Education Innovation Returns to Chicago

Written by the organizers of Chicago Startup Weekend Education (September 26th-28th)

On September 26th, Startup Weekend Education returns to Chicago seeking to build on last year’s phenomenal success.

One of the most successful start-ups to come out of Chicago last year did not even crack the final top three, Fantasy Geopolitics.  Minnesota school teacher Eric Nelson remained undeterred and leveraged the strong technical and business support from his Startup Weekend experience to launch successful Kickstarter campaigns and trips to New Orleans for 4.0 Schools and Nashville for EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit.

Eric

Eric Nelson, Fantasy Geopolitics

We are exciting to bring back together the Midwest’s educators, entrepreneurs, designers, developers, and other business professionals through their passion to make a positive impact on education. We have added to our roster of coaches and mentors with the technical and design talent behind successful edtech start-ups like Benchprep, GetSet, LearnMetrics, Packback Books, RedShelf, Starter League.  And, in a further learning opportunity, our friends at Educelerate have organized a conference on Education Startups in Success for the Friday of the Weekend (with a discounted ticket that gets you into both events).Whether you RSVP for the separate Conference or not, its final panel also serves as the unofficial welcome to Startup Weekend Education with edtech luminaries Ron Packard and Jack Larson speaking on the future of education innovation.

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Ron Packard

Jack

Jack Larson

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1871 DeVry Incubator

Additionally, Educelerate has sponsored a special Challenge and prize for the team that best addresses the unique needs of Non-traditional Students.  Additional prizes will come from our sponsors like DeVry and 1871, which are rolling out a new EdTech incubator. The first step takes place the weekend of September 26th in downtown Chicago at National Louis University.  Purchase your ticket at Chicago Startup Weekend Education to join a team and work with our mentors, coaches and organizational team.

 




Emprendimiento + educación

Educate

El sistema educativo de varios países en Latinoamérica está mejorando cada vez más, específicamente en países como Brazil y Chile, pero sigue estando des actualizado si lo comparamos con los sistemas educativos de países de primer nivel, como Suiza, Alemania o Estados Unidos.

El desarrollo de un país depende de la oportunidad que tenga cada ciudadano para aprender y del espacio que se le de para desarrollar a plenitud sus potenciales. De la satisfacción que cada quien alcance y del sentido que, a través de ese aprendizaje, le dé a su vida depende no solo su bienestar sino la prosperidad colectiva.

El emprendimiento comienza a convertirse en una de las principales herramientas económicas de estos países, con la creación de startups que son escalables a nivel global y que tienen un alto ingreso monetario, lo cual brinda a su comunidad en un escenario ideal, soluciones sociales y mejoras en la vida cotidiana de las personas. Pero entonces, ¿por qué no estamos enseñando emprendimiento a una edad en donde los jóvenes no tienen miedo de tomar riesgos y cuando la creatividad está en su más alto nivel? ¿Es posible que la educación evolucione de clases de salón en dónde escuchas a un maestro y eres evaluado por tus conocimientos “aprendidos de memoria” más que por tu habilidad de crear e innovar en productos?

El emprendimiento es una forma de pensar, razonar y actuar centrada en las oportunidades, planteada con visión global y llevada a cabo mediante un liderazgo
equilibrado y la gestión de un riesgo calculado, su resultado es la creación de valor que
beneficia a la empresa, la economía y la sociedad. Y dentro del marco de la educación no es diferente.

Universidades y escuelas han empezado a entender la importancia de la libertad a la hora de tener una educación más enfocada hacia el individuo y lo que puede lograr; y se han diseñado clases y cursos en torno a la enseñanza de herramientas que nuevos emprendedores pueden utilizar y esto requiere un esfuerzo coordinado y sostenido por parte del establecimiento educativo, así como una estructura organizacional coherente de un horizonte institucional orientado hacia la formación de personas integrales.

En Startup Education, lo que buscamos es que esas ideas sean validadas hacia el mercado y que tengan un modelo de negocios sostenible para que la educación avance en Latinoamérica. Del 3 al 5 de Octubre tendremos nuestro primer evento enfocado a resolver estos problemas de educación en la Ciudad de México. Para registrarte haz click aquí.

Si te interesa organizar un evento en tu ciudad acerca de educación, contáctanos a latam@up.co. Síguenos en Twitter, o Facebook para información acerca de nuestros otros programas.

