Students Use Crowdfunding to Bring Classroom Into The 21st Century

civic_crowd_funding_smallThis post comes from Daniel Wheeler, who for the past four years has worked as a high school English teacher at Del Valle High School in Austin, Texas. Wheeler started a fundraising page on Indiegogo with his students in hopes of raising enough money to replace their classroom’s outdated technology. Read his first Navigator post

I’m happy to report that our #ChromebooksforWheeler Indiegogo fundraiser was 100% funded! In just a little over four weeks, with the help of friends, family, coworkers, and random donors across the country, we successfully raised $12,300 through the site—enough to purchase 32 Google Chromebooks, a charging station, and a cloud ready printer for my English classroom at Del Valle High School. In the next month or so, students are going to have daily access to some very effective technological tools through Google Apps for Education and other Chrome-based apps

Campaign Insights

  •  We were actually 105% funded, raising $12,300. Our original goal was $11,700
  • We had 114 contributions through the site, and 7 private contributions
  •  The largest donation was $1500 from a local business (the only business contribution)
  •  The vast majority of donations were from private individuals in the $25-$50 range
  •  We had 3,399 visits to the site and 874 referrals

Even though there’s still lots of work to be done (fulfilling the perks to donors, ordering the devices, setting them up, learning how to navigate them and incorporating them into the curriculum, etc.), I’ve already begun to reflect on the lessons learned through this campaign.

I know that many school districts are grappling with whether or not to incorporate social media as a learning tool into the classroom, but I think that the greatest lesson learned for me and my students from this fundraiser is that social media can be a powerful tool used if used appropriately.

From the onset of this campaign, we relied primarily on our social networking to promote and publicize our efforts.  My students were participating members from the very beginning. They were the ones that chose the hashtag #Chromebooksforwheeler and we discussed how if enough students created posts on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram using that hashtag it would be a great way to raise awareness about our need for improved technology on campus.

The Power Of Storify

One tool that I discovered in this process that every teacher/administrator should be aware of is the website  Storify allows users to create custom news walls where they can curate their own content from various social media sources based on select hashtags.  We created a Storify site for the fundraiser, and as the administrator I could pick and choose the best posts and drag them to our Storify wall. In that way, we were able to create a powerful platform on which my students could promote the campaign and reach an even broader audience.  Check out our Storify site here.

I learned quickly that my students’ personal networks are not very developed as teenagers. Their posts tend to bounce around within the limited circles of their school friends.  However, with Storify, I was able to find posts that ANYONE wrote with the hashtag #chromebooksforhweeler and drag it to our wall. Storify helped my students see how there were people out there they didn’t even know who were interested in the campaign and helping spread the word. They were amazed to see the overwhelming response to the campaign as the link to our website first circulated amongst our friends/family but soon made it out to circles beyond our immediate connections.  Every day during the campaign, I would remind students to post to Twitter/Facebook about the campaign, and check the Storify site throughout the day to see what everyone was saying. It was a lot of fun.

Utilizing Social Media

A few weeks into the campaign, I was so excited to see my students learning to use social media and crowd-sourcing  to advocate for themselves that I thought the local press might be interested in the story. I pitched it to the press and both KVUE (ABC affiliate)  and KXAN (NBC affiliate)  picked it up. They came out to our school and filmed interviews with my students and myself. Besides being a lot of fun, it gave my students an opportunity to see, in real life, the power of storytelling and crafting a message through social media.  Perhaps the biggest benefit to the news stories was that it gave us more content to spread through our networks. I learned if you repost the same link on Facebook over and over again, it disappears from people’s newsfeeds. Therefore, if you’re considering crowd-sourcing, you should attempt to find a few different platforms to tell your story so that it continues showing up in newsfeeds. Also, the more “likes” you get on a post, the more likely it is to show up in newsfeeds. We shared links to our Indiegogo site, our Storify site, the KVUE and KXAN news stories, and of course, the Compass Learning Navigator Blog (thanks guys!)

Finally, when the campaign was over and we had met our goal, I asked my students to reflect on their thoughts going into the fundraiser, and what they learned in the process.  What they wrote down I’ll never forget. Here’s a few of their reflections for you to read.

Thoughts Going In

When I asked my students about their initial thoughts on our fundraiser, this is what they told me:

“I didn’t think we could do it. All I thought was, ‘We’re only Del Valle. No one really cares about helping us out.’ I was wrong. People do care and now I’m very grateful.”

“When we first began this fundraiser, I expected it to be a complete failure. I thought no one would care enough about some kids from Del Valle and it would end just as quickly as it began.”

“My first thought about the fundraiser was that it was about time a teacher stepped up and helped us (students) improve technology at our school. I was not skeptical because Mr. Wheeler seemed very serious (partly mad) about going through with it.”

“I was skeptical at first. I wasn’t sure if people would actually want to give money. I didn’t know anything about crowd-source fundraising before this project.”

Lessons Learned

Here’s what my students said they learned throughout the process:

“Because we are students, we were not actually aware of the power we have. We can change the world if we want to. I’m not only proud of my professor for taking this leap of faith, but also proud of all the donors who believed in us.”

“I learned, over this process, that to get the change you want you have to continue working and not stop until your goal is reached.”

“I learned that using something like social media can make a huge impact on our lives. We use it every day and don’t realize how much power we have.”

“I’ve learned that there are people out there who actually want to donate and make a difference in our school, and I think that’s awesome. It has definitely been a life changing experience and this is the start of something great!”

Thanks to Compass Learning for letting us use the Navigator Blog to share our story. I hope fellow educators can learn from my experience and feel empowered to use crowd-sourcing and social media not only as a way to meet the needs of their classroom, but to teach their students valuable life lessons about self-advocacy, raising awareness, and harnessing social media for positive ends.


1 Comment

  • Reply January 30, 2014

    Dwayne wheeler

    What a powerful story of persistence. I applaud #chromebooksforwheeler and compass learning!

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