With so many projects happening, so much money being spent, and so little time, it seems important (for my personal clarity) to take a moment and try to summarize exactly what we are all building towards, or should be. It’s what I’m trying to build, some way or another, over the next 10 years. I want to describe this mythical unicorn in a single sentence. The mythical unicorn is: An open, decentralized platform on which communities of people can create, curate, and browse an expansive map of local learning opportunities and digital resources that, as they learn, form a personal archive of proven skills and experiences. Okay, that’s it. The following is a glossary where I do my favorite thing and parse the sentence.
When I say “open”, I refer as much to the process of building the unicorn as the final product itself. Yes, this platform needs to be open-sourced and fully accessible and built to be shared, but even more urgent is the need to build this collaboratively out in the open. If we are going to build this, we need to collaborate, not duplicate. Too much of the important work happening in this space is siloed or poorly documented. Resources are limited and the goal is huge.
I’m not quite sure how to best build this in a decentralized way, but I’m convinced of its necessity. A decentralized platform is more equitable, does not limit user agency, and is less subject to problematic issues of privacy and control, etc. See the other values of the indieweb for inspiration. I would love to hear ideas and start a discussion on how we map and curate the wealth of the world’s learning resources in a decentralized framework. Maybe the answer is some sort of hybrid in which resource data is held centrally, but available to a federation of regional hubs… These hubs consist of thousands of learners who each have their own private webspace where they are hosting their personal learning archive and sharing out as they see fit… …Like we all have our own digital bookshelves, except they are knowledge maps and they are all connected … !? Maybe? Lots to think about. My thoughts are weak in this area.
Okay, I lied. There are actually two unicorns. That’s right, two mythical creatures. And the second is actually more important: the real communities of people and places that actually use this platform and its resources. These learning communities exist already in our schools and workplaces around specific majors or careers, but they should increasingly form organically around locally important subjects and problems. Projects like City of Learning and others are building frameworks in which a learner’s path is not driven by the limitations of their schools, but by their interests. If we start to use the entire city (or region + internet) as our campus, we can begin to think of learning beyond single institutions. If this happens, we will have an exciting moment to consider what learning communities could look like in “the real world”, outside of the peer-driven, often monocultural communities of our schools. Thoreau says that “we are all schoolmasters and our schoolhouse is the universe.” What do learning communities look like if learning moves in this direction? Meetups on steroids?
Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is to curate all the resources; it’s what a lot of smart people have been talking about as the next Herculean task for us denizens of the internet. We’ve created all this stuff, now let’s sort it all out and map it into a beautiful and usable network of learning resources. Google’s Director of Technology, Craig Silverstein admits the limitations of current technology: “My guess is about 300 years until computers are as good as, say, your local reference library in doing search, but we can make slow and steady progress, and maybe one day we’ll get there.” We need today’s librarians not to work as functional administrators of content, but as creative curators who help define what is best and sort out the complex relationships of resources. They have to do the powerful acts that Google cannot and may never be fully able to do. Just as the dark age monks before them, we desperately need librarians to protect, curate and hold aloft worthwhile knowledge. In the face of the barbarian hoards they were necessary because of the dearth of texts. Today it is the opposite. We need librarians as lighthouses amidst the floods of available information.
The aggregate of this work done by librarians, content experts, and regular humans will be an expansive map that organizes all of the best learning resources and their relationships. Really, all of us have already been drafted into this work as curators and librarians. If the map could be made expansive enough, a 4th grader playing with legos who just came home from a field trip at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater could visualize every step along the way to mastery in the field of architecture. And they could start right then. This pre-requisite progress mapping helps to further drive home the importance of core skills like mathematics that, too often, feel disconnected from more direct, work-related pursuits. “Oh, so if I want to be an architect I need to master Trigonometry and Physics…and…” Rendering of Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X The magic of the “skill tree” is best captured and named in some of the most intricate video games. The Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X provides the player with a way to visualize a series of decisions for their development. Where should you start on the grid? Which direction should you go? If you choose a certain skill set, what areas are you forsaking? This sort of cost-benefit analysis that recognizes the opportunity cost implicit in all education is a powerful act that, while common in games, usually occurs with less intention and less tools in the development of real persons.
local and digital
On this map, there will be two primary types of content: local learning opportunities and digital resources. One exciting outcome of this would be the deconstructing of online courses. Instead of a self-contained silo of learning content, the “MOOC” could be broken apart into separate nodes of content with mapped relationships. The online “course” could become a specific pathway on the expansive map that is supported by an expert and a community of learners. Courses will fade into the background and function as a curatorial (and relational) layer on top of the great resources being created by experts. After all, we’ve always known that resources like Hack Design have always been better than anything on Coursera. The really successful “ed.tech” platform will be the one that recognizes that technology is inherently neutral and that, when it comes to engaging a learner, relationships and learning communities will always trump content distribution and teaching machines. The platform must do this by taking on the important, but very complex job of pulling together both the digital resources and the entire social structure of education: workshops, volunteering, mentors, games, apprenticeships, courses, meetups, etc. etc. etc.
