EdLab Represents @ThoughtWorks

The past two Thursdays have seen EdLab representing at back to back events at the ThoughtWorks office in New York, both were cool and very different from one another. On May 29th we attended SharkTankEDU, an event that featured three established edtech companies pitching to a panel of NYC principals. The event was the second in a series hosted by the Department of Education’s izone, an innovation-focused unit centered around connecting schools to emerging technologies. In addition to an excellent spread, the roster featured presentations from TeachBoost, Lessoncast, and CK-12 along with some thought-provoking questions from the eight working principals on the panel.

On June 5th we attended a showcase of an edtech-focused prototyping bootcamp organized by 4.0 Schools and EDesign Lab. The prototyping bootcamp placed educators and technologists on interdisciplinary teams to build edtech products based on the real struggles of the educators on the team. The results included codr a web and mobile app to help students make the leap from Scratch to other programming languages, Storybits, a way to scaffold learning on school field trips, PopQ, a career finding site that focuses on video testimonials from working professionals (reminds me a bit of Careerosity), and BrighterIdeas.

Both of these events represented a lot of collaboration between working educators and edtech producers. It seems like even a few years ago we often heard from edtech companies that it was difficult to connect with educators in the field, but organizations like EDesign Labs and 4.0 Schools and institutions like the izone (and EdLab!) have done a lot to facilitate these necessary connections. It was particularly interesting to observe the difference in perspective between the founders and principals at SharkTankEDU. The questions from the panel were far more practical and surprising than those one hears at more edtechy events.