Lean UX Edsurge piece


Click here to read on Edsurge.com.

The 3-day LeanUX NYC event held April 11-13 at NYU was a mix of hands-on workshops and short presentations, all led by folks from different industries who have successfully applied lean and agile principles to designing better UX experiences. (Particularly impressive was the diverse mix of men and women presenting.)

Many startups religiously follow lean advice from the likes of Eric Ries (Lean Startup), Steve Blank (Customer Development), and others that focus on continuous cycles of building, measuring, and learning through testing assumptions, validating learning, and building MVPs (Minimally Viable Products).

But edtech companies are idiosyncratic.

As Heather Gilchrist, Founder of Socratic Labs shared in her joint presentation, “Accelerating EdTech Innovation with Lean Startup,” withKatie Palenscar, CEO and Founder of Unbound Concepts, they have longer cycles of development and sales, the user is often not the same as the customer, and there are often multiple stakeholders to consider. Heather also shared that it’s important to recognize that many schools and programs worry that if they adopt a relatively new tool, the start-up could either fail or pivot, leaving them to scramble.

Much of traditional education technology has been clunky, difficult to use, and often unable to address the problems of most concern to educators. With increased pressures and workloads, teachers and administrators need solutions that are immediately easy to use and that solve real problems. In this context, it makes sense for edtech solutions to begin applying lean thinking to improving the user experience (UX).

Who is the User? Who is the ‘Client’?

Fundamental to the process of developing an effective UX is building an understanding of the client’s needs–a process made even more complicated in edtech because the client is not always the same as the user. For example, solutions for students are often bought by parents or schools, not the students. A teacher may love the ease of use of a tool, but if that tool doesn’t generate the data that an administrator needs, it won’t be adopted. Edtech companies must understand the roles and needs of each stakeholder.

Test Assumptions: Research, Interviews, and Personas

One aspect of understanding client needs is to test assumptions– even if members of the team are prototypical users (former teachers, administrators, etc.).

Too often education as a whole fights the mistaken belief that just because people have experienced a classroom, they believe they understand education and can provide solutions.  I loved the comparison shared by Heather Gilchrist: Most people have visited a medical doctor’s office, yet they don’t feel they have medical expertise.

Even when edtech startups have education experts on the team, though, they still run the danger of assuming that all educator experiences are similar.  For example, I was surprised at the striking differences in needs and budgets of many districts with fewer than 1,000 students in contrast with large districts such as the one where I worked most recently that had a whopping 107,000 students. Independent and charter schools operate differently, as do urban versus rural schools.


Delving into client needs can take multiple forms: traditional research,
observations, and interviews. As has been mentioned many times here at Edsurge, go where the users and clients are: schools, conferences, after-school programs, malls– really, anywhere!

Ideally, the best learning occurs through observation, though interviews can be effective as long as they’re not leading. Face-to-face is best, but virtual can work as long as the technical connection is tested thoroughly in advance. Running Lean offers some nice templates for both problem and solution interviews.

Personas, or representations of different users, can be one method of developing and sharing insight into customer profiles. Another way to think about this is developing user stories.  Adrian Howard cautioned that to be effective though, personas should be continually updated as more information is learned or as a product pivots.

Sketch Often

Sketching was a hot topic at the conference. Ray Dela Pena’s excellentsketching across the design process workshop can be found here.

The essence of the role of sketching is to get ideas down on paper (or digital paper) at all stages of development without worrying about perfection. These sketches create a vehicle for visual communication that is more effective and efficient and a means for gathering feedback. Speaking of visual communication, check out this periodic table of ways to visualize information—great formats to share data!

Build an MVP

There really is no better (or cheaper!) way to test a solution before building the real product than building an MVP.  Ariadna Font Llitjos’ workshop,Designing an MVP That Works For Your Users, walks through the whole process of understanding client needs, developing empathy maps, user stories, and finally, the MVP — it’s a worthwhile exercise to go through the slides if you’ve no experience with the process.

One frequently asked question during the workshop: How many times should you conduct an experiment with an MVP? The answer was always, “it depends on the situation.” If something isn’t working, then you shouldn’t continue to interview or observe people using the product or process. How many people need to trip over a tear in the carpet before you realize that the rug needs to be repaired?  You don’t need 30 – 40 people to validate that something’s not working. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the more successful the experiment appears to be, the more times one should run it to keep fine tuning.

