Educator Canvas: Using Principles From Startups In Your Classroom

The world is changing fast, and education hasn’t caught up. Teachers know schools need more innovation, change-making, and relevance. But HOW?

Blanchet and Bakkegard grew tired of everyone telling teachers what to fix without sharing the “how,” so they created easy-to-use professional development tools and strategies to help teachers think like startup entrepreneurs.

Using a visual, interactive format, The Startup Teacher Playbook helps teachers tackle challenges, turn their ideas into action, and tap into their potential to lead change in the classroom, school, and community.

This book reveals how to evolve your teaching and learning to serve the changing needs of students, use professional learning and meeting time to break down challenges and create solutions, and cultivate your leadership capacity to take your ideas further than you ever imagined. 

Educator Canvas Tool

Just as social entrepreneurs use tools to think through challenges within their startups, we are giving you a tangible tool to help you adapt teaching and learning as the need (or inspiration) strikes. 

In a space that’s fairly risk-adverse, we needed a tool that gives us permission to try, to take healthy risks for the sake of our students.

Startup methodology enables social entrepreneurs to quickly test ideas to see what works (or not) so their startup can move forward (or not). Too often, we as teachers can see what's not working, we know what needs to be fixed, but if we can never try, we can never improve.

Instead of letting all those good ideas go to waste, now’s your chance to test out your theories. 

Hence the Educator Canvas—a project management tool to help turn frustrations into actionable projects and bring good ideas to fruition.

This one-page “living document” is designed to help you work through challenges so you, too, can test out solutions and see what could work (or not) for your classroom or students.

Inspired by the Business Model Canvas, the Educator Canvas includes a series of questions that guide you through any project, big or small, solo or team, for your classroom or with your class.

It's a place for you to sketch out your ideas, see them, think about the tasks required to accomplish your vision, and then quickly test them out for impact.

But unlike a simple blank canvas, the Educator Canvas provides cues to help you get started. It's sort of a mental paint-by-numbers. Color in the boxes and a clear vision of how to address your challenge will emerge.

You may think, Yes! This all sounds wonderful. I'd love to try out the Educator Canvas, but when? What if my ideas don't work and I waste my time?

We know that it’s easy to feel like we don’t have time and THE CLASSROOM/SCHOOL IS ON FIRE!

But you do have time (cough cough, which is why we made that big hurrah in Module One about rethinking PD and meeting time).

While it might take a few tries to learn the process, addressing challenges, especially those that feel like uphill battles in the classroom, will save time in the long run because you’ll be figuring out how to smooth over those issues.

You’ll waste less time and have fewer headaches because you will learn how to hit problems head on. 

Beyond the Innovation Cliche 

The word innovation has become such a buzzword in education that it has lost its meaning to the detriment of our students. Education is flawed and needs innovation. It’s full of problems, but also full of opportunities. 

So what is innovation? We define it as the deliberate application of information, imagination, and initiative to address a problem or create an opportunity. It’s generating new ideas or adapting old ones to create value for users. 

Implementing Your Ideas with the Canvas

Determining what you want to tackle can be the hardest part of the entire innovation process. From our experience, you’re usually in one of three categories:

You feel like you know exactly what you want to work on and are ready to dive in.

  1. You have so many ideas flooding your brain that you have no idea which to choose or which problem to focus on.
  2. You feel a desire to do but are utterly clueless as to what or how (FYI, that's okay!).

No matter where you are, know this: The best ideas are those on which you reflect, analyze, and give a clear purpose. Before you jump into the Canvas, we want to give you the best shot at success by encouraging you to be thoughtful with the idea you decide to pursue. 

But What If I Fail? 

If you are a tad nervous about embarking on all this, please know there’s no such thing as failure when you're actively trying to solve problems. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying to improve teaching and learning. 

We ask our students to take risks and build a growth mindset, and we need to model the behavior we hope to cultivate in our students. It's all about trying, learning, and failing forward. When we know better, we do better.

You’re already awesome because you're taking risks and trying. The worst case scenario is not so bad: You may discover another way that won’t work.

It’s all about perspective. As Confucius said, “The man who says he can and the man who says he cannot are both correct.”


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