 




What Happens When 70 Entrepreneurs Gather in Austin to Innovate on Education?

To say that the first ever Startup Weekend Education event to be held in Austin was a smashing success would be a total understatement. The energy from participants, the support from the community and the high caliber of execution of ideas on the part of all of the teams involved really sets the bar high for our first go at a SWEdu event in Austin. Setting the bar high, of course, is a really good thing. We’ve come to expect nothing less from the edtech community here in Austin, and the students who count on us deserve our collective efforts. That said, let’s recap this first awesome weekend of pitching ideas, forming teams, consuming lots of caffeine, working through the night, drinking some more caffeine, practicing said pitches again, and again, and again and of course, presenting those pitches to our rather impressive panel of judges.

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Brian Lukoff, Program Director of Learning Catalytics for Pearson.


To kick things off, Brian Lukoff, Program Director for Learning Catalytics at Pearson, spoke to our group about his experience in education and the process of creating a startup. He shared some extremely valuable insights with our soon-to-be startups, including:

  • Find the right people – make sure that you “click”
  • Eat your own dog food and iterate often (in other words, be your own customer)
  • Don’t forget your educational (not business) goal
  • And last, but certainly not least, don’t leave Austin

After our opening speaker, participants pitched their initial ideas that would provide the framework for the whole weekend. We had over 30 participants pitch an idea, but only 12 of them made the final cut. It’s said that the initial idea becomes only a small part of the eventual team and startup, and this weekend certainly proved that to be true. Teams formed around 10 of these ideas, and before the weekend was finished, only nine teams remained. Nine OUTSTANDING teams, that is.  Here’s a look at some of the teams in action:

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Jake Nathan, our youngest participant at 16, pitches his idea that would eventually become “FeedBack Now.”

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After hours of hard work overnight and during the morning Saturday, coaches arrived on Saturday afternoon to offer tips and advice to help steer teams in the right direction. We had representative from various sectors relevant to our startups, including developers, marketing professionals, designers, and of course, educators. The teams, working nearly non-stop, continued to develop logos, websites, mobile apps and back-end services in order to present working models of their proposed solutions to the challenges they sought to tackle.

Photos courtesy Holp Photography.

Photos courtesy Holp Photography.

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Scott Lipton, left, talks with Ryan Lynch, right.

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By Sunday, teams ratcheted up their efforts toward the final phase of the weekend: judging. Our judges represented some of the most prominent organizations in Austin from education-specific companies to investment firms, with nearly everything in between. To put some more context around our esteemed judging panel, Charles Thornburgh, Founder and CEO of Civitas Learning, is listed on “16 People Changing the Landscape of Online Education Forever” by Find Education Online. Nancy Giordano, another star of our judging panel, is the founder of TEDxAustin, among her many accomplishments. Clearly, our participant teams had to bring their A-game in order to impress our judges. When all was said and done, the judges were more than impressed with the assembled talent and collective hard work.  Here are some of the highlights of the final pitches:

Gavin kicks things off before teams deliver pitches.

Gavin kicks things off before teams deliver pitches.

Judges consider all of the pitches before tallying scores.

Judges consider all of the pitches before tallying scores.

Clifford Chiu helped drive conversations from the judges to participants.

Clifford Chiu helped drive conversations from the judges to participants.

Alyssa presents with her team.

Alyssa presents with her team.

Photos courtesy of Holp Photography.

Photos courtesy of Holp Photography.

Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography.

Catherine Greenlaw weighs in during team pitches.

Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography.

Charles Thornburgh, Civitas Learning.

Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography.

Christa Clark of 401Kids presents their startup.

Photos courtesy of Holp Photography. Photos courtesy of Holp Photography.

Judges deliberated in the “secret conference room” at the Capital Factory (don’t even think about asking us to divulge the secret location…):

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Ultimately,  three teams were selected to represent our first event as the front-runners, but all of the teams should be commended. Here’s a run down of winners, participants and prizes, courtesy of Ed Valdez of Technorati (see his piece here):

  1. 401 Kids: With 7 out of 10 college students graduating with debt (over $1 trillion of collective debt in the US) and more states requiring financial literacy in order to graduate high school, this service teaches the financial seeds of success to students who range from six to thirteen years old.
  2. OnBoard: This service allows HigherEd educators and students to connect with non-profit companies who need marketing/communications projects completed at a cost that is significantly lower than market rate while enabling students to receive course credit for their completed projects by solving real-world problems.
  3. BookAround: A gamification platform that enables students to upload 20-second videos that are book reviews/commentaries that they share with their peers to motivate them to read more and have fun in the process.

