What it means to be an edupreneur depends on who you talk to, or whose writing you’re reading. In the most simplistic terms, edupreneurship is about creating or building learning capacity, and it is about driving change and reform. Edupreneurship can mean building unique learning programs, developing e-learning software and apps, or even getting involved in the gamification of learning a particular content area. The market for these types of ed tech is growing significantly, and shows no signs of stopping. While some edupreneurs are expressly concerned with the business of education, and may exhibit “recklessly independent, erratic, and unpredictable” behavior that is most often associated with entrepreneurship as Jordan Shapiro observes, I don’t believe that this describes all edupreneurs.
I believe that the majority of edupreneurs are hard-working, smart, and focused on producing measurable results. Most are educators, inside or outside of the classroom, who have come to recognize that their years of experience matter, that they are worth something, and that when their experience is coupled with 21st century educational technology (ed tech), they can do amazing things to improve student learning. In fact, a large part of being an edupreneur simply means to help “people to be optimistic about the fact that they can [and will] face change” during their lives.
In the classroom, edupreneurs utilize the technological resources at their disposal to support instruction. For example, I recently observed a high school Spanish teacher who had students use smartphones to make video and audio recordings of themselves speaking Spanish with peers to practice the lesson material they had recently covered in class. The activity was much different from anything I remember doing as a high school Spanish student, and while this may seem simplistic, the payoff was huge! Instead of turning their desks to face each other and simply practice speaking Spanish through rote memorization, or with the aid of a worksheet, these students were engaged in communicating with one another to their utmost ability. Additionally, they all had tangible, visible products that they could use to evaluate their own performance and be witnesses to their own progress. In this instance, the seasoned educator acted as an edupreneur to build learning capacity in the students and help prepare them for the future.
I believe that this type of edupreneurship will dramatically alter the nature of learning in our schools, and is the future of education. As classroom edupreneurs collaborate with their colleagues to develop strategic interventions using educational technology, they are essentially working towards reforming the way that students are taught, and changing the nature of classroom instruction.
Outside of the classroom, edupreneurs are often individuals looking to reshape or reform the educational landscape as we know it. Edupreneurs are engaged in developing video games that allow children to engage simultaneously in critical thinking and creative problem solving. If you think that Minecraft is just a game designed to build cool looking houses and fight zombies, you’re wrong! At Edutopia.com you’ll find a list of links to blogs and resources put together by edupreneurs to allow educators to use this computer game to teach children in new ways.
The gamification of learning is just one example of edupreneurship. Other edupreneurs are developing curriculum and lessons that are uploaded online to blogs, forums, or e-learning centers to aid teachers and students alike. Additionally, edupreneurs have developed platforms to assist teachers in managing and organizing student assignments, as well as to assist them in monitoring student progress. Edupreneurs are also teaming up with tech startups to develop web applications that enhance teacher-student communication through video, chats, etc. Others edupreneurs are learning how to code with the help of platforms like Codecademy and CodeSchool to create their own apps and platforms that can be used to support instruction and learning.
Despite the movement towards standardization in schools, edupreneurship is altering the landscape of education, and it’s changing the way that educators are interacting with students. I believe that these changes are good, and are part of helping all of us come to an understanding that technology is rapidly affecting our world, and that it can have a profoundly positive impact on the way that we learn and interact.
Edupreneurship is the future of education as we know it, and that’s fine with me.