Reflections on Kickstarting for Education

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Of all of the crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter is the leader of the pack– it’s the biggest, most visible, most successful platform out there, and it because of it, a plethora of incredible projects have come to life. In 2012 alone, over two million people successfully funded 18,109 projects. For many, Kickstarter is to crowdfunding what Kleenex is to “tissue,” though there are many other platforms that have popped up to support the crowdfunding model.

Over the past few months, I’ve contributed time, money, and insight to two specific Kickstarter projects, both of which were funded with only hours to spare. The first, an interactive comic book app, the brainchild of John Boyer and Katie Pritchard, was built for the Plaid Avenger’s unforgettable World Regions class (and the community built around it) at Virginia Tech. The second project of which I was part was Outthink Inc’s “Tornado Maker,” an educational app that, upon completion, would be the only app in the entire Apple App Store designed for preteens.

Launching a Kickstarter campaign is relatively simple: after putting together a project, a creator picks the category in which the project best fits, and submits the project for vetting. Though there are some limitations to projects– namely, project renderings showing features that don’t yet exist are forbidden– Kickstarter has included a “Risks and Challenges” section in each project, and it encourages creators to carefully explore categories and the successful campaigns within them to decide “best fit” for their project. For Professor Boyer’s campaign, the “Comic” category was the one that made the most sense– though the format would be digital and interactive, the aim of the project was still to create a comic. For Outthink Inc’s “Tornado Maker,” another interactive educational app based on the principles of gamification and generative instruction, the “Game” category made the most sense. While both projects are educational to the very core, however, neither project appears in the results yielded from a search of the term “education.”

The search results also omit other well known, successful, education-based projects: Math 52 from Mathalicious, Code Hero from Primer Labs , SparkLAB, a fabrication lab on wheels from a group of Stanford d.school students, Mindblown Life from MindBlown Labs, and innumerable Maker projects that are part of the Maker Movement that has gained considerable momentum over the past year.

These campaigns and countless unsuccessful others have education at their very core, and yet they’re undiscoverable when searching for that very term. Given the success of education-specific sites like DonorsChoose, AdoptaClassroom, and TeacherLists, I can’t imagine a lack of demand for an education project category, especially with the entrepreneurial– teacherpreneurial, even– spirit among innovative educators. A quick comparison of seven different crowdfunding sites showed that five other sites, including Kickstarter competitor Indiegogo, feature an education vertical. Where is your education vertical, Kickstarter? And why is the user experience in searching for education projects so abysmal?

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on Kickstarting for Education

  1. Those are excellent questions, I noticed there’s really no specific area for community projects either. We live in Boulder and have a couple of girls that launched a community project and it’s nearly unsearchable. My husband is an educator as well, so most of his project ideas are education related (not this current one). It would be nice to add a category for things like that.

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