Other team participants included Evalumate, Curriculine, Language Links, Digit.com, Hogwarts Education and Feedback Now, the latter of which has a 16-year-old Jake Nathan as “co-founder” of a team that built a mobile app to help students ask questions in class in an anonymous way without having to feel “stupid” or uncomfortable (see video, courtesy of KXAN-TV).

Thanks to the donations of several sponsors, 401 Kids, the overall winner, will receive:

  • $1000 hosting credit from Rackspace;
  • One-year subscription to Foundersuite;
  • A Playlab demo space at the Thinkery (Children’s Museum in Austin);
  • $1200 off of an immersive course from Makersquare;
  • A team demo at EdTech Austin; and
  • Invitation to join the Capital Factory (last, but not least).

Special thanks to all of our sponsors and organizers for making this weekend possible! First, thanks to Mike Holp of Holp Photography. Check him out here, and be sure to book him for your next event! We’d especially like to thank our gold and platinum sponsors Capital FactoryMakerSquare and Pearson who helped make this event possible! See all of our sponsors, coaches and judges here: http://austinedu.startupweekend.org/

We’ve got a few great events in the works for the upcoming months before SXSWEdu. We may even have time to squeeze in another Startup Weekend Education, so stay tuned, y’all!




Orlando Startup Weekend Education Helps Solve Problems in Education

This post was written by Josh Murdock, Orlando Startup Weekend Education Organizer and was originally posted on his Professor Josh blog.

Many of us have 8am-5pm jobs. But there are always these things called weekends that give us an extra 54 hours of time to explore, relax, learn, and build. What can you do in 54 hours? How about creating a startup business that solves a problem in education. That’s what happened July 11-13, 2014 at Valencia College’s Collaborative Design Center on the West Campus. Fifty designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and educators came together over a weekend to create seven amazing companies in 54 hours at Orlando Startup Weekend Education. Many of the participants were from Central Florida but one came from Honduras and another from New Jersey to participate.

 

 

Friday night both friends and strangers kicked off a weekend long journey to create a startup business from just an idea. Over 24 participants pitched their own ideas that would solve educational problems. Afterwards all the 60 second pitches, came a vote by all those participating on which ideas were their favorites. Educators votes were worth double, since it was education focused Startup Weekend. Narrowed down to form seven teams ranging from ideas that would attempt to solve a national problem concerning the lack of girls going into STEM careers to a solution that tries to connect teachers and potential guest speakers in an easier way.

Orlando Startup Weekend Education SWORLEDU Voting on Ideas

I was the main organizers for this weekend. It’s my ninth time attending a Startup Weekend, typically attending as a mentor in the past. It was the third Startup Weekend Education hosted in Orlando, one of the few in the southeast. I’m always amazed at the journey these teams go through from just an idea to a potential business that could have a huge impact on education.

The seven pitches that formed teams included:

  • Inspire Us: eHarmony for connecting guest speakers and teachers.
  • Party Time: Time management app for college students.
  • OE Scope: Turing optical microscopes into digital microscopes with a smartphone app and unique 3D printed adapter with lots of sharable features.
  • Telling Tales: A storybook development website for developing reading skills.
  • Learn Like a Girl: After school program for girls to get invovled and interested in STEM careers.
  • Lab Safety: Digital lab safety courses for both students and teachers to prevent accidents from happening.
  • Global Glass: Non-profit connecting Honduras (or other countries students/teachers) to teachers or retired teachers in the United States digitally for assistance and tutoring.

Saturday the seven teams focused on defining their problem, solution, and users. They went out to validate their ideas with those who are impacted by these problems or could be potential users or customers of their solutions. As each team moved along their journey, they are guided by various mentors from the community who volunteered their time to ask the tough questions and give guidance when needed. Many teams pivot in response to validation, competition, and lessons learned along their weekend journey. Dr. Lisa Macon, Dean at Valencia College was one of the mentors over the entire weekend and helped bring Startup Weekend Education to Valencia. “Watching the teams progress from “idea” to “product” was eye-opening. The teams with members who asked questions and kept an open mind progressed quickly which should be a lesson to the others who came in with hard and fast ideas. All of the participants learned something about product development, business models, and teamwork. I am looking forward to the next Startup Weekend event.”

