Can you remember what you did in the last 54 hours? Chances are you didn’t create a company. But that’s exactly what some entrepreneurs and educators did at this past weekend’s Startup Weekend Edu. In just over a weekend, many startups were launched with a mission to leverage technology and innovation to help improve education.
In a world of what sometimes feels surrounded by so many "we can'ts," it was absolutely refreshing to see people just "doing." No talking -- just action. There were no stigmas, no wondering "what if," no future commitments being thought of -- just pure discovery of ideas and exploring the path where those ideas traveled and morphed.
Startup Weekends happen all over the world and have one goal in mind: to create a culture of learning through the act of creating. Since their inception, Startup Weekends have accumulated an impressive 300+ events, 30,000 attendees, 2,500+ startups created, and a growing worldwide network of 30,000 of entrepreneurs, visionaries, and thinkers. But at the end of the day, it's not about the stats. It's about the ability to empower people and communities to make a difference in the world through innovation.
Of the many ideas and startups explored at Startup Weekend Edu, here are a few that caught my eye. Some are free services that educators can take advantage of today -- some are just innovative ideas. Check them out and get inspired:
1. InfoRate is an easy (and free) way to send group messages (via SMS). You can use this service to communicate with parents, your class, your sports team you may coach, or even your colleagues. Keep your eyes out for an iPhone app and the ability to message people through their preferred medium (Twitter/Facebook/Text/Email).
2. Qeyno is a career exploration game that helps inform students about possible career options and offers guidance on how to achieve them. Although it's not built yet, this is another one to keep your eye out for.
3. GoalBook is an online platform that was created by an English and special education teacher to help teachers, parents, and students collaboratively track progress towards, you guessed it, goals. Many special education teachers are adopting GoalBook to keep track of IEP goals and other educators are using it to implement and track blended learning and response to intervention (RTI) strategies.
4. Alum.us is an online engagement platform that provides alumni networks for public high schools and community colleges with an aim to help give back to schools in need.
After experiencing the culture and strategies embraced at Startup Edu SF, I couldn't help but wonder: what if education could harness this do-it-yourself (DIY) culture of learning by creating? Imagine what learning would look like if educators and student had the freedom to creatively feed their curiosity for learning. In education we talk about the necessity for the U.S. to become Internationally competitive, but many have the false assumption that standardized tests are somehow going to help make us more competitive. Events like Startup Edu are great models for how our students could learn how to collaborate with their peers, think critically, and solve problems creatively.
Even if you don't consider yourself entrepreneurial, it's worth checking out a Startup Weekend EDU weekend near you. Just give it a chance and experience it. I bet you'll end up exploring ideas and connecting with some inspiring people. And just maybe it'll help inspire you to emphasize innovation, teamwork, collaboration, entrepreneurship and the exploration of curiosities in the classroom. Thanks to Grockit for hosting this event and helping bring the culture of innovation in the classroom.