Wikispaces Leans In (To The Classroom)
Amid the hundreds of wet-behind-the-ears startups vying to get into education, there are a few established companies that are moving closer to the classroom. This is good news particularly for teachers who are looking for innovative tools that won't break.
Wikispaces is in that group.
Over the past eight years, Wikispaces has become a teacher favorite, a site where educators can set up blogging posts for their students. The company didn't originally see itself as an "education" company.
But it listened to customers.
"We're delivering on the one thing we do really well: helping teachers help kids," says Adam Frey, cofounder of Wikispaces.
"Wikispaces Classroom" aims to give teachers a clean set of tools for helping students set up blogs. It will also incorporate a news feed feature so that teachers and students can more easily share what they're doing. And it will offer support for formative assessment so that teachers can more easily see how engaged their students are in assignments and what they're doing.
Teachers can use the site for free. Wikispaces encourages institutions, such as schools, to pay for site licenses. (Licenses start at $1000 per year per 100 or so users and scale up.) The company has 14 million registered users, two-thirds of whom are teachers or students. It has been funded through revenue and has never taken outside investment.
Officially the founders are taking the wraps off Wikispaces
Classroom at the Education Innovation Summit. But cofounders James Byers and Adam Frey have been interacting with educators for years. Fans are, well, fans: according to the company, 72% of teachers using Wikispaces says it makes them a "more" or "much more" effective teacher. (One wonders why the others would continue using it?) Teacher Vicki Davis, the Cool Cat
blogger, is a fan. Gail Desler, in technology services in a school in Elk Grove, Calif., is also a fan:
is an outstanding resource for teachers and students. I set up my first
Wikispaces account about six years ago, and remember having a question,
I posted to their forum. Within 24 hours, I had a response back (from
Sarah Cove) – on a Sunday! Adam Frey and the Wikispaces team
consistently support the needs of educators, not only through user
support but also through updates and changes to the program
in response to our requests.
Brett Young, who teaches in Cornerstone Christian School up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, shared his experience with Wikispaces so far:
I believe that it does serve a need as it allows myself and my students to be more connected within each other learning and sharing of our research and stories. By having my students have their own space on the site but that they can share their thoughts and findings with other, it definitely will make it a more engaging online community.
Byers and Frey wrote a compelling account of the lessons they've learned over the years in a piece on EdSurge entitled, "How to Succeed in Education Technology." One key quote: "You must have a burning passion to serve the educational market, and the determination to commit a decade or more of your life to your startup."