SWEDU in Colorado

SWEDU: Start-Up Weekend Education

What would K-12 and Higher Ed look like if tech experts were connected with classroom teachers on a more regular basis, co-collaborating on the products we need in order to solve some of the biggest challenges we face? Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of participating at #sweduden, organized by rockstars @grahamforman  @Pbeckdenver   @CDLinEd. Congrats on a super successful weekend! It was impeccably organized and a wonderful learning experience for all involved. I look forward to participating again next year.



I was shaking in my boots to pitch on Friday night - presentational speaking is my LEAST favorite communication mode. After making it past the first round of pitches Friday night the whirlwind of learning and growth began. I was super proud of the team I was on and what we accomplished in... 48 hours? Check out our pitch deck:


Here is the reflection letter I wrote my team post-SWEDU.

Dear Be.Lingual team,

Thank you for believing in us and putting in all of your effort during StartUpWeekendEdu Denver. It was such a pleasure to work with a group of amazing professionals passionate about languages and culture. I wrote a reflection and would love any your feedback and input too! Now that you’ve had some time back in the real world and some distance from our project, what are you thinking? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? What advice to you have for me? (Please be honest! It was my first time trying something like this and I want to grow!)

The original problem: We wanted to solve the original problem of lack of authentic engagement in the world language classroom. A lot of students don’t understand the value of connecting with someone from another culture or might hold stereotypes that keep them from reaching out, even when someone might have shared passions and interests as them.  Students connect through tech. Why not?

The winners: Tackled bigger “trendier" problems in education that everyone and anyone could connect to and know are valuable. One search on Edsurge and the articles on College $$ and Social/Emotional learning. There are multiple articles with those key words.

In the future: If tackling a less main stream idea it is important to make sure the story line is more familiar and relatable. While it can still be personal, is truly about why it’s relevant and is tied to the mainstream education problems that we are trying to solve. If you’re going to talk about languages and culture, educate the audience as to the bigger picture - connect it for example to our frustrating political race right now where a lack of cultural empathy has lead to so much hate... Tell the big picture story with passion and soul. 

The process: We did start with the final pitch deck of what we wanted to show and moved toward that. We divided along skillets into teams and divided up work. We took breaks and were up for taking on different challenges and really supported one another.


What worked well: Quotes from users. Mass polling data. Big name interview.

What was a less effective use of time: In-person interviews. Working to get looooooots of data. Then again, we were judged on the in-person interviews.

Dev team-

What worked well:

What was a less effective use of time: 


What worked well: Getting input and feedback from the team at key moments.

What was a less effective use of time: ?

Business team-

What worked well:

What was a less effective use of time: 

Overall thoughts. What would you do the same and differently next time?

Next time: Important goal for next time: Pitch deck is done by Sunday morning or Saturday evening.

Look explicitly at the judging criteria and ask for the judge’s rubric of evaluation.  4-3-2-1 rubric perhaps?

Go 100% into the human centered design process. Ideate—>Innovate—>Create. 

We all participate equally in the process before dividing along our strengths.

  1. As a team, come up with the “question” we are trying to solve.
  2. Empathy. We all go out and do some interviews, 2~3 each
  3. We come back and share findings. We boil down to main themes. We write the questions:
    1. “How might we connect students from different cultural backgrounds and languages through technology?”
  4. We pick a solution. Then we divide into teams and go from there.

I think I expected them to guide us a little bit more through the HCD process, and realize in reflection that we kind of strayed from it. We created a product that was validated by teachers but told the story from perspective of students. We could of told the story from the perspective of teachers and adults who want to create a different world. We didn’t allow our findings through out to let us pivot. For example, when we interviewed the two little kids in bilingual school we could have pivoted and this could have been for them. Or, the business plan could have been strengthened if we aimed at a partnership model with study abroad companies, too. That would have been a stronger go-to market plan. We had all of these ideas as “Extensions” and maybe could have been open to exploring their validity. That is the process and purpose of HCD. In hindsight, I think I was a little to focused on my classroom and what my colleagues are struggling with and the problems this causes for our students across academics and social/emotional areas.

Cheers until next year,