Fabulous FabLab

Spent the weekend at the Stanford FabLab for their workshop on Digital Fabrication in Education. It was really fabulous to connect with so many educators from the Bay Area and beyond that are thinking about how to bring some of these tools and lessons into their STEM and PBL focused classrooms.

Surrounded by sophisticated tools like 3D printers/scanners, laser cutters and simulators, it was really amazing to hear from the student panel that some of their favorite tools to use were the hot glue guns and hammer/nails. This really speaks to the essence of building something cool and that you don’t need really expensive/shiny technology to create a fun, fabrication-focused environment. Any school can create their own design lab using simple tools (few pairs of scissors, card board, post-its and sharpies…) — It is more about developing a culture that embraces the project-based learning practices.

I really hope that SUSE will continue to create workshops and resources like this that are closely tied to classroom practice with real-world applications for K-12 teachers. It really was fab!

Acknowledging one’s contribution

During my current soul-searching-career-exploration phase I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of my life and how I can best focus my energy and efforts to help the world, particularly through education. As I listened to the inspiring speakers at today’s TEDxBay Area- Global Women Entrepreneurs Event one of the themes that came up early and was woven throughout the day was this notion of acknowledgement. Kimberly Dillon, founder of House of Mikko, introduced this topic during her presentation entitled Acknowledgment- The Killer Business Strategy, and it really got me thinking about what it means to be acknowledged? Kimberly shared how acknowledging her users and really paying attention to their feedback has helped drive her success. This truly is the essence of user-centered design. She also shared how Pinterest experienced tremendous growth by acknowledging pinners and allowing people to share repins. For me, this concept tied into the broader purpose of today’s event, to acknowledge the contribution that women make to the world and encourage deeper, broader participation.

The day was full of amazing speakers and conversations (I’ll tweet the link to the video library) but a few more of my favorites were:

  • Anat Bar- Gera sharing her work with 4GAfrica on improving broadband access is Sub-Saharan Africa and we chatted about bringing online education content, like Khan Academy, to children and adults in those communities.
  • Ana Gabriela Pessoa describing how she launched EZLearn, an education platform in Brazil, and how she faced the challenge of being one of the first female entrepreneurs in Rio.
  • While it was hard to choose, my favorite speaker of the day was Kara Swisher from All Things D. I’ve been following Kara’s witty coverage of the valley’s tech scene for a while but it was incredibly entertaining to see her in person and I was really impressed by how she shared her recent experience of having a stroke in an honest and charming manner.

I had a wonderful and thought-provoking experience at my first TEDx (#TEDxBAW) event and am so energized to be part of a community of people, both women and men, who are asking themselves— What is my contribution to the world?

Just ask your teacher!

All good entrepreneurs know that the best way to improve their product is with a user-centered design approach, collecting and incorporating feedback from their target users on an on-going basis. However, when those target users are teachers, there are many challenges to getting some of their precious time and attention. A recent guest post on EdWeek from Roxanna Elden articulately captures the complicated relationship between teachers and education technology.

Enter, BetaClassroom.org. What started out as Jennie Dougherty’s simple blog to share her experiences testing new edtech tools in her classroom has blossomed into a platform for teachers around the world to beta test various products and share/review feedback from other teachers in the network. Beta Classroom connects edtech entrepreneurs with teachers who are excited to try out new products to see what will help them manage their time and classrooms more effectively. I encourage you all to check it out and more importantly invite any teachers you know who would be interested in participating in this community. Keep in mind that it is in it’s early stages, so like any new product, I’m sure your feedback is welcome!