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The following is by Mandela Schumacher-Hodge, Director of Startup Weekend Education at UP Global.

The common thread that ties us all together is the experience of learning – engaging in an activity for the primary purpose of acquiring information. However, how best to learn is still up for debate, and we at Startup Weekend Education want to help turn peoples’ ideas about education into action! We are thrilled to announce that starting this fall 2013, we will be giving educators and entrepreneurs the greatest opportunity in history to play a role in shaping the learning experience of others around the world! Read below to find out how you can get involved.

The Common Denominator

Have you ever sat in a group setting with one person positioned in front of the room, instructing you and your peers on a particular topic? Have you ever referenced a book, website, or app to acquire information? Have you ever participated in an activity for the sole purpose of increasing your knowledge and/or perfecting your skills?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are what we call a Learner.

You have intentionally engaged in the process of acquiring, compartmentalizing, and retaining information for the purpose of increasing your knowledge. For the vast majority of us that grew up in the U.S., we have developed a large sense of what it means to be a Learner in the traditional public school system. There, one person deemed qualified by the institution instructs a multitude of pupils on one or several subjects, and then assigns homework, tests, and projects to assess the pupils’ mastery of the content. Levels of proficiency are indicated using a letter or numerical grade that serves as a scorecard to determine the students’ readiness to graduate, be accepted into college, or enter the workforce.

Seeing that most everyone shares this common experience – that of the Learner – when it comes to the question of how best to educate the Learner, almost all of us have an answer to contribute, most often times based off our own personal experiences.

“My education was great. We did A, B, and C, so it only makes sense that we continue doing A, B, and C. I mean, look at me. I turned out alright, didn’t I?”

“Yeah but what you’re forgetting to mention is that your parents’ also hired private tutors, so you could receive additional help to ensure you passed all your classes. I had the same A, B, C  schooling that you did, but without the additional support, I didn’t fare nearly as well. I think it’s time we start considering a 1, 2, 3 approach that better serves all students, no matter what their background.”

“Yeah that sounds great, but you’re both totally overlooking the fact that times are drastically different now then when we were kids, and that with the advent of technology, these differences will continue to proliferate at insanely fast paces. So how can we educate and prepare students for a world that doesn’t even exist yet?”

Sound familiar? If you’ve listened to or read any public discourse about education recently, you most surely have heard these sentiments being shared. The experience of the Learner is the common denominator that ties us all together, and yet even still, how we define a good learning experience varies drastically. But even if “the best way” is still up for debate, your ability to contribute your perspective and thoughts to the conversation and play an active role in the creation of amazing learning experience for others is most definitely not.

The Catalyst

Here at Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU), we believe that entrepreneurship is the most powerful force to positively impact education outcomes. We are a global network of passionate educators, entrepreneurs, developers, and designers on a mission to revolutionize the education and learning markets, and we welcome people from all walks of life to contribute their ideas and passion for education to help advance the ecosystem. Since its launch in 2011, SWEDU has brought together people from these networks to partake in 54-hour events that help them design and produce viable companies that solve some of education’s most pressing problems. In just over two years of existence, SWEDU has already carried out 23 events in 15 cities around the world, and has resulted in the creation of countless teams and companies that have gone on to make a positive impact on the lives of Learners.

Below: Check out the trailer for Startup Weekend Education.

A math teacher and a former principal frustrated with obsolete technology in their schools resort to competing in “Startup Weekend Education” a 54 hour event that will test their limits. Startup Weekend Education was selected to be screened at SXSW edu 2013.  Full film will be released soon!

Two years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation* provided Startup Weekend with the initial grant that helped launch this education vertical. Today we are thrilled to announce that the Gates Foundation has increased their commitment to SWEDU and confirmed their belief in entrepreneurship as a powerful catalyst for change by extending their involvement and granting SWEDU an additional three years in funding! Using the traditional Startup Weekend event as the foundation, SWEDU’s expansion efforts over the next few years will be focused on strengthening the involvement of educators and those with domain expertise, providing more tactical support both prior to and after the events, and increasing the number of events taking place each year. Not only that, but SWEDU will now serve as a resource hub for education entrepreneurs looking to incorporate academic research, as well as a community of connected leaders, consistently collaborating and leveraging the power of the collective to impact education innovation.

