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When Consumer Tech Becomes Educational Tech

One of the things I like most about the recent wave of consumer-focused Internet technologies is that tools needn't be created or labelled specifically as "educational" to find themselves utilized by educators and students. The note-taking platform Evernote is a great example, as is Twitter and Skype. I think the influence of consumer tech on educational tech is a plus because, if nothing else, it means that ed-tech can no longer get away with being so utterly crap-tastic. If you use a piece of educational software with an interface akin to Windows 95, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

So, with that in mind, I can't help but be particularly interested to see what Gina Bianchini is up to next with her latest company Mightybell.

Bianchini is the co-founder of Ning, another one of these "generic" Web 2.0 tools that has seen much adoption among educators. Rather than succumbing to the notion that education is a separate industry, one that needs separate (and sadly, often inferior) technology solutions, the usage of Ning by educators is one of those great examples that demonstrates that actually, the need to organize efficiently and communicate broadly is something that all organizations and industries share.

From Ning to Mightybell

Like many of us I reckon, I was introduced to Nings by Steve Hargadon, a champion of all sorts of new communication and collaboration tools. Hargadon was among the early adopters that got educators interested in Nings (as opposed, say, to wikis or other communication/collaboration tools), and so it piqued my interest this weekend when I saw him post on G+ an invitation for educators to join him over on Bianchini's newest venture, Mightybell.

Mightybell launched this week to a flurry of media attention. GigaOm's Ryan Kim called it "an app for achieving goals one step at a time." Techcrunch's Jason Kincaid described it as a site to help you "harness the power of baby steps." And ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick highlighted the site's motto "you are what you do" and described it as an exercise in existentialism.

I'll sidestep philosophical debates about what exactly that means (knowing and being and nothingness and what have you), and say that, indeed, a well-built community-building and goal-oriented site could be incredibly powerful for helping us "become." And for the sorts of knowing and being and becoming that teachers and learners want, that makes Mightybell an intriguing tool to both encourage and engage fellow learners.

Creating/Learning Experiences

With Mightybell, you create what the site calls "experiences" -- you set a goal and then lay out the steps that you (and perhaps others) need to take to meet it. "Think big and act incrementally," the site encourages.

When you create an experience, you can delineate the number of steps, describe them in detail, and demand, when appropriate, their completion in a certain order. You have the option to set location, a start and end time, and the number of participants too. It costs $1 to become a "creator" on the site, and in turn you can charge others for a "premium experience." In other words, they'd need to pay before they get access to the first step.

As you participate in an experience on Mightybell and move through the various steps, you can view personal analytics as well as see the progress of others -- "Fellow Travelers" who are working toward the same goal. You can offer your support for these individuals should you choose, becoming, well, "Supporters." It's no surprise coming from the creator of Ning, Mightybell offers a smooth interface through which it's easy to connect with people. In fact for a newly launched site, that's definitely the overall feel of Mightybell: pretty slick.

The polish and Bianchini's pedigree help make Mightybell interesting for sure, even in what's a pretty crowded field of self-improvement and self-monitoring applications. Goal-based websites are nothing new, so Mightybell may need to build furiously on its social networking strengths in order to stand out. If it can, it may prove to be an interesting new entry into the lifelong learning space.

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Audrey Watters


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