Imagine you are in some magical library of the future browsing poetry books in the stacks. Imagine that, when in those same poetry “stacks”, you could see instantly, what “books” you had read, what poems you liked or wrote about, and a portfolio of your own poems that resulted from your study. The library becomes more than a reservoir of content, but a data and planning center for the development of your mind. Imagine if such a map existed in three (four? fifty?) dimensions and included all subjects, displaying the process of development and connections between nodes. Again, some nodes could be whole texts, while others could be short sections on “This is how you learn X”, or an in-person local workshop. Progress on a Khan Academy Knowledge Map Within this knowledge map, you will have the ability to plan courses of study, follow courses that others have crafted, or just learn everything within a certain content area. Perhaps most excitingly, long-time students will be able to look back at their progress over many years and see a serious portfolio of everything they have ever read, watched, created, and learned. Every assignment, quiz, and essay could be looked at individually, or in aggregate to give students a picture of their personal development thus far. If used to its fullest potential, a student would be able to see the lifelong progression of their talents in a snap-shot and the path they took to get there. They could then curate their personal portfolio and knowledge map and share it with the public as part of their CV or application for schools.
This, of course, brings us to just exactly how the public knows that your map contains proven skills and knowledge. The answer lies in some sort of data-rich external endorsement related to your learning experiences. This data-rich credential has, to date, most capably taken the form of digital badges. These badges can provide the data needed to help learners find their way to their next learning experience, to make their personal portfolio substantive, and to provide the credentials necessary for the public to trust and properly value that portfolio. thoughts? what’s your unicorn?
The following is a guest post from Mike Hruska, President and CEO of Platinum Sponsor Problem Solutions.
Educational Technology (ed tech) has the largest opportunity to radically reshape our world. Engaging students and employees along the continuum of learning experiences has the ability to impact innovation and economic growth. The most important thing that we can do through ed tech is enable teachers to be great teachers and students to be great students as lifelong learners. We can do this by connecting people with the right experiences at the right time and with connecting people with the right people at the right time.
Funding is flowing into ed tech like never before. Massive investments by venture capitalists continue to add to the over $1 Billion of venture capital that has been invested in ed tech up to 2012. A recent single investment of $103 Million in Lynda.com earlier this month is the largest venture round in ed tech history. That’s big – and is going to change the world.
We are excited about ed tech and our team at Problem Solutions has been working in learning and educational technology on specifications, standards, products, and new technologies for 15 years.
We have built more open source Ed TechEd tech projects through the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative than any other single program in government. We have built things like the Experience API and the Learning Registry. We’ve also contributed to open source tools like the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring. These tools enable people to run further faster with ed tech on multiple fronts.
We have also helped existing and new companies dream and deliver new learning technologies and build award winning products like the recent Brandon Hall Gold award winner Trek.
We are excited about the possibilities that ed tech offers. We are lucky to build useful and awesome things in this space with great people. These tools and technologies have helped the community to grow and will continue to impact it moving ahead.
Why do we do this? Because the place where technology and education intersect has the largest ability to impact the world in positive ways.
We are looking forward to Startup Weekend Education so we can begin to grow innovative ed tech companies in Pittsburgh. What are you going to build to change the world?
Every Startup Weekend event has a theme, and the theme of the very first Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh is “Access.” We believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to access our event, regardless of class, gender, social background, or disability. An open, inviting experience: that is what the organizing team brings to the Pittsburgh community, and today we have great news.
Thanks to the overwhelming support from our generous sponsors, we have significantly lowered the cost of attending this event. A huge win for the SWeduPGH team, but most importantly for YOU, the Pittsburgh community!