All presenters stressed the importance of continually validating each piece of learning, and looping through the process of build-measure-learn.

Don’t stop at the MVP: Good Enough is Not Good Enough

Several LeanUX presenters, such as Melissa Perri and Grace Ngcommented that people frequently use the concept of an MVP incorrectly. Creating an MVP should be an experiment, a proof of concept. Too often people forget to go back and build a full product. In education technology, this can be particularly painful. Early adopters will tolerate “glitch” software but the busy teacher, rushed administrator, or easily distracted student will not.  An edtech startup can gain initial traction and attain proof of concept, but if they can’t quickly move to a product that provides a smooth user experience, they’ll lose momentum.

Good enough is not good enough for adoption of edtech solutions. The stakes are too high for educators.

This is a lot to track!

A whole series of workshops was devoted to managing these processes.Kanban, a method for developing software products and processes with a focus on agile development, was the most popular and participants left with a wealth of online resources to support a Kanban model. Another method, Lean Canvas, also helps organize these continual learning and development cycles, and here’s a free digital validation board from LeanStartupMachine, a sponsor for this event.

Startup Weekend Education Charlottesville

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Who knew that picturesque Charlottesville, VA, could be a hotbed for innovation in education? Well, apparently the organizers, sponsors and participants of the Startup Weekend Education Charlottesville this past weekend did. There have been several Startup Weekend events in Charlottesville before, but this was the first focused on education.

This event brought together almost 40 participants, representing an equal balance of educators (researchers and practicing teachers), developers, designers, and University of Virginia business students, most of whom met for the first time at the event. The impressive team of mentors and organizers represented University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, education technologists, the business community, local government, angel investors and the local school district–all focused on building education solutions over the course of 54 hours.

Charlottesville’s Edupreneurs

Charlottesville may be a small town, but it’s got a big heart for education innovation. Here are some of the fine Virginians leading the charge to create a budding community of edupreneurs:

Letitia Green, MBA, M.Ed,  shared why she organized this event: “As an angel investor, I see VC funds investing in edtech, especially as the Common Core State Standards make solutions more viable across states. With a major education policy think tank like University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Charlottesville is ideal for developing innovative education companies. The structure of a Startup Weekend EDU provided the perfect opportunity to bring the community together around education solutions.”

The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, led by Dean Robert Pianta, Ph.D, provides active support for education innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, several education companies including CaseNex, another sponsor of this event, were founded within the university, a model more universities should explore.  The Curry School of Education Foundation is currently raising funds for an Innovation Incubator to continue to support the development of education solutions, so look for future announcements.

Startup Weekend EDU Charlottesville also appreciated significant support by the local school system,Albemarle Public Schools, led by innovator Superintendent Dr. Pam Moran, who spent several hours with the teams and attended the final presentations. (Check out her blog.) Chad Ratliff, Assistant Director of Instructional Programs, also generously spent his weekend mentoring the teams. Budding education startups rarely have such unfettered access to a superintendent and district leaders.

The winning team, SpedPort, helps teachers document the progress of special education students more effectively and efficiently through an online portfolio. (Check out SPEDPort founder, Patricia Walker, on the local news!) The other four final teams focused on improving the STEM pipeline for girls (Tech Girls), using eye tracking technology to diagnose early reading problems (EyeKey), developing a platform to search for science experiments (All Experiments) and ways to support informal community learning (UpEd).

How can folks in Charlottesville continue to learn how to build an education company after this weekend? Sign up for the Startup Digest Charlottesville to find out about upcoming events including the next Charlottesville cohort of the newly launched Startup Weekend NEXT program.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing more education companies coming out of Charlottesville! Not near Charlottesville? Look for a Startup Weekend Education event near you.
Katrina Stevens served as the Startup Weekened EDU facilitator.

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rainbow in clouds

As always, Maya Angelou inspired and moved the crowd to tears at ASCD 2013. Opening her presentation by singing a few bars of “When it Looked Like the Sun Wasn’t Going to Shine Anymore, God Put a Rainbow in the Clouds,” she set the stage for a recurring metaphor of educators as “rainbows in the clouds.” As educators we have the power to influence, uplift, and encourage others, particularly our students.

