Washington DC EDU Startup Weekend

Source: Mindshift, Oct 2011

… the move to create a series of Startup Weekends focused solely on education comes with its own set of challenges. Chief among these: how do you make sure to include educators? After all, if the goal is to help launch new education startups or to foster education innovation, how can those who are integral to the process — those with the most extensive “domain expertise,” those who know both the problems and what the potential solutions might look like — feel welcome?

Watching Startup Weekend EDU develop over the course of the last few events, it’s clear that the organizers are working hard to make sure that educators are not just present (reaching out to various teacher list-serves, for example, to encourage participation) but that their voice there is really recognized. After the pitches on Friday nights, for example, the educators present received special “teacher approved” stickers during the voting process, and they were asked to say why they thought some ideas were particularly important, needed, or doable.

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..

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.

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