Call to Innovation is a competition sponsored by FIAP and the jury panel this year had Fernando Campos (Gávea Angels), Felipe Matsunga (RBS Digital), Silvia Valadares (Microsoft Bizspark), Cassio Spina (Anjos do Brasil), Bob Wolheim (Results On), Marcio Santos (Inseed) and Everson Lopes (IdeiasNet).
No need to say how grateful, happy and excited I am, right? So let’s jump into the project itself.
It all started when I was in first grade… (I’ll be brief, promise…)
Every story has a beginning
I still have the letter my first grade teacher Monica gave to me by the end of the year.
I had a great experience in my first years in school. My teachers were young and passionate about teaching. They really believed in inspiring kids to life and they were really focused in fostering our ability to learn and experiment with the world around us.
Monica is the asian woman in the center of this picture taken a couple of years ago, with some other of my teachers. The guy is Altamar Carvalho, responsible for the educational strategy of the school, back then.
It was the most transformative experience of my life. It made everything that came after it possible.
This is the story of my project Obaiti, that aims to regain respect to teachers, offering them an opportunity of professional development and an extra revenue stream.
According to Todos Pela Educação, today in Brazil we have:
- +2 mi teachers (72% working exclusively for public schools)
- 148k middle-schools (20k private)
- 26k high-schools (7k private)
A portrait of the teacher
Not a pretty picture: Their training is outdated training, they have no respect from society and they’re also underpaid.
This is not only a brazilian portrait. The lack of teachers in developed countries is just as concerning as it is in developing countries, and the roots of the problem are the same. In the end of the day, no matter where you are, those outdated, underpaid and disrespected teachers are responsible for inspiring for life the next generation of leaders.
This month an evaluation of the OLPC by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was released: they found that the children receiving the computers did not show any improvement in maths or reading. Nor did it find evidence that access to a laptop increased motivation, or time devoted to homework or reading.
The report recommendation to Peruvian governement is simple: Improve teacher-training and the curriculum.
“Above all, the classroom environment needs to change.”
Julian Cristia, IDB
What’s an inspiring teacher?
But what makes a teacher more or less inspiring? How can you make a difference to your students?
In Cachoeira do Sul (RS, Brazil) there’s a teacher working with kids in a giant chess board painted in the floor, using plastic bottles as pieces. It started when she noticed the kids had a hard time learning math due to their lack of concentration. The majority of the students are kept in school by social welfare and live in areas threatened by flood damage.
Chess became a hit among kids and actually increased their math scores. The teacher is now working to adapt her methodology to other classes.
This is what I call an EXTRAORDINARY IDEAS TO TODAY’S SCHOOLS.
But how can we use those extraordinary ideas to inspire other teachers?
This project has 3 basic features:
- A community of practice where teachers can share their projects and ideas and get feedback and inspiration from the community.
- A reputation system for teachers to assign reputation points to other teachers according to their impact in the community.
- A self-publishing platform to empower teachers to publish electronically their materials and classroom activities and sell it to other teachers.
Now, let’s discuss the features…
Community of practice
“Most innovation is the result of long hours, building on the input of others. Ideas spawn from earlier ideas, bouncing from person to person and being reshaped as they go”
Chris Anderson, TED Curator (read the full article)
It’s a cycle: Entry level teachers can learn from expert teachers and bring to the community fresh brand new ideas, to inspire experienced teacher to try new things. This cycle offers equal opportunities of professional developing to both of them.
But we can’t expect the community of practice to be the Field of Dreams (“build it and they will come”). That’s why teachers need to be able to foresee the opportunities their involvement can bring to their lives and careers.
The reputation system concept is inspired on the open source community. Companies can hunt programmers based in their reputation and impact.
The first role of the reputation system is to build a bridge between talent and opportunity, offering schools a hunting platform to bring the most innovative teachers to their staff.
The second role of the reputation system is to provide quality assurance to a self-publishing platform…
This is the disruptive part of the business, the frighteningly idea Paul Graham talks about.
One of the more surprising things I’ve noticed while working on Y Combinator is how frightening the most ambitious startup ideas are. (..) When I describe these ideas you may notice you find yourself shrinking away from them.
Don’t worry, it’s not a sign of weakness. Arguably it’s a sign of sanity. The biggest startup ideas are terrifying. And not just because they’d be a lot of work. The biggest ideas seem to threaten your identity: you wonder if you’d have enough ambition to carry them through.
Paul Graham, Y Combinator (read the full article)
This is a proposition to change didactic materials as we know today.
This platform will only publish ganular, uptodate materials in form of lesson plans and classroom projects, 90% cheaper then a book. The goal will be equip teachers with objective instructions to experiment new ways of teaching.
If a teacher invests 50USD (two books) in his or her professional development a year, this same teacher will be able to purchase 10 different materials in the website. Peer-to-peer publishing cuts the middle-men (publishers) and gives teachers an opportunity to buy and sell exciting real inputs to feed lesson planning. The money made can even be reinvested in their own development if they want.
But teachers are suspicious cats. This is not the first time someone tries to bring them together, promises changes and says everything is going to change.
Every year companies and government try to start the new hot thing and, at some point, policies change, the money is gone and the effort is thrown away…
… this is why these 3 features were planned in order to ensure a strong principle: Financial sustainability.
In order disrupt education business, the platform needs to be auto-sufficient, impartial and completely independent. That’s why the business model is designed to keep the people that will actually feel the impact responsible for sustaining finances. Teachers might have a low purchase power but it is possible to build a business with low average ticket if your market has 2 million potential costumers, right?
Advertising: A subscription model will give brands an opportunity to market their product to teachers, more os less like a Facebook Page. It’s intended for educational websites, software and publications. It’s placed in the top because it’s a collateral: not designed to be the main revenue stream.
School Services: Pay per use, no barriers to entry. Every school can join, test it and figure out by themselves if it’s helpful or not. It’s designed to be one of the benefits offered to high-impact teachers and that’s why it can’t be over-priced. More schools using it, more opportunities for teachers.
Again: In order to become independent and impartial, the main revenue stream is focused only in teachers.
Self-Publishing Platform: Transactional, 30% cut. Same model as Kindle Direct Publishing, but no devices needed. The materials can be published as simple PDFs, from teachers to teachers.
I will skip my beautiful and boring spreadsheets and projections to go straight to the point:
This model allows the platform to be culturally relevant and financially sustainable as soon as it reaches 120k teachers (6% of brazilian market).
Does it sound reasonable to you?
Let me know what you think in the comments. I’ll be more than glad to discuss and test my hypothesis with every person willing to help!
And come back during summer. I will be sharing my experience in Singularity University!