Educators who aspire to be entrepreneurs will be interested in student Teddy Worcester's recent experiences on the StartupBus. Teddy, an economics major at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, comes from a family of public school educators and has always been interested in alternative teaching methods. He recently was part of a team that conceived of a teacher assessment tool called Teacher Tally. He described his startup experiences on his blog and has given us permission to share his story here.
First, some background information on StartupBus is in order:
Imagine a diverse group of people aboard a bus for three days, working in teams to conceive, develop and launch technology-based startups. This was the scenario when Boston's StartupBus departed from the MIT campus in March of this year and headed for the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.
Worcester was one of 32 "buspreneurs" who divided themselves into teams and brainstormed startup ideas. His team of six worked on a project called Teacher Tally, an online system that would help K-12 teachers assess students more effectively. Teacher Tally would allow educators to share their best assessment questions and vote on other teacher's questions, a capability that currently is not provided by any other system. Teachers could then search for quality assessment questions for exams and homework. Working in cramped quarters on the StartupBus and getting by with very little sleep, the team created the beginnings of the Teacher Tally platform and received feedback from 60 teachers about the platform's features.
Boston's StartupBus was one of 11 buses that converged on SXSW from locations across America. Eight teams of buspreneurs were chosen to pitch their project to a group of tech industry leaders. The winning team was from Silicon Valley and their prototype product was Cerealize, a subscription service that would allow members to create custom cereals that are delivered to their door. Teacher Tally was not one of the eight finalists, but Worcester says he would recommend the StartupBus experience to anyone who is interested in quickly developing a startup idea with a group of like-minded people.
Worcester is finishing up his degree and other members of the Teacher Tally team are committed to school and full-time jobs, so the future of Teacher Tally is currently uncertain. Whether it becomes a product or never makes it past the prototype stage, Worcester is convinced that the demand for collaborative platforms for educators will continue to grow.
"As technology evolves, we are at a unique crossroads where technology is slowly but surely making its way into our schools," writes Worcester. He has no doubt that the merging of education and technology will continue to change the education system as we know it, citing existing tech tools that teachers can use to increase effectiveness and enhance the learning experience, from behavior reporting tools like ClassDojo to social learning networks like Edmodo.
Wide scale adoption of these and other new platforms have been slowed by budget constraints and resistance to a paradigm shift on the part of many educators, according to Worcester. "But it's only a matter of time before these tools start disrupting the conventional idea of the classroom on a larger scale." Whether he continues to develop Teacher Tally or changes his focus to other projects after completing his bachelor's degree, he plans to stay connected to education and the edtech community. His goal is to work for (or start) an education and technology company at some point in his career. You can follow him on CampusFiles, an education-related Twitter account.
For more information about the challenges faced by teaching professionals who are integrating education and technology, see this earlier post: “Common Misunderstandings of Educators who Fear Technology.”