What is Indie ed tech, and how might it impact ed tech? In this article, we will explore the emerging movement’s participants, motivations, traction, and scale.
Indie Ed Tech Roots
Indie ed tech is a trend that has been emerging for a few years now. The Hack Education Project blog identified “the Indie Web” as a trend in 2014, describing it as a movement where people were encouraged to become web creators, not simply consumers of the web. In the process, they hope users “think more carefully about what happens to their digital creations and to their digital public spaces—what happens to our content, what happens to our data.”
In 2015, the Hack Education Project blog continued to highlight this as a trend, but it revised the name of the trend to “Indie ed tech.” This reflected a shift beyond the web.
Indie ed tech seeks to find a balance between the open sharing of information and intellectual property, and the protection of that property. The goal is to spur ed tech innovation but, in doing so, also to ensure the creators are able to lay claim to their creations and potentially benefit in meaningful, monetary ways.
The launching point for this concept lies in indie music and indie film. Bavatuesdays explains: “Indie punk represents a staunchly independent, iconoclastic, and DIY approach to music which encompasses many of the principles we aspired to when creating open, accessible networks for teaching and learning … Make it open source, cheap, and true alternatives to the pre-packaged learning management systems that had hijacked innovation.”
Adam Croom reflects a similar sentiment after attending the 2015 Digital Learning Research Network conference. He compares indie ed tech to indie music, concluding that both education and music are deeply rooted in ideas of openness, remixing, and participation.
So, indie ed tech represents a breaking away from the traditional channels of educational publishing and a movement toward independence in the creation and publishing of educational content, much in the same manner in which independent music and movie producers broke away from traditional producers and movie studios. Importantly, it encompasses student as well as instructor creations. Ultimately, as put by Tim Klapdor, it is an infrastructure that supports scholarly agency and autonomy.
Davidson College has embraced indie ed tech and introduced the concept of a “personal application program interface (API)” at the 2016 #IndieEdTech weekend. For Davidson, “a personal API creates a culture of openness, promoting digital literacy by revealing the structures of institutional data-gathering on the one hand and lending students and third-party providers the documentation to create their own tools on the other.” Brigham Young University, the University of Oklahoma, Georgetown University, and Virginia Commonwealth University quickly came on board in support of the concept of the personal API as well.
An often referred to example of indie ed tech is Domain Of One’s Own, a service available through Reclaim Hosting that provides schools with the infrastructure to store and share information. Using Reclaim Hosting, you can install cPanel, which allows for a variety of web applications, like WordPress, without any limitations on software, plugins, or themes. This provides full control over your domain.
Perhaps not surprisingly, much of the conversation around indie ed tech is taking place online, primarily through Twitter. There, #IndieEdTech has become a popular hashtag used to connect those interested in the movement in conversation, exploration, and innovation.
Tagged tweets include links to livestreams of conferences and summits, conversations around specific university programs, relevant blogs, and more. Search the hashtag to join the conversation.
Takeaway: As technology allows teachers and students to both create and connect across time zones and geographies, indie ed tech holds promise to help innovative new thinking around educating students of all ages to gain traction and generate action. Like indie music, indie ed tech offers a new alternative to traditional systems and aims to drive innovation. Most importantly, it opens the door for increased autonomy as it seeks a balance between open sharing of information and the protection of intellectual property. As indie ed tech has grown, it has manifested both as a movement and a hashtag with plenty of opportunities for your school to participate.
1. “Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2014” Hack Education. 2014.
2. “Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015” Hack Education. 2015.
3. “Indie Music and EdTech (or Indie EdTech)” Adam Croom. October 16, 2015.
4. “The Indie EdTech Movement” Bavatuesdays. October 29, 2015.
5. “A Journey to Discover What is Indie Ed-Tech” Heart Soul Machine. March 22, 2016.
6. “Reimaging the Liberal Arts” DLDR. N.d.
7. “FAQ” Reclaim Hosting. 2015.