Angelou reminds us that in all positions in life, we have the power to impact others. Research shows us that the power of one adult caring about a child is key to a child’s success. In Angelou’s early life it was her Uncle Willy—to use Angelou’s own terms– “a man who was black, poor, and a cripple during the lynching times.” Later, it was her mother who continually told her that she was going to be a teacher, despite her muteness at the time. Angelou credits figures like these in her life, these “rainbows in the clouds,” for her many accomplishments. What’s important to remember is that one doesn’t have to be in a high position to serve this role for others.

When we experience those days when we’re overwhelmed, exhausted and feeling unsupported, Angelou’s words can remind us that we don’t always know the impact we have on others.  I still have students I taught over a decade ago approach me and tell me that I inspired them to become teachers or to advocate for social justice, some of whom I thought I hadn’t reached at all at the time.

At one point during her presentation Maya Angelou shared that she stopped speaking for six years when her rapist was beaten to death because she thought her voice had the power to kill. On a fundamental level, she recognized at this early age that her voice had significant power; how sad that her initial response to this recognition was to cease speaking.

How many of our students are also afraid of the power of their voice? Afraid what will happen when they share with the world what they really believe and think? Is the reverse also true—do we shut off the voices of some of our students until they completely shut down, stop believing in their own power, or explode in violence?

We have the power (with its accompanying responsibility) to change lives. Students live up to our expectations for them. We must genuinely believe that all, and I truly mean all, our students can achieve at a high level. We must live it and our students must feel it. If we achieve this, then we’ll be “rainbows in the clouds” for our students and colleagues.

Teachers_ScapegoatsChoosing sessions this year at ASCD 2013 has been a challenge because there are so many wonderful sessions against each other. So glad that Kevin Kumashiro’s session, “Bad Teacher!”: Why Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture,  was one of the ones I chose to attend because his  thought-provoking presentation raised issues that should be fundamental to local and national conversations about education in America.  Kumashiro’s comments focused around the big question:

When our national and local debates around education blame teachers (or other simplistic claims), what aren’t we seeing?

Kumashiro argues that the current conversations in education reform debate prevent us from really pulling apart issues of poverty, racism and elitism.  His examples rang true for me because I’ve been arguing similar points (just not so eloquently!).  Instead of trying to “fix” teachers, we should be asking questions such as the following:

The reform movement often focuses on how to be more efficient with our funding, not on how to raise funds to do what we need to do. There isn’t public recognition that it takes more money, for example, to bring our schools up to safety codes—let alone to provide the tools, training, resources and environments necessary to prepare students to participate fully in the 21st century. As long as debates focus on more efficient ways to spend money, we aren’t asking questions about why we don’t believe it’s important enough to raise funds for our students to be in safe schools.

Kumashiro suggests that the achievement gap is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the disparities in education. Using the metaphor of the national debt, Kumashiro argues that when we frame the conversation around reducing the deficit and balancing the budget, we are less focused on the greater issue of the exorbitant national debt that we’ve accrued over the last century. Similarly, when we are too laser-focused on the achievement gap, we miss the larger education gap that has evolved over the same period of time.

Kumashiro’s concern about the current process of de-professionalizing the teaching profession resonated with the audience.  Related, apparently over 90% of the teachers in New Orleans charter schools are Teach for America (TFA) teachers. Kumashiro pointed out that he has no issues with TFA teachers in general—they are often talented, dedicated and effective (my experience as well). His broader issue is that we should be asking questions about designing a system where 90% of the teachers at a school may not stay in teaching beyond their 3 years.  Thinking through the lens of a principal, I can imagine the challenges of managing a revolving faculty, even if the group is highly talented. Similarly, asking the question differently, Kumashiro asks, “Who would say that the way to improve teacher quality is to have less preparation for the teachers?,” which he sees as a current trend.

Kumashiro also cautions that we should be skeptical of any reformers who send their own children to private schools, not the schools being reformed. How many of our law and policy makers send their own children to public schools?

Kumashiro ended his session with a call to arms—he believes we need a social movement that addresses the fundamental purpose of education, to really ask who do we want to succeed in our education system?  Education often becomes the primary battleground for working through who we want our country to be.

