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Crowdfunding Platforms: an Opportunity for Teacherpreneurs?
This is follow-up to last week's post on crowdfunding and the opportunities it could provide for the so called teacherpreneurs. Let’s take it as an alternative to the traditional forms of funding open to educators such as see, angel or even VC funding or the various incubators dedicated to education not to forget grants and other state funding.
But after the latest hype around Eric Migicovsky’s Pebble watch, I think it’s about time to have a closer look on what might work and the strategies of how to make crowdfunding work for educators.
To quickly summarize the Pebble project: Migicovsky originally set himself the goal to raise $100.000 in 38 days on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to produce a watch that basically allows its owner to check his/her smartphone updates without the need to actually look at their phone. Yes, the watch also has some other features and depending on your taste it’s more or less nicely designed, but probably none of us would have thought it would turn into such a frenzy on Kickstarter.
Never in the history of the platform a project has raised its money that quickly. After only three days people pledged over $3 million and if you take a look at the project now you’ll see that it’s beyond $6 million already - with 24 more days to go!
Even more surprising to me than the tremendous success of the campaign is that the concept of a smart watch in itself is nothing new. Both Microsoft and Sony experimented with such watches in the past - without success. Why Pebble sruck a chord and why exactly now remains somewhat a secret to me, but let’s focus on what’s in for people with an idea in education.
Right at the beginning of my article I called them teacherpreneurs. You shouldn’t think of a teacherpreneur as a person who is seeing an opportunity in education as one of the hottest markets these days and who might move on in about two years when he/she sees the next opportunity in another market. That's what we usually call an edupreneur. Instead we use teacherpreneur for people with an educational background, maybe even actively teaching, who think they are at a point when they have identified a problem in the market and think they might have a solution to fix this problem or to serve a need.
Over at EDUKWEST we have already portrayed three of these projects and we are going to relaunch this series with a broader coverage early May.
What I recognized in both more general campaigns as well as campaigns specifically for educational projects is that Kickstarter seems to work best meaning that one will likely find the most backers when they promise to manufacture a real physical product. I think we have to imagine it similar to people pre-ordering a product. The inventors demo a working prototype and promise when people pledge for the project, it’ll be manufactured and you’ll eventually get one for the money you chipped in.
Same is true for the hugely successful campaigns for developing games we have seen in the past months or weeks like Double Fine reaching its funding goal of $400k in just 8 hours for a classic point and click adventure or the revivals of Shadow Run and Leisure Suit Larry. Of course, an important point here was that these games and their developers were popular in the past and had built a reputation already.
This will most likely not be true for an educator who want to launch a project although teachers are well-organized in big networks, LinkedIn groups or PLN (personal learning networks). So if they were active members of one of those groups they might well be able to leverage the power of the community.
I can imagine this form of funding work when we think of an application designed for teachers to communicate with their students or the parents. Even if that’s not a physical product, it’s also not so cost-intensive and I can imagine the different groups involved pledge the money as the need would be there. So far, I have seen people struggle more when promoting what we might call more ‘abstract products’, for instance a project to fund a podcast didn’t meet its goal on Kickstarter a few weeks ago.
Now, Kickstarter is of course far from being the only crowdfunding platform. If one is an educator from outside the US crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo might be more attractive as they accept international campaigns whereas for Kickstarter one needs to have a billing address in the US. IndieGoGo also goes broader in terms of the variety of their campaigns which range from products or gadgets similar to Kickstarter to much more philanthropic projects. Also, if a project doesn’t meet its goal, you can still claim the money it has pledged over the time of the campaign.
Therefore I can imagine a teacherpreneur’s project fall on fruitful ground over there. If you are interested in learning more about this platform you can watch my interview with Slava Rubin, one of the co-founders of IndieGoGo over on EDUKWEST.
I think teacherpreneurs should definitely consider crowdfunding as an alternative to traditional seed and angel funding or applying for grants which can sometimes take a long time and makes one jump through many loops.
Photo: Young Teacher via Shutterstock
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From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.