Call me crazy (and many do), but I am one of those educators who quite happily gives up my weekends and ‘holidays’ for conferences or other professional development opportunities. Over the last few months however, I have been dissatisfied, for numerous reasons, with the type of events I was attending. Nothing was quite hitting the mark, inspiring me or challenging me to think differently about education.
I heard about Startup Education Weekend Melbourne, initially reading about it online and thinking it was far too scary for me to attend. It sounded so full on…and there would be people there who weren’t from the education sector so that scared me even more. After much encouragement, I decided to go, after all, if I wasn’t prepared to get out of my comfort zone and try something new- I shouldn’t really be complaining about my lack of inspiration or thought provoking conversation.
The idea for the weekend was to find and identify a problem and ideally come up with a solution…but it was more than that. It was about challenging assumptions, thinking differently, asking why. The weekend was mapped around the design thinking process…thank you #INF536 I actually felt like I knew what I was doing. It’s interesting how quick people immediately start heading straight for a solution…this happened with my group and it was difficult getting people to slow down and back up, to think about the problem more deeply. I feel like in education, we always get solutions thrown at us and sometimes we never even ask what the problem was or question if the solution we are given is truly the best one. To actually sit down and think about what the issues are, find patterns and think divergently to identify multiple solutions was probably one of the most self gratifying parts of the weekend.
By the Saturday night my team was ready to get some feedback and market validation and at this time I was so thankful for my extended network and being a connected educator. The amount of survey responses we received in such a short amount of time has evidenced two things for me. One, my PLN rocks and two…it seemed as though we had a pretty awesome idea! The support on social media was quite prevalent too, I created a Twitter profile and a Facebook page for our solution and overnight had many supporters, both locally and globally. This further validated our idea.
I really enjoyed the questioning and challenging conversation with the coaches and organisers, forcing me to change my direction and think more divergently, or prompting me to add depth and reasoning to my thoughts and ideas. I also learnt a lot about the startup world, I’ve always been a startup fangirl…from afar, but to actually be involved in it was a unique experience. I learnt a fair bit about the business side of things, creating a lean canvas and pitching.
It was hard. Working with so many different people and personalities so closely in such a short amount of time was hard. And these were people who I never imagined I would find myself working with…people whose jobs I do not even understand! But alas, I came out the other end, unscathed and reinvigorated. I was that inspired I’m pretty sure I went to bed that night thinking I could single handedly conquer the worlds education problems.
One of the most inspiring parts of the weekend was meeting so many people who do not work in education but are so passionate about making education better for all…and took the time out to actually listen to what teachers are saying.
My team did come up with a pretty amazing solution (I may be a little biased) and I’m looking forward to seeing where that leads and the adventure it will take me on. Watch this space.