Becoming an ed-tech entrepreneur has not only taught me to think differently about creating a business, but it’s also changed how I approach being an educator. For example, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

1.  Don’t wait for “someone else” to solve a problem. You know the issues that need solving because you live and breathe them, which means you’re in the best position to articulate and perhaps even develop the solution. You are also surrounded by other education experts who may also have workable ideas.

2.  Connect to an online community. You are not the first educator to encounter the problems you’re facing.  Others are trying, often successfully, to solve similar problems. We learn from the successes and failures of others. I also rely heavily on my online ed-tech community to help me discover new resources and keep up with ideas and policy changes.  This same strategy works with becoming a better educator.

3.  Develop relationships with mentors with different kinds of expertise.  Too often educators only find mentors in their specific discipline. While this makes sense on many levels, talking with others who have different perspectives can lead to more creative thinking.  English teachers can learn from biology teachers, for example, and there’s a whole world of professionals outside of the world of education!

4. Test your product effectively and efficiently.  During discussions of pilots in schools, I now find myself planning differently, advocating a more agile approach, so that we have a better understanding of how the individual components are working.  It doesn’t make sense to test too many “features” at once because there’s less clarity in knowing what’s led to a success or failure.

Also, instead of rolling out a program for the whole district with a single, final evaluation at the end of the pilot, advocate testing an idea in a handful of classrooms with frequent points of data collection. Make sure to know exactly what is being tested, so that the results provide the most usable feedback.

5. Think about scalability. Being an entrepreneur has taught me to think about scale differently. What works in one classroom/school may not work in all classes/schools. We’ve all heard the “hero” stories where a teacher or principal has turned around a class or school. The problem with these stories is that they’re difficult to replicate because the success story essentially relies on charisma rather than proven strategies. Before implementing a strategy that works in one classroom (or one school), make sure that it works in several others before implementing it district-wide. This extra step can save significant time, money and goodwill.

Perhaps most importantly, maintain a curiosity about the world! We can’t expect our students to be intellectually curious if we don’t model this curiosity for them.