In a nutshell, SWEDU will be giving educators and entrepreneurs an unprecedented opportunity to play a role in shaping the learning experience of millions of people around the world!

The Influencing Factor

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?! Well, it sure is! And I should know. I’ve been given the awesome opportunity to help make all of SWEDU’s expansion efforts happen. Not only have I had the privilege of being a former public school teacher, administrator, and education researcher, I have also experienced winning SWEDU, and subsequently working with my co-founder to turn our idea into a real edtech startup! Given my passion for education, love affair with entrepreneurship, and unique history with SWEDU, I am absolutely elated to be a part of this incredible movement of education innovation in a new capacity. However, one of the first things that became apparent to me as I took on this new position, is that it is you, not me, who are the true leaders of this movement.

It is you who possess the courage to challenge the status quo and advocate for a new, better way of doing things. It is you who has the allergic reaction to mediocrity and a distaste for anything average. You are that rare individual that has big dreams about how education should be and can be, and you back those dreams up by massive action. Ultimately, it is only through the involvement of you – people passionate about education and invested in using entrepreneurship as a tool to enact change – who will ultimately determine what it means to be a Learner for generations to come. And so, it is you we want to hear from; it is you we want to serve.

We’re still in our very early stages of development, and our official website is set to launch later this fall, but for now, here are 5 simple things you can do to get involved!

  1. Organize a SWEDU in your community

  2. Become an official SWEDU Facilitator

  3. Subscribe to our mailing list to find out about future events and be notified when our new website launches!

Attend an upcoming event

    • November 22: San Francisco
    • November 22: Seattle
    • December 13: Abidjan, Ivory Coast
    • January 24: Athens, Greece
    • January 24: Los Angeles, CA
    • January 31: New York City, NY (“Mega” theme)
    • January 31: Sao Paulo, Brazil 
    • February 21: Oakland, CA
    • February 28: Johannesburg, South Africa
    • March 29: St. Bonaventure, NY
    • March 29: Toronto, Canada
    • April 11: Recife, Brazil
    • April 18: Phoenix, AZ
    • April: Ann Harbor, MI
    • May 16: Bay Area (“NEXT Gen” theme)
    • June 27th: Sydney, Australia
    • Sept 19th: Oakland, CA

Ask questions/share ideas – Contact mandela@up.co


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 


*The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world, the Gates Foundation aims to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology in America. Particularly, with respect to K12 education, Gates is focused on supporting innovation that can improve U.S. K-12 public schools and ensure that students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college.

DemoL12_DSC_0117_EMeet Mandela 

For the past six years, Mandela has dedicated her life to improving the educational outcomes of students, increasing the professional opportunities for teachers, and inspiring the public to play an active role in the improvement of our education system. Beginning her career as a Teach for America corps member in South Central Los Angeles, Mandela was quickly promoted as Lead Teacher in her second teaching position. After obtaining a Masters Degree in Education Administration and Policy, Mandela was admitted into one of the nation’s top Ph.D. programs in education, UCLA’s Urban Schooling program.

In June 2011, Mandela co-founded what was to become Tioki, the online professional network for the education community. Funded by Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12, Tioki connected educators from over 28 different countries, and positively impacted hundreds of schools across the United States by helping them secure the best educators for their students.

As a former first place winner, guest speaker, mentor, and facilitator of four different Startup Weekend Education events, Mandela is thrilled to be joining the UP Global team. She is looking forward to utilizing her skill-set and passion for education and entrepreneurship to create events, tools, and services that empower people from all walks of life to come together, collaborate, and launch startups that have the ability to drastically improve the educational experience for all types of learners.



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Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Mandela Schumacher-Hodge
(@MandelaSH) A former public school teacher, education policy researcher, and PhD candidate, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge co-founded Tioki, the “The LinkedIn for Educators,” in 2011. Funded by Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12