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= to help people learn more about math and science through open source tools



Lucy Bernholz:

"ManyLabs immediately struck me as an interesting example of a digital civil society organization. Its mission is to help people learn more about math and science through open source tools. It can (and has) reached hundreds of teachers and students via its primary venue - a website. It's run on crowdfunded seed money (raised on Kickstarter), earned sales revenue, and coding consulting it provides to educational groups. ManyLabs' community includes other nonprofits and schools, but also education technology companies, the maker community, github users, teachers, informal networks such as Nerds for Nature, and DIY engineering types.

On one hand, ManyLabs is like many organizations before it - it's a mission-driven startup, two guys in an office, sharing their love of science, engineering, data, and nature with schoolteachers. They face the same challenges of any other such nonprofit - finding funding to add teaching expertise to their staff, tackling their long "wishlist," even doing a better job of tracking their own data (an ironic truth for every digital data based organization I've ever spoken to, and one by no means limited to mission-driven organizations.)

On the other hand, ManyLabs is building itself out entirely digitally. Its dissemination and growth strategy is through the mechanics and community of open source software and hardware. It focuses on early adopter teachers and parents. Its materials are designed to be used in a distributed, stand-alone manner. Success stories from users, user to user, will be the outreach strategy (if the two engineers running it get to that point). It recognizes that the students may be leading the teachers on some of this material (using sensors to collect data, robotics) and treats them (and community members and parents) as equal advocates. It's neither top down nor bottom up, it's somewhat horizontal - supporting advocates and early adopters in school/afterschool/communities, attending to core curriculum and State standards, and seeking ways to connect its materials and lessons to other data/science/STEM focused community education groups and MeetUps. It identifies with other open source networks, such as FarmHack, as much as with formal STEM groups.* The organizational "defaults" are share, improve, share again. It will probably in permanent "beta" mode. It attends to users' privacy concerns and owns as little as possible because its success depends on its network.

Unlike "analog organizations," measuring ManyLabs' success will require thinking about networks. It has already contributed to a repository of open source sensor-based science projects. It has already helped teachers and students. It's part of a loose mesh of people, projects and networks focused on science, data, learning, and doing that extends around the globe, weaves in and out of medical research, environmentalism, various areas of science, community groups, and schools. Yes, it has its own board and budget and organizational identity but ManyLabs is contributing to, extending, and depending on a network that goes beyond individual organizations. Marina Gorbis hit on some of these ideas in her book The Nature of the Future - the sense that people are organizing themselves in new ways to address social problems. " (