Comparative & Competitive Research

Early on in my research I found it strange that I had difficulty finding the right resources for my investigation. I had been studying design and education for over a year, searching for articles and publications on the topic with little success. When I moved my search off the internet and started talking to people who were involved in the teaching community, little tidbits of data started floating to the surface of my searches.

What was I missing before? Why hadn’t I seen other examples of design in education when I searched for that exact term a year earlier?

K12 Lab – Promoting Design Thinking in Schools

My thesis advisor connected me to Adam Royalty of Stanford’s K12 Lab. In our phone interview he explained the Lab’s methods for introducing design thinking to teachers. Their theory is that if teachers can experience the impact of design thinking then they will instinctively understand it and be able to use design in the classroom.13

The K12 Lab has wonderful success training teachers for using new methods, but there is little follow up beyond the initial training and documentation of resources.

In my other observations and interviews I spoke with teachers who had used the K12 Lab’s resources. Their comments were reciprocal to Adam’s, saying that they didn’t know where to go next after the initial interaction.

Read Notes

Online Networks – Virtual Meeting Places for Teachers

The documentation from teachers who are using alternative methods is inconsistent. Some of them have blogs and Twitter accounts, but they are difficult to find unless you know exactly what to search for. I learned the most about my topic by talking to teachers who already had access to other progressive educators. For some reason they knew things I couldn’t find using Google. Were they using a different version of the internet?

I started to think about the potential for connection across the people and resources involved with new teaching methods. If I was having trouble finding resources online, I imagined teachers might be having similar problems.
In my deeper search I found a lot of existing online networks for educational resources. They all seemed to promise some significant feature, but few had a clear design and purpose.

I found a few good organizations worth mentioning here.

Lesson Plan Resources and Data Management

A Better Lesson
“BetterLesson was founded by a group of teachers from Atlanta and Boston public schools to connect educators and help them create, organize, and share their curricula. We are focused on aggregating and scaling the most innovative content and practices from high-performing teachers across the country. Core principles: universal access, real recognition, curriculum matters, collaboration”

Schoolology
“Schoology provides an enterprise level learning management system and configurable social network. Instructors and students can easily create, share, and manage academic material through a social networking interface.”

Knewton
“We don’t just teach test prep classes. We’re developing some serious technology. Our adaptive learning platform powers our courses, and it also makes books, lessons, and other educational content more effective.”

Agilix Labs Inc.
“Brain Honey focuses on student-centered objective learning in a digital environment and allows for communication between teachers and student groups.”

Niche Social Networks

In my early thoughts about creating a social network for educators I researched a few niche social networks.

Dribbble
Allows designers to upload a sample of their latest work to get critique and feedback from a tight-knit creative community.

Rypple
Facilitates mentor relationships by providing resources for capturing feedback and knowledge.

Diaspora
The Facebook alternative, a closed social network that focuses on privacy.

Social Networks For Sharing Experiences

I found a lot of self-organized networks for teachers and parents to learn and share with each other. These were most interesting to me (and also the worst designed).

We Teach
“our goal is to share the tools and resources we need so that we can all learn, share, and grow as parents–and teachers–for our children”

Teacher Sharing
“We will use this social networking site as part of our professional development class to see if a private social network is suitable for use in class.”

Powerful Learning Practice
“Here you’ll find thoughts on change, learning, 21st Century teaching, and all the latest updates on Powerful Learning Practice and what we’re doing. Dive in.”

The Educator’s PLN
“The personal learning network for educators”