4 ways teachers can harness their expertise to help an edtech ecosystem grow

Some teachers are choosing a different pathway without leaving the profession entirely.

Merging the risk-taking of the entrepreneurial attitude and their imagination, the world ‘teacherpreneurs’ is becoming more and more hackneyed. But before creating a company, there are other steps teachers can take to allow an edtech ecosystem to thrive and develop in smarter, more efficient ways. Here we take a look at some of the ways dedicated teachers from around the world are doing this.

  1. They are pursuing additional professional development to enhance their teaching and harness the power of new technologies

In New Zealand, the Mindlab has created professional development sessions designed to expose teachers to new technologies and learning methodologies that can be applied across the curriculum, to show real-world application and also so that new technologies and curriculum alignment are not antinomic. But those opportunities are not necessarily confined outside of the school building.

We can all learn from schools that have managed to integrate a strong personal and professional development from within. For example, at Korea International School (KIS) in Seongnam, the implementation of a technique dubbed the Fishbowl has been an opportunity for teachers to integrate professional development during the day, available during their prep period without taking over the whole time, and thus fitting into their schedule. The vision is to assist teachers in the development of their ability to effectively integrate technology into the curriculum for their level and subject area of instruction, through 30-minutes classes. For this usage, KIS saw the construction of a purpose built training room with glass walls, so that students could see their teachers learning every day. This encourages a culture of learning where all members of KIS are involved, not just students: the Fishbowl is a symbol for a continuous and participatory learning culture.

In France, the CRI has created the first university education program dedicated to edtech in France to train students to develop innovative ways to teach, learn and conduct scientific research in the digital society. Alumni join an organization or a startup in education, they create their own EdTech business, they start a PhD, they get the framework and the network to empower their projects — this is especially the case for people like teachers, who attend the master as an ongoing education such.

2. They are participating actively in self-organising communities

It is necessary to have systemic mechanisms for dissemination of best practices by innovative teachers.

After a successful pilot of the flipped classroom in a low-income neighborhood of Busan (South Korea), with the support of the district, mentor teachers and principal, Jung Chanpil led a national movement for classrooms to change in that direction.

The results after one semester were indeed stunning: student achievement skyrocketed. Flipped learning helped take advantage of untapped potential as well as helping those who would otherwise have been left behind, deepening the learning of advanced students who help teach those students who are struggling.

Jung Chanpil has formed a group to amplify the movement in South Korea and help teachers strengthen and share best practices. The Korean non-profit, Future Schools, with a network of more than 10,000 teachers and regular hands-on training camps, has grown organically since its inception in 2013. Most of the K-12 awards given by the Ministry of Education this year were given to people from this network. For Jung Chanpil, it’s about giving back the ownership of learning to the students. Teachers are taught new skills, from the basics of creating their own online videos (that the students will watch on Youtube) to Project Based Learning, or facilitating the renewed in-school sessions.

In the UK, Australia and beyond, TeachMeets are informal, collaborative experiences organised by educators, for educators, in order to share ideas and experiences and support each other in their professional growth. Participants volunteer to demonstrate good practice they have delivered over the past year, or discuss a product that enhances classroom practice. It’s about finding a place and time to share and expand knowledge to support teachers in the management of new activities.

3. They are working hand in hand with the developing edtech industry by collaborating closely with startups

The people making decisions (principals, superintendents or equivalent, and politicians) are rarely the ones who have to implement those decisions (teachers). Without teacher buy-in, a product is just another drain on time and resources for schools.

Through its Tech for School summit, EdSurge has been key for startups to get real-time feedback on their products in Silicon Valley and beyond. Companies are selected by a team of local educator judges to participate and demo their product.

On the other coast, iZone’s role is to support innovation with NYC schools. Their mission is to get better tools in the hands of teachers and students by connecting startups and developers directly with educators, as well as design and test new learning models, and supply schools with know-how and tools that bring promising models to scale.

4. They are becoming Edtech entrepreneurs themselves

The phrase ‘teacherpreneur’ has been coined to match a new reality. In Chile, amongst other countries, Enseña Chile alumni have gathered under the organisation CEEDUC to pool their entrepreneurial efforts in education following the two-year teaching programme. Teach for All alumni around the world have shown similar beliefs and interests and have created a pool of ambitious young graduates equipped with the tools and motivation to tackle their own education system.

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Not all teachers have the time and energy to become teacherpreneurs, yet the strength of some should be leveraged to enhance the teaching of many as well as the school culture overall.