Recently, a crowdfunding project that aims to produce and distribute educationally-based apps for the California Education and Environment Initiative Curriculum (EEI) reached and exceeded its goal of $20,000. If the design, coding and distribution goes as planned, 6th grade students, their teachers and their parents will soon have access to a pair of apps entirely bought and paid for by the digitally literate public-at-large.

The group behind the effort is made up of a cadre of digitally literate fathers who call themselves EcoDads. According to an EcoDad press release, their “Environmental Edutainment Apps Project” is intended to “adapt the State Board of Education-approved curriculum into flexible, deeply engrossing interactive lessons for use in classrooms.”

Two of the driving factors behind the effort are 1) the increasingly high cost of printing and distributing EEI and other courseware to the state’s 6.2 million students, and 2) the need to speak to students in their own digital media language.

Michael Leifer, EcoDads co-founder and executive producer of the project said in a statement that the goal is to encourage students to engage in local and statewide environmental issues. Using the app, students will learn about environmental degradation and looming threats using an interactive format. The apps “will support a system of community-based knowledge-building that will ultimately allow great ideas and solutions from students themselves to filter back into the curriculum for the benefit of succeeding generations of students,” said Leifer.

Ed. Note: 

Welcome to the brave new literacy 2.0 world of education funding.

The EcoDads’ project is a modest one, but it has a big vision and points the way toward desperately needed new models for funding, creating and delivering educational content.

The EdoDad effort is a digital literacy hat trick: 1) The group behind it is a social network. 2) Crowdfunding comes from a growing base of digitally literate donors. 3) The students who use the apps will not only be learning about the California environmental ecosystem, they will be developing the literacies necessary to live in the digital ecosystem. So will the app developers, teachers and parents.

The content, which is intended to be both interactive and student-sourced, represents a paradigm shift in how education is created, delivered and consumed, and it can’t come soon enough. The emergence of a new educational ecosystem is both necessary and inevitable. No matter what form it takes, it promises to be far more flexible, adaptable and responsive than the prevailing institutionalized system, which suffers from exactly the opposite characteristics.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the eco-apps project is that hundreds of digital citizens are using the creative power of their wallets to guide education in new directions based entirely on the desire to see it happen. (Well, that and a variety of premiums.)

In this case, they are doing it within the context and boundaries of existing standards and curriculum. But stay tuned for standards-busting and curriculum-bending new approaches to the educational process made possible by the new literacies.

The digital cat is out of the bag and it’s not going back in.