Mentors working with teams at Orlando Startup Weekend Education

Sunday is the final push to develop a quality pitch that will impress the judges. Teams continue to build, validate, and get assistance for mentors along the way. Practicing pitches and being comfortable sharing your ideas in a simple to understand format is a key to success. Areas the judges focus on are customer business validation, education impact, user experience design, and product execution. The winner of July’s Orlando Startup Weekend Education was Inspire Us, bringing professionals into the classroom.

Orlando Startup Weekend Education SWORLEDU Group Photo

Everyone walks away with new lessons learned from others, including the mentors, judges, and organizers. One mentor Rob McCaffery, a Professor at Valencia College, said, “In addition to learning more about business, I find a lot of techniques during Startup Weekend that I can use to engage my classrooms and get students interacting with each other.”

Dr. Sandy Shugart, President of Valencia College was one of the judges. “Not many one-weekend co-curricular experiences are genuinely transformational. But Startup Weekend truly is.” stated Shugart.

Orlando Startup Weekend Education SWORLEDU Judges including Carlos Carbonell, TD Haines, Dr Sandy Shugart

After the weekend is over, it’s not the end for the winning and losing teams. It’s a chance to decide if they want to continue their journey in entrepreneurship and educational change. It’s an opportunity to connect again with those friends you met for the first time over the weekend. It’s a time to get involved in local meetups, such as EdTech Orlando (edtechorlando.com) that talk about the need for change in education year around.

Interested in learning more about Startup Weekend Education? Visit startupeducation.co and search for #SWORLEDU on Twitter to see what happened at this weekend’s Startup Weekend Education Orlando event.




5 Lessons Learned while Building Mathbreakers

Written by Vivian Tan, Co-Founder of Mathbreakers, a video game that teaches math through play.

As a small independent studio with big dreams to transform math education through fun video games, we discovered that the “education sector” is much broader than it first seemed. A year and a half ago, our team set out to create an educational game that kids would actually enjoy playing. We soon learned that our target demographic — kids between the ages of 7-12 — does not simply exist in a vacuum. The entire education market, in fact, consists of an intertwining network of parents, teachers, districts, students, and other groups with varying needs. Each of these groups may directly or indirectly influence the type of educational products and services that are used by other groups.

Creating our dream math education video game took a spark of inspiration — turning that into reality and bringing it to market required understanding the needs of our audience.

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Our love for video games led us to create Mathbreakers. We grew up spending a great deal of time playing with video games; that was always the reward that motivated us to finish our homework or chores. This inspired us to make a video game that integrates learning and playing, and Mathbreakers was born.

Mathbreakers is a 3-D math exploration video game where kids experiment with numbers and operations by playing with various toys and puzzles. Adventurers can chop numbers in half with a fractions sword, cast addition spells to zero-out negative enemies, and outsmart swarms of spiky integers while developing number sense.

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We spoke to teachers and math education specialists about the biggest challenges faced by math learners in elementary and middle-school, and we noticed a recurring issue: kids are discouraged from pursuing a math education because they are led to believe that they’re “bad at math.” The fear of failure stems mostly from the way that math is taught: through drills, worksheets, quizzes, and exams that don’t usually take into account different modes of learning. Students are often rushed onto the next math subject before having a firm grasp of foundational math.

That’s when we knew we had to build this game for kids. Mathbreakers motivates young children to tackle math problems because they become immersed in playing it and have an interest in getting better at it. Many of the educational games we have played in the past approach the problem from a traditional educational delivery angle. As a result, the products often end up being worksheets with game-like elements tacked on.

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Mathbreakers speaks to kids on their own terms. The game empowers children to take control of their own math learning experience. Players are encouraged to experiment and explore the world of numbers around them, without having to worry about making mistakes or getting the “correct” answers right off the bat. As one mother put it, “kids are learning without realizing they’re learning, and it becomes part of their subconscious mind.”

We have tested Mathbreakers with hundreds of kids over the past year and a half. We knew we were onto something BIG when kids refused to stop playing a game about math at the end of our test sessions! Even kids that identified themselves (or were told by their parents and teachers) as not being good at math or hating math took to Mathbreakers almost immediately. They were so enthralled by the game that they didn’t mind having to do math just to beat the level and move on to the next challenge.

