How the Sharing Economy Can Transform the Educational Ecosystem

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The sharing economy has changed the way we travel, shop, work and commute. Companies like Uber and Airbnb have become poster children for using technology to encourage the peer-to-peer based exchange of goods and services. According to researchers, we are in the midst of a seismic shift in business models powered by the internet and a generation of connected users. Industries across the board are revolutionizing our economy by redefining what it means to “share.”

The education space is starting to embrace this sharing economy model as well. More and more students and teachers are gaining access to digital tools and as this accessibility increases, so does the opportunity for teachers to support core curriculum by bringing knowledge to life for students in different ways. The use of new digital tools, programs and collaboration spaces are increasing in schools across the country; for example, according to the 2015 HMH Education Confidence Report almost all educators surveyed (97%) use some form of digital content in the classroom. In addition, 60% of educators believe that the implementation of technology in the classroom increases student engagement.

The fact that teachers are hungry for engaging supplemental materials that complement core instruction is not new; educators have always been passionate collaborators who share ideas and resources that can be used to improve classroom activities and learning. What is new, however, is that the growth of technology in classrooms has resulted in teachers looking for new – and often digital – ways to locate some of the great tools that are being developed in both the edtech and educator communities. In other words, the sharing economy that once took place in schools and classrooms is now also happening online. Sites like the HMH Marketplace and other digital communities can be viewed as another evolution in the collaboration that has always been essential to the teaching and learning experience, one that offers new opportunities for both educators and edtech companies.

For instance, the opportunity now exists for the edtech and educator communities to engage more freely with each other. When teachers have access to new technology-based educational resources, they have the ability to give feedback, to share with edtech developers what they really need, what works well, and what could be improved upon. There is great work going into building apps and digital resources to help support classroom learning, but how much stronger could that work be with more direct collaboration between creators and end users? With more collaboration as a community, everyone can gain more insight and understanding about what works best.

Another opportunity that has surfaced is for strong learning tools to find new audiences. Educators are realizing the benefit of connecting with colleagues across the nation to quickly source quality classroom resources that engage students. Supplemental classroom resources – for example apps and games that receive strong feedback from educators can spread more quickly and make an even bigger impact in classrooms thanks to digital sharing and collaboration. What better way to discover an effective new tool than via peer reviews and recommendations from teachers who have actually used it and found it worked?

Information and ideas have the ability to travel faster than ever, bridging geography and time zones so that location is no longer a barrier to collaboration. As digital communities evolve to create more opportunities for educators and technology companies to connect, even more innovative ideas will be developed and more resources created. And what we will see is an even stronger, richer education ecosystem, working to enhance learning, anytime, anywhere.

Claudia will be participating in a panel discussion, “Teachers, tech and the sharing economy,” at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2016 Conference and Expo in Denver on Monday, June 27th at 12 p.m. MST within the HMH Booth #1711. For more information, please visit http://learn.hmhco.com/iste16.

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