Ticket prices are as follows:
$30 standard entries: Developer, Designer, Educator & Non-Technical/Business (formerly $99)
$24 for early-bird entries (with promo code EARLYBIRD – ends on Feb. 1st)
$15 for students with valid ID (use the promo code STUDENT)
$5 for Friday pitch attendance ONLY
$5 for Sunday pitch attendance ONLY
SWeduPGH is open to anyone who is curious about education, technology, design, and/or entrepreneurship. The only differences from the standard Startup Weekend Pittsburgh is that educators get to vote first, and at least 25% of attendees must be educators.
Don’t miss out on the first ever SWeduPGH, and get your tickets here today!
New sponsors: Expii, Saul Ewing, The Sprout Fund and TechShop Pittsburgh
Our Signature Sponsor for this event is Expii, led by Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Po-Shen Loh. Expii is a global learning platform that works like a community-built textbook, where instructors and students collaborate on interactive, dynamic, and validated material.
Continuing their support in the startup community, Saul Ewing contributes at the Platinum level. Saul Ewing provides legal services to businesses, nonprofit entities and public institutions, including general corporate counseling and commercial litigation.
At the Gold Level, The Sprout Fund supports innovative ideas that catalyze change in Pittsburgh– making our community a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family.
A huge thank you to all of our sponsors!
I’ve spent almost a decade working on the tech side of ed tech, and over the years I’ve come to know a dynamic, creative, and passionate community. Back in the day, each camp was in a bit of a transition and seemed to operate independently; techies were too smart to need teacher’s recommendations and teachers were reluctant to let technology change their classroom.
But in recent years attitudes have changed and ed tech is thriving- especially in Pittsburgh! Now, we’re not just focused on working together, but we’re focused on working together to do better work.
Since ed and tech are a little more cozy, it’s easier to learn from each other. People working in both areas are similarly spunky, creative, solution-focused and iterative. But the worlds in which they work encourage the growth of separate skill sets. This is part of the reason Startup Weekend Education is so exciting!
The goal for this post is to suggest ways education and technology can benefit each other. Let’s start with educators, for without them this would not be Startup Weekend Education.
Photo courtesy of Norton Gusky. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Educators are used to thinking on their feet, and great at quickly changing strategies when they need to. Their work encourages:
collaboration: sharing strategies at edcamps and formal conferences
improvisation: creativity with whatever resources are available, e.g. twitter chats
community: sharing open education resources
Photo courtesy of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh.
To make viable goods and services, entrepreneurs focus on:
process: building efficiency by design
selling it: getting credit and promoting their work
planning for scale: developing long-term strategy
These skills are super complimentary and I can’t wait to see them put to work. And these are just my observations- what do you think these communities can learn from one another?
The new year is underway, and so is our official planning for the first Startup Weekend Education in Pittsburgh. With many things to finalize before the big weekend on February 20-22, we’re thrilled to already have more exciting updates to share, including new sponsors, speakers, judges, and more.
Informational session: January 27
Are you in the education space but not sure what Startup Weekends are like? Or are you a serial Startup Weekend participant who’s not sure how to translate your skills to this new venture? Then come to our info session at AlphaLab Gear! We’ll have presentations and discussions, plus, in traditional Ed Tech Meetup fashion, delicious food.
Register now here: http://www.meetup.com/Ed-Tech-PGH/events/219675845/
Keynote speaker: Luis von Ahn of Duolingo
One of the more exciting developments in the past few days has been the confirmation of our keynote speaker, Luis von Ahn. Duolingo has continually been recognized as revolutionary tech for learning a language, and we couldn’t be more honored and excited to have one of the co-founders and CEO speak on Friday evening.
Sponsors: TurnItIn, Cherin Law Offices, and The Hardware Store
Of course Startup Weekend Education wouldn’t be anywhere without the generosity of the community, so we have many thanks to give to our newest sponsors.
At the gold level, TurnItIn is the worldwide leader in originality checking, online grading and peer review for educators, students, and researchers. Having such a pioneer in student learning at our event is a privilege.
Also at the gold level is local co-working space and technology services company The Hardware Store, which will also be handling all our digital media needs for the Sunday pitches. Many thanks to founder Josh Lucas for his ongoing support and documentation of startup events.
Steve Cherin, of Cherin Law Offices, is a frequent supporter of the startup community and we’re glad to have him officially on board as a silver sponsor. He provides legal services for many of Pittsburgh’s startups and is a valuable resource for companies at any stage.
First two judges: Lisa Palmieri and Elijah Mayfield
We’ve set a promising precedence with the confirmation of our first two judges, who will be among a panel of five.
Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Ph.D, is the Director of Technology and Innovation, the Director of Learning Innovation Institute, and the Head of Computer Science at The Ellis School in Shadyside. Dr. Abel-Palmieri is a prominent and active member of the Pittsburgh ed-tech community, and is involved in several projects, including Remake Learning and TRETC.
We’ve also confirmed Elijah Mayfield, who is the founder and CEO of LightSide Labs, which was recently purchased by TurnItIn. LightSide Labs provides writing support for students and teachers in grades 6-12, and his insight in the ed-tech scene will be invaluable.
We will send out more updates as we confirm more judges, mentors, sponsors, and vendors.
Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buy your tickets now for the inaugural Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh and get 20% off with code EARLYBIRD until February 1, 2015.
If you’re a student, you can get 50% off your ticket with code STUDENT– you’ll be required to show a valid student ID at the event.
Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh (SWeduPGH) is the perfect storm of education and entrepreneurship in the Pittsburgh community. We have only begun our planning of the event, and already we have some very big announcements:
A Platinum Sponsor
We already secured our first platinum sponsor: Problem Solutions! SWPGH#6 attendee Walt Grata reached out to us immediately after the event and put me in touch with company president Mike Hruska, co-author of the soon to be released “Ed Tech Software Developer’s Guide.” Suffice to say, we are very happy to have their support!
A School for an Event Location
Our event will be held at the Environmental Charter Upper School (ECS)! Located just outside of Frick Park, ECS’s relatively central location, parking accessibility, and consolidated layout works extremely well for the needs of a Startup Weekend event. Plus, where better (or more obvious) to conduct an education-themed event than at a school?
A Top-Tier Facilitator
Mandela Schumacher-Hodge will be our event facilitator! For the uninitiated, every Startup Weekend event requires an out-of-town facilitator to help the organization team execute the event. We really lucked out by tapping the Director of Education Entepreneurs for UP Global, the parent organization of Startup Weekend! Mandela is a Pittsburgh native to boot!
An Amazing Organizing Team
We have truly assembled a “Dream Team” for SWeduPGH. Hand-picked for their experience, passion, and reputation in the educational and startup communities, we’re going to knock this event out of the park:
Courtney Francis (@cfrancisrun), Co-Organizer and Marketing Lead
Shimira Williams (@tekstart), Co-Organizer and Operations Lead
Christian Moreno (@cmoreno_13), Sponsorship Coordinator
Cat Tsavalas (@cattsavalas), Social Media Coordinator
As we head into 2015, we hope that you will be a part of this exciting event we’re putting on for the Pittsburgh educational community. We’re actively looking for mentors, judges, a keynote speaker, and game-day volunteers. Tickets are already available here, and for more information, feel free to email us at email@example.com.
In promotion of the first Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh, this blog post is the first of a series by and for the education technology community in Pittsburgh. All inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“70% who showed up this weekend didn’t know each other. Now you’re pitching startups.”- Kit Muller, co-organizer of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh.
From strangers to movers and shakers, congratulations to all the teams who pitched their companies at Startup Weekend Pittsburgh #6! We couldn’t have asked for a better group of attendees, mentors, sponsors and volunteers. A special thank you to @AlphaLabGear & @ThrillMillPgh for accommodating the 130+ crazed attendees.
Without further ado, here are your #SWPgh6 winners:
Second Place Team: Jumpit
“JumpIt is the Uber for emergency car assistance, seamlessly connecting those in need with local and available assistance.”
Third Place Team: 360Showings
“360 showings improves how realtors show properties by taking the blinds off: let buyers look around inside 360 videos.”
Thank you all for joining us on this 54-hour journey. #SWPgh6 participant Will Gibbons said it best: “It’s hectic, challenging, inspiring, exhausting and exhilarating.” For many of us, it was our first experience with Startup Weekend Pittsburgh. Aside from a lot of tweeting and blogging, I did not know what to expect. I embarked on the #swpgh journey with a nice mix of nerves and excitement, and am happy to say I ended up with unforgettable memories. I got to experience first hand, individuals coming together to create something bigger than themselves. Not just potential companies, but a community of entrepreneurs. My biggest takeaway from the weekend is the relationships I forged while working alongside the participants, volunteers and organizers. Competing to win is important, but enjoying the journey takes precedence. Startup Weekend is a sprint. Entrepreneurship is a marathon.