His final words stressed that though we may not be able to “fight the political machine,” most change occurs in smaller conversations with people we know.

Let’s start asking different questions about education reform.

When we polarize the worlds of education and business, we miss what we can learn from each other. For example, there are many ways to apply an entrepreneurial approach to become a more effective educator:

1.  Don’t wait for “someone else” to solve a problem. We know the issues that need solving because we live and breathe them, which means educators are in the best position to articulate and perhaps even develop solutions.  We don’t have to wait for outside experts to provide the answers to what works.  I continue to be surrounded by other educators who are true experts and have workable ideas. I value their expertise and experience as much if not more than researchers, and certainly more than most policy makers.

2.  Develop an online professional learning community (PLC). Entrepreneurs recognize the importance of networking and finding out what others are learning and doing. 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 rely heavily on my PLC to help me discover new resources and to keep current on ideas and policy changes, which makes me a better educator.

3.  Develop relationships with mentors with different kinds of expertise.  Entrepreneurs find mentors at different stages of their careers and in different fields. Too often educators only find mentors in their specific discipline. Though this makes sense on many levels, talking with others who have different perspectives can lead to more creative thinking. My high school teachers who struggled with classroom management learned so much from observing elementary school teachers because of their phenomenal ability to orchestrate their classrooms. An English teacher can learn from a biology teacher, for example, and there’s a whole world of professionals outside of the world of education!

4. Test your “product” effectively and efficiently. I’ve begun thinking differently during discussions of pilots in schools, advocating for a more agile approach. It’s important to understand how the individual components of piloted programs are working.  What aspect(s) of the program are what make the difference? For examples, is the new resource affecting the student outcomes or is it the collaboration built into the pilot? Discovering which components are more important allows us to focus our time and resources most effectively.  When we attempt to implement too many new programs (“features” in the business world) at once, we lose clarity in knowing what’s led to a success or failure.

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.  One of the first questions asked of an entrepreneur with a good idea is how does this scale.  As a nation, we’re struggling to figure out how to scale effective education so that all students receive the education they deserve. What works in one classroom/school however 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.

6.  Perhaps most importantly, maintain a curiosity about the world and remain life long learners. Entrepreneurs tend to be intrigued by a wide range of subjects, continually reading, investigating and asking: what if? As teachers we should be passionately engaged with the world around us because it makes us better educators, especially when our cross-disciplinary knowledge aids our students in making connections. We also can’t expect our students to be intellectually curious if we don’t model this curiosity for them.

candles votive

I’m saddened that my first blog in my new platform covers such a difficult topic.

This recent tragedy at Sandy Hook has haunted my nights, keeping me from sleeping well. I keep imagining what the first responders witnessed, and it seems unbearable. I question how I would react in a similar circumstance, hoping I’d be as brave and protective as these heroic teachers were.

I wanted to do something; we all want to do something. Because we cannot fight what happened directly—we can’t rescue those souls already lost to us, sometimes we fight with others because we need something tangible to fight. In the midst of our emotional outrage, we’re becoming polarized instead of coming together.  We’re reacting, not responding.

Too often when something unthinkable occurs, we understandably react immediately—out of fear, anger, pain.  I had flashes of 9/11, as did many others. In 2001, we reacted quickly with the Patriot Act, which still contains some measures that make me feel that the terrorists were able to chip away at some of our cherished American freedoms.

Instead of reacting, we should be responding thoughtfully and compassionately. This is not the time for us to be polarized—this is a time for us to come together. I understand the anger and feelings of helplessness that drive some of the current vitriolic debates on social media, but I’m saddened that this is our reaction.

I worry that we allow perpetrators of violence to change our way of life. When we do that, we allow them to win. Superintendent Dr David Gentile’s thoughtful piece champions a joyful life of freedom over continually increasing security to the point of essentially imprisoning our children. Where’s the line between being reasonably prepared and losing our way of life? It’s a good question for us to discuss.

Preventing future incidents like Sandy Hook will take a multi-pronged approach: removing the glamour from our violent culture, tighter gun control, better mental health awareness and treatment, bullying prevention, some precautions that balance safety and living a full life, and committing to focus on memorializing the victims, not the perpetrators so that harming innocents will have less appeal for future disturbed individuals, who are in so much pain and want to take others out with them in order to give some meaning to their lives and their deaths. Even if we address all of these potential contributing factors though, we still cannot protect our children from every possible violent incident.

