Education has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. As the son of two teachers, it was perhaps inevitable that I, too, would become a teacher.
When I reflect on the decade I spent as a teacher, educational technology specialist and technology director, I am astounded by how much has changed — not only in my career, but also in the way in which we all create and share ideas, content and resources with the world. I certainly never considered myself an entrepreneur — or as someone who possessed an entrepreneurial spirit. But, like so many others, I became a rather enterprising teacher. I loved to come up with elaborate projects for my students and to allow them to express their learning in ways other than through essays and bubble tests.
Teachers have the potential to be great entrepreneurs because they impact the lives of so many people — students in their classes, faculty in their schools and other peers with whom they connect through social media. They, like entrepreneurs, create and share, solve real problems and inspire others to do the same.
Many entrepreneurs in educational technology startups focus on scale, asking questions such as: Can we scale the number of users to become the next big thing? Can we build an infrastructure that will scale?
But the notion of scale isn't the same as value, and that's where the "teacherpreneur" (or "edupreneur") comes into play.
What Makes a Great Teacherpreneur
Educators — those who come from the classroom and not from a technical, corporate or finance background — are paving the way for this new crop of leaders who wish to effect real change in education. Those who have worked with students and staff, those who have struggled to find solutions to real problems, often make great teacherpreneurs. They see the product as a means to an end and not as the pathway to greatness and glory. They work hard for the audience, rather than to gain one.
It's because I heard countless educators and students describing the same everyday challenges that I started eduTecher and, more recently, eduClipper. The first site helps teachers learn about free web tools for the classroom; the latter facilitates collaboration and connection among school users and provides a platform for creating and sharing work in digital portfolios. Did I ever think I'd establish startups and create services that are now used by tens of thousands of educators worldwide? No, it honestly never crossed my mind.
I actually built eduTecher as a labor of love, to help 23 graduate students I was teaching. I kept refining it because I saw it helping many others. I later started eduClipper at the request of friends seeking an educational platform that valued what students were learning and creating and made it easier to collaborate, curate and share those creations.
Teachers looking to start their own businesses or build apps for education often seek my advice. My best advice is to be passionate about what you do, which is never a problem for entrepreneurs, but to temper that passion with purpose. Solve real problems for real users.
I'm honored to be called a teacherpreneur. But I also believe strongly that the teacher should always precede the entrepreneur in the equation.
Parsing the Portmanteau
The Center for Teaching Quality defines "teacherpreneurs" as "teacher educators, network navigators, virtual mentors, community organizers, trustees of the profession and learning architects." Learn more in its 2011 e-book, Teaching 2030, at teachingquality.org/about/teaching-2030.