Congrats again to all of the attendees for participating and pitching your ideas. More importantly, pat yourselves on the back for putting yourself in a new setting and stepping out of your comfort zones. You are now graduates of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh!
Welcome to the community that builds Pittsburgh’s tomorrow.
Our keynote speaker Don Charleton, Founder and CEO of The Resumator, said it best. “You have to be freaking crazy to want to do this.” Day 3 of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh is well on its way and our teams have shown that they are, freaking crazy.
We’re not saying that we have the formula for Startup Weekend perfected, but if you want to get pretty close, it starts with: 135 attendees, 30+ pitches, 16 involved sponsors, 13 teams competing, three food trucks, an amazing volunteer team, a magician, a 3D printer and the Pittsburgh community. The result: an unforgettable Startup Weekend.
Let’s recap this weekend’s highlights:
Friday night networking between our 100+ attendees. The “calm” before the storm.
Zeke’s in the Burgh kept the entire crowd caffeinated all weekend long. Not to mention their awesome apple cheddar scones.
After our Saturday pow-pow teams shared their progress and their company needs. It resulted into teams working as a community, lending a helping hand wherever they could. Startup Weekend Pittsburgh is more than a 54 hour competition, it’s about building a community.
Work hard, play hard. #SWPgh brought in professional magician @LeeTerbosic for a much deserved mental break.
We had 10+ mentors, representing various industries, giving advice to our teams as they progressed throughout the weekend. @BrazenKitchen giving food industry advice to one of our teams.
@TechShopPGH made an appearance on Sunday, 3D printing our attendees. Plastic never looked so good.
We are minutes away from Sunday’s final pitches! Our panel of judges are:
Jose Amayo – Mind Over Media
Denise Desimone – C-Leveled
Debra Lam – City of Pittsburgh
Tara Ronel – SnapRetail
Eric Silver – WebKite
Follow our twitter feed for live updates @startupwkndpgh!
Companies in the Making: Startup Weekend Pittsburgh Teams Have Formed
Over 30 pitches were delivered Friday night and 13 teams have formed to represent #SWPgh6. Meet the teams:
“We are creating a web/app for Money, Life, & Death Organizer. Helping people find a simple way to prepare for wills and assets.”
Members: Heather Broman, Paige Sabedra, Jonathan Shaffer, Kyle Szives, Nina Patel, Garrett Buyan
@LODOMOlife #finance #legal
Team GI Culprit
“We are the next version of food journals using data analytics to identify culprit or trigger foods for IBS and Crohns Disease.”
Members: Bridget Deasy, Alani Grant, Tom Kierzkowski, Walt Grata, Phil Goetz, William Lutz, Tess Bailie, Bill Holmes, William Hardy, Nicole Flasco
“Harmonic is an app that lets any student take their boring educational notes that they are studying and convert them into a unique song.”
Members: Brooke Bango, Jacob Howell, Zach Shefska, Ajay Krishna, Teja Kavuri, Josh Brown
“We help kids learn how to run their business and track their business so they can kill it in their neighborhood while they rake leaves, shovel snow, babysit, etc.”
Members: Dan Delanis, Allison Howard, Rob Simpson, Phil Ciarrocchi, Evan McIntyre, Stone Swiess
Team Tap Yapa
“We are rethinking the way you gift. Gifting made fun.”
Members: Tom Jones, Arash Danaie, Bruce McElroy, Katherine Marino
“We provide educators a platform for adding multimedia content to traditional instruction using augmented reality and hypermedia.”
Members: Anna Belak, Juan Corzo, John DeGore, Jason Azares, Thidanun Saensuksopa, Saba Kazi, Elizabeth Wagstaff, Michael Richardson, Landon Paik
“We minimize the amount of time to deliver proven medical research to bedside practice through educational application.”
Members: Andrew Mortimer, Dennis Paskorz, Anastasia Lanz, Haohan Wang
Team Metal Sense
“Fast, accurate, and inexpensive field portable heavy metal testing for water, soil, food, and human health.”
Members: Nicholas Nuar, Stephen House,Emma Casehart, Ashok Chandrasekaran
“Meetings That [Actually] Work – “AGENDAFY” It!”
Members: Robb Myer, Courtney Francis, Karen Tang, Ryan Richardson, Ben Alderoty, Corey Keller, Tyler Matteo, Savannah Butler, Michele Petruccell, Bob LaVella
Members: Meera, Ebby, Mario.