Amazing things happen when bright, energetic and motivated people come together to learn and create.
June 3-5 was a stormy, miserable weekend for many Californians who expect to be out playing in the sun from March through October. For others in different parts of the country, June means sweltering heat and air conditioned activities.
In the Grockit offices in San Francisco, people from all over the US and beyond gathered under the hum of industrial lighting. For 54 remarkable hours, no one seemed to notice the weather (well, except me when the rivers on 280 almost swallowed my car).
This was the first Education Focused Start Up Weekend. On Friday night, almost forty, 30 second pitches were nervously presented. Fourteen made the cut, and most of us mingled until we found the “right group.” Educationally, it was akin to picking classmates to sit at your table. Part intellectual, with dose of interest, and a huge amount of intuition led most of us to choose among groups. I found myself in the enviable position of having several intriguing offers—and was surprised at the group I ultimately chose. As I mentioned—intuition ruled the night (at least for me).
Our group began as strangers: Steven, an educator and start up founder Innovation Teaching, Thomas, coding wizard for Grockit, Lin, founder of an educational games company Spazzmania, Brian, a saleman, Joseph, a newly graduated accounting student beginning his career , and me, an educator for the past 25 years, and long time education consulting business owner.
And, the race was on…Brian’s girlfriend sent him to SF with the instructions to create a better way for teachers to show what they do. We took it, ran in one direction, “pivoted”, went another way, pivoted a few more times with the fantastic guidance of mentors like Brian Greenberg of Envision Schools, and ultimately settled on a idea which we all agreed was brilliant & inspired. Then, we worked another 40 hours or so to make sure we were on the right track: Validate! said Eric Reis, keynote speaker. We conspired, collaborated and all stretched to learn. Ruby on Rails? Never done it, but I’ll try said Thomas! Prezi, Steven said! Wire mock ups? We can figure it out chimed Lin & Joseph. Google docs questionnaires—written by three people simultaneously? I swooped into the swiftly running learning river on that one. Research? Felt like I was back in Graduate School pulling an all night study session. Web Design…(note to future future weekend attendees: grab a designer!) Understanding and conveying the realities of administrators and teachers, and limiting the technology to what was essential and useful was key. Along the way we saw terrific leadership, mild contention, and episodes of confusion, clarity and collaboration (sometimes all at the same time!). We took Ahmed’s Friday night mantra “Have Fun!” as doctrine, and filled the Grockit lab with bursts of laughter, song, chants, a doggie mascot, and adult beverages. The best part, though, for me, was being in the “flow.” I felt focused and fabulous, even though the lack of sleep and chocolate based diet would suggest otherwise. Its the same flow I experience while negotiating a complex IEP meeting, working one on one with my students, reporting a difficult diagnosis to a family, or attending a conference… just at a higher amplitude.
And, here’s the cherry on the pie… WE won.
From my altitude, it is clear that each member of our team was an essential ingredient to the final 54 hour outcome. As the senior member of the group, I had the honor to watch terrifically talented young people, decades younger than myself, strive to work collaboratively for 54 hours to create magic. And by magic, I mean the team, not the idea or the outcome.
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.