I love the Mr. Rogers quote circulating about “looking for the helpers” in these tragic situations because it focuses us on what can be done, and that even in the midst of horror, there will always be those who come to help. On the first day of school, several of my colleagues at Perry Hall High School ran toward a student with a gun averting what could have been a similar larger-scale tragedy. I’m proud to have known so many helpers who emerged that day and in the ensuing days.

In the end, we may be trying to make too much sense of a senseless, destructive act. Instead of this tragedy causing so much divisiveness, we need to hold our loved ones, reach out to those in pain, and work together to heal our nation.

Every Monday, Tioki interviews a teacher that’s doing innovative  and inspiring work to affect change and make a difference. I was honored to have been interviewed last week!

Click here to watch interview


Varied Needs-appeared on SmartBlog for Education on December 5, 2012

When recently presenting at the Annual Conference for Middle Level Education, I was struck by how much things have not changed, especially in terms of professional development models. In discussions around education reform, we have begun to recognize that a one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work for all of our students, yet there’s little conversation about differentiating PD for teachers, despite differences in experience, content areas taught, and learning preferences.

The traditional model doesn’t work

A typical PD calendar usually includes a full day of PD in August (when teachers would rather be setting up their classrooms and planning) and usually another day or two in the middle of the year.

Faculty meetings can serve an important role for PD, but too often the same material is presented to the whole faculty in the same way, despite the expectation that teachers are then expected to implement these strategies to meet the needs of their specific students in their content areas.

When individual teachers attend a workshop or conference, there’s little expectation for how that newly learned information will be implemented or shared with colleagues upon their return.

Sometimes a school or district will bring in an expert. This approach is expensive, and in my experience, many experts aren’t willing or able to tailor the professional learning to meet specific school needs, which means teachers and administrators must still take this information and translate it for their content areas and for their specific students.

Though I love versions of the EdCamp model for professional growth, it assumes that teachers know what they need to know and how they need to change their practice to meet the needs of their students.

Instructional coaches have been shown to have an impact on teacher practice, but most schools can’t afford the number of coaches necessary to support all of their teachers in changing practice, especially in these tight fiscal times.

What does work: One story

There have been numerous research studies citing that professional development should be sustained, ongoing, focused on student learning and meaningfully integrated into the daily life of the school. The real question is how?

In order to successfully implement new practices and improve student learning, a learning community needs to 1) focus its efforts, 2) work collaboratively, 3) be willing to reflect and examine what’s working and 4) be willing to make adjustments when they aren’t seeing the desired outcomes for students. A school or district can’t wait until end-of-the-year assessments to evaluate whether or not the efforts are helping students grow. They have to be willing to update the plan and change direction if need be.

What can this look like in practice?

1. Focus efforts. Instructional leaders need to clearly articulate not just the desired outcome but also how to get there. Teachers need professional learning that is immediately relevant, job-embedded and chunked so that change is manageable.

At our AMLE session, Nicole Tucker-Smith shared the story of how she used teacher-created, short 2-minute videos to focus professional learning on improving reading at her large middle school. Different content and grade-level teachers received slightly different versions that used examples from their curriculum.

2. Work collaboratively. Once teachers have a shared understanding around a particular strategy, they need time to collaborate on how they would implement these strategies with their particular students. Initially teachers watched the short videos together, but they quickly asked to watch them on their own, providing them more time to share ideas with each other during planning times. This also allowed teachers to learn at their own speed—they could watch the videos multiple times, pausing and rewinding when desired.

In our AMLE session, a principal asked how we were able to monitor whether or not teachers watched the short teacher-created videos before participating in collaborative planning sessions. While we had the technical ability to track this information, accountability shouldn’t be about whether or not a teacher or administrator participates in a professional learning experience — accountability should focus on a change in practice.

To successfully change practice, everyone who provides feedback to a teacher needs to recognize what the implementation of a particular strategy should look like. The short video format allowed all administrators and teacher leaders to have a shared reference. In addition, for each strategy included several “lookfors,” specific teacher and student behaviors that would indicate successful implementation of a strategy. It’s important to note that these lookfors were not designed to be evaluative — they were to be used to provide specific feedback to support teachers refining their practice.

