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Justin Chando By Justin Chando • August 31, 2015

My EdTech Moment

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This post was originally published on Medium.

My first real introduction to learning management systems came when I was a college student. I was using one of the most widely-used LMSes in the country to receive and submit assignments. And it was not awesome.

And while I would have loved to have had a slicker, smarter experience, using unimaginative and clunky tools was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Because it led to my edtech moment.

For all the educators and innovators reading this: I wonder if you’ve had your edtech moment yet - the instant it clicked.

“Wow. So this is what a thoughtful, powerful tool looks like.”

“Okay - this is how technology can create new experiences and opportunity for students.”

“This is why it’s important to build intuitive, smart tools for classrooms.”

I’m calling it my edtech moment, but really, it was just the instant in which I knew that I wanted to make smarter tools for classrooms. I understood the value of giving students and teachers simple-but-powerful tech that allowed them to do more together. And I wanted more of that.

Here’s how I got there.

Besides being massively difficult to use, the LMS I had to work with during my time as a student did very little to connect me with my classmates and share resources. Discussion threads were empty and using the system was a formality, if it was used at all. (Most of my classes opted to forge ahead without the system, even though the college was spending lots on the service.)

For a school with such vast resources, I couldn’t figure out why we were using a system that hadn’t received any major updates since it was launched in the late 1990s, early 2000s.

There had to be something better out there.

It was a piece of engineering homework that convinced me that there just wasn’t something better out there, because learning management systems had it all wrong.

I was stuck on a homework question and knew that there were 18 other students in my class working on the same problem as I was. I simply didn’t have an easy way to reach out for help because LMSes were created to manage the learning process, not to facilitate collaboration.

And that’s when the “ah-ha” happened.

I gathered a group of equally-frustrated friends and we got to work.

Our idea was to create the LMS our classrooms deserved. We built the system from scratch, engineering solutions from the library basement and our dorm rooms. We put connection and collaboration above all else and built a system that was ridiculously easy to use.

Our college amazingly let us pilot the program to work out kinks and make the user experience an awesome one. We received lots of feedback. We edited. We tinkered. We rebuilt.

Eventually we made something we were pretty proud of.

Then came the next “ah-ha.”

Seeing classrooms boost collaboration and connect outside of class - using tools we made - was huge. This was the classroom technology I always wanted.

So I decided to keep doing it.

Today our platform, Chalkup, is making learning more collaborative in thousands of schools across over 100 countries. (I still can’t believe it; thrilled people outside of my alma mater like what we’re doing.)

I want to keep building and improving the system we built in the library basement and dorm rooms of college. I want people to look at our tool - or new systems hitting the market - and think:

“Wow. So this is what a thoughtful, powerful tool looks like.”

“Okay - this is how technology can create new experiences and opportunity for students.”

“This is why it’s important to build intuitive, smart tools for classrooms.”

If you haven’t had your edtech moment yet, I hope you find a new tool this year that gets you excited to learn. Or offers your students a new experience. Or allows you to do something faster, smarter, or better than you previously could have.

And if you haven’t clicked with a tool or platform yet that’s made you feel this way, maybe you’ve just got to get out there and make your own. Trust me. It’s worth it.

 
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