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So if you are an edtech entrepreneur looking to transform your idea into reality, where do you start? Here are a few things that we’ve learned along our journey that may be helpful!

  1. Identify your users –This sounds like generic startup advice that every entrepreneur should already know, but zeroing in on exactly who your users are could be tricky. In our case, we initially identified our users as kids ages 7-12 that would play our math game. But since young children rarely use a product without supervision, we realized that parents and teachers are a sub-category of users too, but they would not necessarily be players of our game. Instead, we built a second suite of tools specifically for parents and teachers.

  1. Identify the decision makers — When your target users are too young to make purchasing decisions, then you have a few other obstacles to jump through. If you decide to market directly to families, then parents tend to be the final decision makers. If you market to schools, then decision makers tend to hold positions up at the district level. See what we mean by intertwining networks? Ultimately, if your end users love your product, then it’s much easier to sway the decision makers.

  1. Identify other influencers — Parents and teachers aside, if you’re making a product for students under the age of 18, then you have to take certain legal requirements into consideration. In particular, if your users are age 13 or younger, then you must comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This may affect the way you structure your website, communications, and data collection.

  1. Test frequently with your users — We knew that we really had to put the video gameplay first, because that’s what really engages our audience. Mathbreakers wouldn’t help kids learn math if they didn’t enjoy playing it! The experience of the game had to be fun and engaging from day 0, so we tested and iterated frequently and threw out all the mechanics that kids did not like.

  2. Don’t compromise your vision — Help decision makers and other influencers understand your product, but don’t always change your product just for them. Our vision was to make a math video game that kids would really love to play. We didn’t want to compromise the integrity of the game itself, so we made external tools (such as a dashboard and lesson guides) that helped parents and teachers understand and integrate the game into their children’s learning. Mathbreakers is aligned to the Common Core and we gather data to improve the players’ learning progression — but that doesn’t have to get in the way of kids having fun!

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We are fundraising on Kickstarter right now to bring the Mathbreakers game to iPad and Android tablets. Help us reach our goal by Sat, Jul 5 2014 1:34 PM PDT so that more kids can play Mathbreakers!

We are also experimenting with creating higher math game levels in Mathbreakers. You can check out our games and visualizations of Turing Machines, Set Theory and more at Mathbreakers Labs.

 

 

 




The Real Entrepreneurs — Teachers — at Triangle Startup Weekend EDU

This article is written by Startup Weekend Education organizer, Karl Rectanus

After speaking on a panel to some of the brightest undergraduate students from the US and Mexico last week, I decided something: Entrepreneurs have become too cool.

Entrepreneurs are the “lead guitarist” of the 70’s, the “stock broker” of the 80’s, the movie star, the striker on the World Cup team, and the point guard. Miles Davis driving an electric sports car through the middle of a Vegas night club. Being an entrepreneur is all sparkly photos, fast talking and billion dollar exits. Right?

Don’t believe the hype… The reality is entrepreneurs are people who solve problems for a distinct market, usually with a lot of hard work and limited resources.

So, when one of those bright undergrads asked me how I went from the classroom to the “glories” of entrepreneurship, I realized something else:

Teachers are real entrepreneurs.

startup weekend education, startup weekend, UP global

Every day, educators are solving problems for their distinct market (their classroom of students) with a lot of hard work and limited resources.  They help the students who excel and those that struggle. They invent and deliver solutions, with learning, analysis, communication, self-awareness, persistence and critical thinking as the commodity of trade. They help students move ahead on the next quiz, in the next grade, to the next level in the real world.

Do we celebrate teachers as entrepreneurs?  Not always.

That’s why I’m ecstatic that our region’s next installment of Triangle Startup Weekend is Education focused. The event — at an amazing venue, The James Hunt Library on Centennial Campus at NC State on July 18-20 — will bring educators, mentors, celebrity judges and rewards to help make new ideas into new realities. Educators and engineers, problem solvers and critical thinkers, collaborators and visionaries will gather for 54 hours of invention, competition and new solutions.

So, if you’re a teacher, a student, or a regular old non-movie star that wants a dose of how real entrepreneurs create solutions, then sign up and participate.  Learn more and register.

Karl Rectanus, an educator and entrepreneur, is the CEO of Lea(R)n, Inc. an award winning early-stage company bringing quality control to education technology.

 

picture via The Guardian.

 




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