3. Reflect and examine what’s working. After teachers implemented strategies, they need time to share what works and what didn’t with each other. Small adjustments can make a difference between reaching all students and only reaching some.

4. Make adjustments when not seeing desired outcomes for students.Sometimes a desired change in practice doesn’t lead to the desired student learning. When teachers and administrators are focused on a specific, chunked strategy, it allows them to drill down to see what might be impeding student learning. At Nicole’s school, it became clear that while students were mastering the reading strategies, they needed more vocabulary strategies to be successful.

As we collectively continue to think through changes in educational practice, let’s make sure that we’re also rethinking how we provide professional learning for our teachers. If we’re not meeting the needs of our teachers, they’ll struggle to meet the needs of our students.

All photos provided by Michael Rosner

I spent this past weekend coaching at Education Startup Weekend Baltimore and was struck by how much this event said about what’s happening here in my hometown.  From the focus on developing a tech pipeline to the maker community to the generosity of the organizers, coaches and judges—it’s clear Baltimore is blowing up.

Bmore Heard

First, I was awed and inspired that two of the eight final teams were led by Baltimore City Public School (BCPSS) students.  Both teams were articulate, organized and created strong products by the end of the 54-hour weekend. Bmore Heard (3rd Prize), pitched and led by Keimmie Booth, created a platform for student voices to be heard more broadly. I particularly appreciated that they built into the system the need for students to support their arguments to avoid the site devolving into a place to complain. By Sunday night, the team already had 55 students signed up and creating video speeches.

Another student-run group, UnBlockEdTech, created a tool for unblocking websites caught in current school network systems. On Saturday this team spoke with Dr. Alsonso, Superintendent for Baltimore City Public Schools, to find out exactly what would make him buy their service—talk about customer validation! Another one of my favorite moments was when a judge asked UnblockEdTech a technical question about where their service would interact with the current infrastructure, and without missing a beat, BCPSS student Jean Carlos Cedre clearly articulated the answer.

unblock EdTech

Baltimore’s burgeoning maker community was well represented. Though SparkEngine didn’t place, the team leader was able to convince 11 people to join his team! Originally the team focused on creating a “match.com” for makers and educators but as they continued to speak to folks in the community (customer validation!), they realized that the larger issue was a need to begin developing a pipeline for maker educators.

Dr. Octopus interviewed 22 educators over the weekend as they created a focused search for relevant content that can be shared with students (more customer validation!). Similarly BOLD spoke with a number of organizations and schools as they designed a streamlined process to support students through the college process, with a focus on students with learning differences. Nominote, which helps college instructors learn students’ names, has use cases beyond education.

The judges’ decisions and support also reflect the local commitment to EdTech in general and to nurturing young talent in particular.  It’s always wonderful to see judges give up their Sunday evenings to watch pitches, provide feedback and determine winners. What made this event different is how these judges went beyond expectations and offered their access, time and funds to help several teams move forward. Chris Tonjes, for example, the Chief Information Officer for Baltimore City, offered to build Bmore Heard, recognizing the potential power of their platform and demonstrating a commitment to Baltimore City’s young people.

Another judge offered to reach out to his colleagues to secure pilots for CourseFly (2nd Place), a product designed to simplify the registration process, in several universities.

The winning team, Challenge Box—which I love!—was also provided helpful feedback on their business model by the judges. Challenge Box provides a choose-your-own-adventure story with a hands-on component. Young people literally receive a box of materials that they use to create elements to move the story forward. I was also impressed with how the Challenge Box team went out into the community to gather feedback at different stages. They even had a local upscale toy company owner tell them she’d buy it and at what price she thought parents would pay. Sign up for their mailing list to find out when they launch.

Challenge Box winning team

One of the main sponsors and organizers, the Digital Harbor Foundation, also reflects a significant movement in Baltimore for developing the technology pipeline, creating an EdTech community and supporting Baltimore’s young people.  Students in DHF programs don’t simply learn about technology, they do technology, as clearly seen by the student presence at the event.

Perhaps Harold Eckmuller said it best when he tweeted, “So, after just one weekend, Baltimore already managed to be a more exciting city than NYC. Damn fine job.”