When Project-Based Learning Meets Education Software Startup
I have to admit it. The Abre team is a bunch of softies for great educational experiences. You can see it in the passion projects we’ve setup and continue to run. Chiefly among them are the student appathons. These are half day to full day events where students with an interest in software development and/or coding come together in teams to generate ideas for software apps that solve a particular issue, challenge or problem in their school day. We then guide them through a process of putting the ideas on paper, wireframing or designing the software and then work with them to begin the coding process. It is magical to see kids working on projects they actually care about. And the Abre team gushes over them…just ask. The kids get pretty excited too. We’ve received hugs and high fives regularly.
We also love working with teachers (note…half the team are former teachers). We started a project called Abre Everywhere. Here, we focused on enabling teachers to convert their experiences outside the classroom into powerful, digital lessons that can be shared to any Abre-using teacher. We started the project by working with and sponsoring Bryce Carlson. Bryce decided he’d like to row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean. That may seem less crazy when you learn he also teaches high schoolers science and psychology. So Bryce created a lesson on Goal Setting and Achieving Goals.
It was a fun project to work on with Bryce. But it also taught us a lot about a couple of our apps and ways we could improve them. There is nothing like a project to help you learn.
So when it came to promoting Abre through the voices of our customers the universe connected us with Fourthwall Youth Studios. Fourthwall is a non-profit studio where students learn the art, process and business of filmmaking. So for a few months we worked with a team of 4 to 5 students as they produced, scripted, shot and edited interviews with Abre customers. Again, ask any of the Abre team and they’ll gush. It was an amazing process to watch these kids go from quietly sitting in our conference room to discuss the process to confidently presenting the final product to us. They nailed it.
We knew this was going to be a great process for these kids and for us so we asked them to also produce a “behind the scenes” look at the process they went through. Again, they nailed it.
Project-based learning works. When exploring new skills, the more the work is relevant and there is ownership for the outcome then learning is easier and more rewarding. The more we put ourselves in the position to work with students and teachers on projects the better we can build software that they want to use.