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Designing the crowdfunded classroom

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In the next five minutes, you can help a classroom of students in New Brunswick who’ve decided they want to design an anti-bullying flag.

When we design-think the future of civilization, an inescapable truth is that the lion’s share of creation and delivery will rest on the shoulders of the generation currently in elementary school. In a past post I spoke of the remarkable steps being taken to teach kids how to be design thinkers, but if they don’t have access to technology their ability to play out realistic experiments and solutions is greatly hampered.

I’ve also written about crowdsourcing sites like Kivathat make it possible to support education in the Developing World. However, surrounded by all our gadgets and bandwidth, it’s easy to assume that the bounty of the information age has fully permeated the public school systems right here in Canada. Not always so…

A screenshot from MyClassNeeds.ca

A screenshot from MyClassNeeds.ca

Not only are there disparities amongst provinces and territories, but also between urban and rural schools. Schools in the same city, separated by a few city blocks can be at opposite ends of the socio-economic divide. While some schools thrive, others struggle to provide much-needed resources like science equipment, computers, projectors, tablets, and assistive technologies for mitigating disabilities.

Which is why I was so excited to come across some beautifuly do-good design ingenuity right here in Ontario: MyClassNeeds.ca tackles the challenge of equipping our K-12 classroom projects, matching donors with appeals from schools through a crowdsourcing platform specifically designed to liberate students. Any certified teacher at a publicly-funded Canadian school can submit a need through the website, and then donors from across Canada or the globe can pledge to help a specific project. It’s like Kiva (and with a tax receipt recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency!)

MyClassNeeds takes the well-established principles of crowdfunding and adds the transparency and accountability often lacking in other crowdfunding efforts by ensuring all projects are vetted, costed and fulfilled (once they reach their funding goal). Every donor has access to full and detailed costing information for every project. As a donor, you’ll be notified when a project is funded, and when the materials have arrived at the school. Also, donors who pledge $50 or more discover thank-you notes in their mailboxes handwritten by students they’ve helped.

Current projects currently range from entrepreneurial design projects (such as a program for at-risk-youth that also doubles as a design studio and skateboard factory in Toronto), to making sure that kids with disabilities have the assistive technologies they might need, to creative concepts like the anti-bullying flag. As a reader of this blog, how about we get that anti-bullying flag fully funded today? Or join us at MyClassNeeds.ca and choose the project closest to your heart. Either way, let’s spread the word about this fantastic example of practical loving design thinking: it’s a great example of the fact that there isn’t a problem our civilization has that we can’t solve. Let’s start demonstrating that to our kids immediately.

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Reviewed May 28, 2013


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