Big Ideas in Beta: ISKME As Incubator

Eagerly awaited at Big Ideas Fest 2012 was an update from our three Big Ideas in Beta 2012 teams, whose projects originated at Big Ideas Fest 2011, and who had spent the year meeting regularly to develop their kernel of an idea to the next stages. The three teams below received financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, facilitation from ISKME, and advice from experts in education, technology, and business development:

  • DIY Toolkit, a library of videos demonstrating kinesthetic experiences.
  • iGPS, a token system for students to award each other based on good citizenship.
  • Passion Dragon, an application that filters online learning materials to discover lessons that match each learner’s individual passions.

During Big Ideas Fest 2012, the teams met to share their experiences.  One of the key discussion points was in response to the question, “What were the pivotal moments that helped move your project forward?”

Across the board, the Big Ideas in Beta teams said that turning points happened when they involved people outside their core teams. For one team, this meant tapping into a network of teachers, and actually getting them and their students to use their product. One team participant commented, “We realized it was going to be about relationships and not about technology. Every time we did things with the kids … there were pivotal moments.” Indeed, all three teams agreed that face-to-face relationships were a key factor in bolstering momentum.

Pivotal moments also occurred when the teams reached out to ask for help. One team took a leap forward when they hired a group of software developers to build the product they had in mind. And another team member shared,

Some decision had to be made about how we were going to make this application. I thought we’d need about four weeks of developer time. We explored pro bono work and so on. But we were stuck. We agreed we were going to ask for help from ISKME. And suddenly the ball got rolling. We asked for that funding, over our budget, and it worked.

Other teams also found helpful resources by tapping into ISKME staff, its advisory board, and the wider network of Big Ideas Fest participants. When teams got stuck or needed advice about specific areas of expertise, they could email the network or contact an advisor to obtain help and keep the ball rolling. Involving others, relying on relationships, and a willingness to ask for help were key supports for Big Ideas in Beta 2012 teams.

After its first year of launching the Big Ideas in Beta, ISKME is examining how these innovative projects can be supported and shared with the wider education community. ISKME President Lisa Petrides says, “Perhaps, in the future, we can help Big Ideas in Beta participants use the time with ISKME as an ‘incubator’ and then move along to additional help from entrepreneurs. “ Such help might draw from a greater web of advisors and include assistance with professional development, partnerships, and pilot opportunities. We’re looking forward to learning more from the experiences of the Big Ideas in Beta 2012 teams at Big Ideas Fest next year.