THE BLOG

The Future of School, One Piece at a Time: Startup Weekend EDU and 4.0 Schools

10/01/2013 11:53 am ET | Updated Nov 30, 2013

4.0 Schools is an early-stage education incubator I launched three years ago in New Orleans to help teachers, geeks and other unusual suspects launch education ventures. Members of the 4.0 community have built 23 new schools and businesses so far. Some are thriving; some have failed. Each new venture - successful or not - makes us smarter about what the future of school will be. Since we don't have a crystal ball or time machine, we're trying to learn as we go, building piece by piece. 4.0 is a place where you can do something with the hunches you have about how school could be better. Way better. If that hunch evolves into a solution to a juicy problem, you can bring it to life in our Launch program.

We've learned some incredible lessons from Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU), and we are working together now as much as they'll let us. SWEDU and 4.0 are:

Getting entrepreneurs and educators out of their own heads.
Jessica Bialecki was a New Orleans teacher who saw a big problem. Setting up classrooms was a pain for every new teacher. But she also knew veteran teachers who built magical spaces that inspired everyone who walked in. She went to Startup Weekend EDU with this and other problems rattling around in her head. 54 hours later, Classroom Blueprint won first place and went on to win more contests and investment. Even though most of the 4.0 community members there that weekend would have laughed if you referred to them as "entrepreneurs," 4.0-led teams swept the weekend. What started as an itch, a problem knocking around in Jessica's head became a real business because she had to share it and work on it with other people interested in solving it too.

Teaching people to iterate.

Evan Samek and Harald launched Challenge Box at Startup Weekend before bringing it to the Launch Program this spring. Samantha Diamond and Monika Smyzck tested an early concept around connecting schools and museums at Startup Weekend, where they refocused from schools to museums. They brought that refined idea to us and completed 4.0 Launch this summer. Culture Connect launches this month.

Changing mindsets about how to improve education.
Early next year 4.0, Socratic Labs, iZone, and NFTE will host the first MEGA Startup Weekend EDU with tracks for ed-tech products, new school models, and, for the first time ever - a youth track, dedicated to helping kids launch new ventures. The most promising teams will get a chance to bring those ideas to market in the 4.0 Launch Program. For too long we've tried to shoot silver bullets at problems in education. The iterative, fast-paced nature of what 4.0 and Startup Weekend are doing reframes the debate about how to make school better. Instead of huge, risky bets rooted more in politics and theory, our approach is to get as many curious people as we can iterating their way forward - together. Step by step. Around and around the loop - build it, share it, get feedback, tweak it or throw it out and go again. This is a radical shift in mindset, one that reflects the way kids will need to engage with the world, and one that educators everywhere need to embrace, too.

4.0 and Startup Weekend are creating a community of people building the future of school, one piece at a time. If you're down, we'd love to have you jump in.

4.0 Schools is an early-stage education incubator that brings educators, entrepreneurs and technologists together to build solutions that redefine how we teach and learn. To date, 4.0 has launched 23 ventures and trained hundreds in its approach to innovation in education.