Adding EDU to the End of “Startup Weekend”

What is Startup Weekend? According to the organization itself, it’s defined as “a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. Come share ideas, form teams, and launch startups.” So what happens when you add “EDU” to the end of Startup Weekend… it means giving educators, the people dealing with the issues on a daily basis, the chance to pitch and develop innovative technology solutions to road blocks found inside schools. These weekends bring together the right network of people so that educators can connect with developers and resources to advance their idea.
During the weekend of September 20th, interested educators in Chicago came together at National Louis University  on Friday night, pitching their ideas in sixty seconds or less.  Once the projects were picked, educator/developer teams jumped into a 54-hour “hackathon” to build a tool and demo the final product on Sunday. But the experience didn’t end there because the first place ideas were eligible for one or more of the following”prizes.”

  • the opportunity to schedule a meeting or call with a member of Pearson Catalyst. Pearson Catalyst announced its inaugural class of edtech startups this past June.
  • 4.0 Schools  offered a free consultation with a member of their Launch team, while also waiving the Essentials workshop fee for any members of the winning team who apply and are accepted to Essentials.
  • And MB Real Estate, a Chicago and New York based full-service commercial real estate firm, will be providing up to 20 hours of consultation to help secure short term space.

The top 5 ideas that came out of the weekend were:

  • Adjunct, Inc. comes from the dean of National Louis University College of Business and Management to help lessen the struggle of finding, recruiting and contracting with adjunct faculty.
  •  from Dan Rezac (teacher and founder of, PDNearMe aims to help K-12 teachers find the right professional development opportunities, formal and informal. PDNearMe is a search engine to find professional development courses and content online and “near me,” but will also expand to help digitize, store and track PD credits.
  • ClassTrack pitched by noted post-secondary education researcher and consultant Dr. Sally Beatty, this mobiel app will track student attendance for externships and internships, a process typically rendered by hand today.  Of particular note, this idea generated requests for meeting or other initial interest from DeVry, Career Education and the University of Phoenix over the weekend, just from Sally’s surveys seeking to validate the concept!
  • Fantasy Learning (domain coming) harnesses an idea to teach international political science through “fantasy  football” like gamification. Josh Salcman explains “Fantasy Learning grew out of social studies teacher Eric Nelson’s passion for finding innovative ways to get his students engaged in current events. When he started allowing his students to draft and trade countries, giving them points when countries in their roster appeared in current news stories, he found they were learning geopolitics–and discussing it amongst themselves!”
  • Tap2Connect focuses on parent-teacher-children communications and are striving to build an integrated platform simplifying parent-teacher communications that will work with across multiple platforms.

These five products give just a glimpse into the type of  next generation brainstorming and work starting to pop up at Startup EDU weekends. Startup weekends can push teacher professional development to the next level. PD hours and experiences need to shift from a day of sit and get ineffectively explaining some specified education theory to a room full of teachers. The Edcamp model has helped create that shift because it gives teachers control over their own professional learning. Startup Weekends EDU could be the what follows for the real forward thinking teachers, giving them the chance to actually create the tools they believe can help education grow and improve.

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson is a Media Specialist at The Madeleine School.

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