Start-It-Up Grants For Educators

column | Competitions

Start-It-Up Grants For Educators

Nope, you won't look like this afterward. We promise.

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     Oct 29, 2013

Start-It-Up Grants For Educators

Instructure, the Salt Lake City-edtech company that builds the Canvas LMS, is bursting with ideas these days--from competitions to chatting up some "walking dead," all part of a program to broaden its reach in education.

Its most recent idea to help bubble up intriguing ideas that educators have into shareable ideas: a grant program aimed at supporting both K12 and higher ed educators.

Happily all you need to do is describe your idea and how you'll use the money; links to supporting documentation will help, too. Submissions will be judged based on the "wow!" factor, potential for practical applications, adherence to open standards and other criteria.

Ten $5,000 grants will be available for K-12 teachers; five $10,000 grants will go to educators in higher ed. "It's note enough money to start a company--but it is enough to prove an idea," says Brian Whitmer, Instructure co-founder and chief learning officer.

Whitmer says that Instructure hopes to nudge more educators to getting involved in technology innovation that could benefit students. "We want to foster change within the system by the people who know it best," he says.

Earlier this year, Instructure started a "bounty" competition to spur the creation of apps that use common technology, namely the LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) apps for education. (LTI provides standard APIs and data integrations for developers to create education apps that operate cross-platform.) That competition sparked 40 applications, of which 10 received modest grants.

This "Canvas grants" program will be bigger--and it's already attracting attention. In the first week after it was announced, Instructure received about a half dozen applications.

Common to both programs is that they support the idea that Instructure's LMS, Canvas, isn't just a product but is instead a "learning platform," says Whitmer. And although Canvas has its roots in higher ed, Whitmer expects to see Canvas grow more widespread in the K-12 community.

The choices in this competition will be judged by a panel of notable edtech leaders: Steven Anderson (Web 2.0 Classrooms), Jaime Casap (Google), Sean Junkins (Horry County Schools), Chris Lehmann (Science Leadership Academy), Scott McLeod (Praire Lakes Area Education Agnecy), Linda Nathan (Boston Public Schools), and Tom Vander Ark (Getting Smart). Audrey Watters of Hack Education is among the judges for the higher ed proposals.

Submissions are due January 20, 2014. Instructure plans to unveil the winners at SXSWedu 2014 in March. All the details about how to apply are here.

And, just in case you thought this was all too serious for you, Instructure's Canvas Network teamed up with a multidisciplinary team of UC Irvine faculty to offer the first online class based on the "Walking Dead." According to a press release:

"While using pop culture references in the classroom is nothing new, this MOOC represents a unique level of experimentation in teaching and learning by formally infusing an academic syllabus with contemporary media. It’s also the first time a technology firm, entertainment company and major university have collaborated in this way."

Hope that the homework doesn't scare you!

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