it make for good teaching and learning?
by Audrey Watters on 16 Dec, 2011
Audrey Watters is an education writer, a recovering academic, a serial dropout, a rabble-rouser, and some days, ed-tech's Cassandra.
Other Recommended Reading
- Men Explain Technology to Me: On Gender, Ed-Tech, and the Refusal to Be Silent, November 18, 2014
- From "Open" to Justice, November 16, 2014
- Convivial Tools in an Age of Surveillance, November 13, 2014
- Ed-Tech's Monsters, September 3, 2014
- Against "Innovation", May 14, 2014
- Beneath the Cobblestones... A Domain of One's Own, April 25, 2014
- Student Data is the New Oil: MOOCs, Metaphor, and Money, October 17, 2013
- A Future With Only 10 Universities, October 15, 2013
- The Myth and Millennialism of "Disruptive Innovation", May 24, 2013
- Click Here to Save Education: Evgeny Morozov and Ed-Tech Solutionism, March 26, 2013
- The Real Reason I Dropped Out of a PhD Program, August 29, 2012
- "The Audrey Test": Or, What Should Every Techie Know About Education?, March 17, 2012
- Codecademy and the Future of (Not) Learning to Code, October 28, 2011
- The Wrath Against Khan: Why Some Educators Are Questioning Khan Academy, July 19, 2011
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